Boise gets its own Comic Con

The library helps celebrate graphic novels and local artists.

awebb@idahostatesman.comAugust 29, 2013 

  • LIBRARY COMIC CON

    The event will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., mostly at Boise Public Library's Main Branch, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. Some events will take place across the street at the Friends Warehouse, 726 River St.

    Popularity of graphic novels by the numbers

    • The Bosie main branch collection: 1,736 volumes that range from superheroes to art comics, from cute characters to those filled with angst and modern mailaise.

    • The graphic novel collection doesn't languish on the shelf. Since June 2013, patrons have checked out 70 percent of the titles. Since January, 93 percent of the titles have been checked out. (Compare that with 68 percent of literature titles).

    • 2012-2013 budget for graphic novels: $1,200.

    • 2013-2014 budget for graphic novels (pending city approval): $6,000.

A good share of Boise readers are getting their literature through comic books and graphic novels these days.

On a given day, a quarter of the Boise Public Library's 1,700-volume graphic novel collection is checked out. That compares to 17 percent for the literature collection.

Staffers at the main branch took note of the trend. They moved the library's graphic novel collection to a prominent spot on the first floor, and on Saturday, they will host the library's first Comic Con - shorthand for comic book convention.

Like similar conventions in other cities, or early August's Fandemonium in Nampa, the library's Comic Con will be an immersion in all things comic book.

In 2011, Boise Art Museum hosted "Comics at the Crossroads," an exhibition of 40 graphic novelists from the Pacific Northwest. The Library! at Hillcrest held a mini-con during the exhibition.

"I was kicking myself, thinking we should have done something similar," said Josh Shapel, a library materials specialist at Boise's main library.

So this spring, when he saw that a library in Cincinnati was hosting a Comic Con featuring local talent, he, other comic-loving staffers and members of the community put together a homegrown version.

Many comic-themed events focus on selling merchandise. And there will be some of that at the library's Comic Con.

"But we're focusing on the actual creators," said Shapel.

Another departure from traditional events: Admission to this Comic Con is free.

Twenty-four artists, most with Boise ties and many with national reputations, are attending.

The day will include four panels on various topics, a costume contest and awards for winners among the nearly 100 local artists who submitted work for the comic contest. All submissions will be on display in Artists' Alley.

A few more reasons you should come:

To chat with a robot villain: "Dr. Who" presentation, 1:30 p.m. in the Hayes Auditorium

The BBC science fiction series "Dr. Who" recently marked its 50th anniversary and has been immortalized in comic form. You'll be able to test your wits against a dalek, a life-size version of the robotic villain from the series.

John Sengenberger, Cheri Tarlini and their children spent more than two years crafting a life-size dalek.

The Meridian family built it from scratch from plywood, fiberglass, vending machine parts and wiring they learned through project dalek.com, a dalek-building website.

"Their dalek is so amazing, they could take it to England and it could be on film right now," said Albert Asker, a comics enthusiast who will give a presentation on the history of comics in Idaho.

The local creation, known as Dalek Klaus, has its own Twitter and Facebook accounts. It is the 28th of its kind in North America, said Sengenberger, a software engineer.

Dalek Klaus moves using wheelchair parts. It converses - thanks to the fact that Tarlini is inside.

"Kids and fans of the series love this thing," said Sengenberger. "When they find out it was made by a person, they get a little depressed. It's like finding out Mickey Mouse is a person in a big suit."

The inspiration to build Dalek Klaus was simple: Sengenberger's wife asked. "She said, 'I really want a dalek.' I told her I could build her one. Cheri likes the series. It's just one of those things."

Sengenberger and Tarlini hope to use their dalek to raise money for charitable causes, modeled on England's Charity Daleks.

Dalek Klaus made its debut in May at the Boise Maker Faire for artists, technicians, programmers, coders, crafters and other creative folks. One man didn't realize a real person was inside.

"He thought Dalek Klaus was completely autonomous and kept trying to trick it, asking questions that a robot wouldn't be able to answer," said Sengenberger.

Another man told Sengenberger his life was better now "knowing there's a dalek in Boise."

To meet a man many consider the father of Idaho underground comics: "A History of Comics in Idaho," 11 a.m. in the Marion Bingham Room

If there's such thing as an Idaho graphic style, you might be able to find out what it is from Dennis Eichorn. Some say he was the first underground comic artist here.

"I'm the 'Betty White' of underground comics because I'm older than everyone else," said Eichorn.

The Boise native, now living in Bremerton, Wash., is the former senior editor at The Rocket, a Seattle arts magazine. He started publishing his comic, "Real Stuff," in the 1990s, when he was in his mid-40s. He won a number of awards, including an Eisner, the comic industry's version of an Oscar.

Some have called Eichorn's work - which sometimes features Boise - similar to that of Harvey Pekar or Robert Crum for its true-life sensibilities.

"But he's more like Charles Bukowski, with stories about bar fights and fantastic coincidences," said Asker.

When Eichorn was a kid, he was an avid public library visitor.

"I love Boise Public Library and can't believe they're hosting a Comic Con," he said.

He grew up on The Bench and describes himself as a "football-playing jock guy." He's coming back to Boise later this year for his 50th Borah High reunion.

Idaho seemed conservative to him. But the town also fostered his creativity; he wanted to be a writer and studied English and creative writing.

Comic Con attendees will be able to get the inside story about his latest project: "Real Good Stuff," a 64-page comic for which a group of young cartoonists got together to illustrate Eichorn's stories. It will be available to the public in November.

To commission an original work of art or two: Artists' Alley, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the warehouse across from the library, 726 River St.

Many of the participating artists will take part. They'll be at tables meeting the public, talking about their work, selling items in some cases, creating drawings on demand in others.

Artist Jim Sumii, whose work includes the adventures of girl heroes Tura and Eva, autobiographical pieces about life in Garden City and more, will sell items, including posters made specifically for Comic Con.

He'll also make drawings by request."This is a family event. If a little kid wants a drawing, I'll work cheap," quipped Sumii.

He plans to charge between a few dollars and $10.

The father of three has been practicing extemporaneous drawing for Comic Con by having his sons yell out suggestions.

"I like a challenge. Whatever people can think of, I'm about 70 percent sure I can pull it off," he said.

To find a treasure: Friends of the Library fundraising sale, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 726 River St.

The Friends of the Library sale will include old comics that patrons have donated over the years, including some X-Men editions and some from the 1980s. Proceeds will benefit library programs.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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