Kids Read Comics event taking over downtown library all weekend
The entire purpose of the fourth annual Kids Read Comics! Celebration is right in the name.
“We believe in comics, and we believe in kids, and our mission is to make comics part of the lives of as many young people as possible. Not every kid or teenager is going to fall head-over-heels in love with comics the way (Kids Read Comics! co-founders Edith Burney, Dan Merritt, Jerzy Drozd) and I did. But plenty of them will, because comics are an extraordinarily accessible medium,” explained Dan Mishkin, of East Lansing, a Kids Read Comics! co-founder. Mishkin has written “Wonder Woman,” “Dungeons & Dragons,” and “Ameyst: Princess of Gem World” for DC Comics.
He continued: “And by ‘accessible,’ I don’t mean ‘simplistic.’ As an artist friend of mine once said, when we do comics we’re not in the business of simplification—we’re in the business of clarification. That clarity, that ability to immediately draw people in, is a big part of the appeal of comics, I think. And the worlds you get drawn into are as limitless as the creator’s imagination - artists can represent virtually anything they can think of on a special effects budget of zero dollars.”The Kids Read Comics! event will be held this weekend, at the Ann Arbor District Librarry. This is the event’s first year in Ann Arbor.
“Moving around the state seemed like a great thing to do, but we’ve started to realize how much that involves reinventing the show every year and expending a lot of energy to get our library hosts up to speed,” said Mishkin. “So what looks likely is that we’ll stay in Ann Arbor and Chelsea—we’re talking about the possibility of a summer weekend show in Ann Arbor and a one-day event in October in Chelsea each year. That kind of stability will free us up to focus more attention on other activities throughout the year that will help us meet our overall goals, like making recommendations about great graphic novels for kids and teens, and running a speakers bureau to put Michigan comics artists in touch with libraries and schools.”
According to Mishkin, there were about 1,100 attendees at last year’s event in Chelsea. He hopes to double that number this year at the AADL.
“I feel like we’ve hit it out of the park every year. Whether you measure by sheer numbers, or the rapturous enthusiasm of the attendees, or our visibility within the growing movement that promotes comics for kids and teens, or the increasing interest we’re getting from comics creators with national and international reputations, or the new ideas that librarians and teachers take away from the programs in our professional development track, what we’re doing with Kids Read Comics! is looking pretty big and pretty unstoppable,” said Mishkin.
Activities include various workshops for not only aspiring artists, but also teachers and librarians; a costume contest; art contests; portfolio review by professional artists; art demos; and free comic books will be given away.
More than 60 comic book creators —many of whom have Michigan ties—will be present, including Bill Messner-Loebs, who has written DC’s “Flash” and “Wonder Woman” and Marvel’s “Thor”; Paul D. Storrie, who has written IDW Publishing’s “Star Trek Alien Spotlight: The Andorians”; Rob M. Worley, creator of Eisner Award-nominated “Scratch9”; Jalen Sparrow, creator of “Welcome to Wonderland”; and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier, creator of the Eisner-nominated “Smile.” Voice actor Neil Kaplan, who can be heard on “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” and “Power Rangers: Time Force,” will also be present.
“Every one of our artist and writer guests knows that we expect them to engage kids and parents in conversation about the positive impact of comics, not just sell their own books and artwork. Which we think is fair enough, because unlike many comic book conventions, we don’t charge our guests for table space, just as we don’t charge admission to the show for attendees,” said Mishkin.
Messner-Loebs, of Brighton, added: “Comics are such a great teaching tool that it’s good that people are catching on that this is a way to turning people on to reading. I’m pleased to be a part of it.”
Drozd, of Ann Arbor, who has done artwork for Antarctic Press and Glencoe-McGraw Hill, has led several professional development workshops for teachers where he has explored using comics as a teaching tool.
“Comics can be used to teach any subject, not just art or storytelling. We read a comic by moving from one panel to the next, connecting each individual moment into a narrative,” explained Drozd. “The moments left out, the white spaces between the panels, invite us to deduce what moments happened in between. In other words, we infer in order to understand. That’s a key literacy concept. By asking students to retell a story in comics form, or to write a prose version of a comics story, you’ve engaged them in some deep thinking activities that will demonstrate their understanding of a narrative.”