Kent Comic Arts Fest brings illustrators to campus

Hilary Crisan

Students and members of the Kent community came to the Student Center and Kiva on Saturday to meet and listen to several well-known comic-book artists.

The first Kent Comic Arts Fest included lectures and exhibits by artists such as Kent State alumnus and “Funky Winkerbean” cartoonist Tom Batiuk, “The Sandman” illustrator P. Craig Russell and “Wonder Woman” illustrator Jill Thompson.

Kent State alumnus Wayne Harold created the event to bring something educational to the community.

“Nobody has put on any sort of show like this around here,” Harold said. “There’s Akron Comic-Con, but it’s a little different, less educational and instructional, which is what we wanted to do.”

Harold is currently teaming up with writer, artist and illustrator P. Craig Russell, who has worked on publications such as Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” and “Dr. Strange.”

“I’ve been doing a series of instructional DVDs with P. Craig Russell, which is a guide to graphic storytelling. I film him in front of big blow-ups of his artwork, and he goes through them panel-to-panel,” Harold said. “People are really liking (the DVDs), so we thought it’d be interesting to do a live version of that. But we have so many friends in comics that we thought, ‘let’s put on a show.’ ”

The idea to make the festival educational came from the illustrators’ love of fans.

The artists “really want to share for some reason. They don’t want to hide their techniques,” Harold said. “Everybody was a fan when they got into comics, and they’re still fans at heart, so they like talking to people and sharing.”

The program was separated into two sections. A free exhibition of the artists was located on the second floor of the Student Center while lectures by the artists were being held in the Kiva.

“It was very important to keep (the exhibition) free because I wanted to encourage people to show up, get books or prints signed and get sketches,” Harold said.

There are hopes that the event will become a local, annual festival, which will be held every fall.

“People seem to do these small shows every other year, which I think is a bad idea because you want people to get used to it,” Harold said. “And you don’t have to drive four or five hours to get here, either.”

Students in attendance, such as junior English major Carter Dean, enjoyed the festival’s small size and intimacy.

“It was awesome to be able to talk to all the writers and artists, see them speak and get to know what their process is for writing and creating comics,” Dean said. “And even just seeing the comics and other things for sale, it’s a cool experience altogether.”

Other students, such as senior English major Bryant Rogers, wished the festival gained more attention.

“I wish more Kent State students knew about it, and I wish more things like this happened on campus,” Rogers said. “It’s really cool to see comic books at Kent State, because there isn’t a huge comic book community.”

Contact Hilary Crisan at [email protected].