Bevies of comic and illustration fans roamed the five rooms at Lesley University, flipping through books, prints, even waiting patiently for custom sketches from their favorite artists. University Hall played host to over 80 exhibitors in a daylong event of panels, demonstrations, and more at the second annual Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo.
MICE catered to the independent and alternative comic crowd, with some creators from the New England area and others who traveled from further to take part in a lively gathering of fans and folding tables with amazing portfolios.
On the comic front, Erin Cassell repped the Loony Brain collective, a team of six active members who draw comics pertaining to social issues such as transgenderism, multiplicity, body dysphoria, and more. The hand drawn mini magazines are used as educational tools to explain these themes without being too grave.
“Generally,” said Erin, “I do mainly focus on multiplicity just because it’s a very narrow market that nobody else really seems to do, definitely not in comic format. I do some intersections sometimes with gender…and how that combines with multiplicity. And I try to make it so that it’s not always this horrible serious thing…sometimes absurd things happen!”
Writer George O’Connor and illustrator S. Griffin presented their series “Healed!” The story, they explained, begins the moment the world is suddenly free of death and disease and the aftermath of this revelation. Issue 4 debuted at MICE. The idea came when the pair discussed all the other zombie outbreak books they were seeing, and thought of a case “where the opposite of that happened. Everybody lives and it’s still terrible!”
Ben Doane, a MassArt sophomore and illustration major, showed off his two books “Near Legend” and “Deep Suit.” Also hand drawn, Doane said his series drew inspiration from action and science fiction, including Ray Bradbury stories, films like Escape from New York, and even Kurt Russell in general.
The panel discussions held in the amphitheater ran from the morning until the end of the day. One panel called “Smart Comics for Kids” explored comic storytelling for children and the distinction between comics and picture books, as well as how the publishing market forces those distinctions. The conversation also covered the challenges for authors and distributors in selling comics and graphic novels to a non-adult audience and varying age groups.
Artists held demonstrations in the front hall, showing off tips and displays of techniques for burgeoning illustrators to view. Ellen Crenshaw of collective Fanartica and Girls Drawin’ Girls gave a watercolor demo, showing how to control the tricky medium and included tips on paper mounting, preventing pencil lines from smudging, and using a hairdryer to seal layers! Artist Andy Wong provided a rundown of Manga Studio and, using it with a graphic tablet, took audience suggestions to create a story while showing off the interface.
The list of exhibitors at last weekend’s expo can still be found at the MICE site here; take a look at the work of local comic artists and illustrators and help support the indie comic scene!