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Comics exhibit to showcase Columbus-natives’ works, explain creative methods

Courtesy of Ken Eppstein and Matt Wyatt

Although it might not be well-known, Columbus has a vibrant local comic book scene.

“It’s kind of Columbus’ big secret,” said Ken Eppstein, a local comic book artist. 

Local artists, including Eppstein, hope it won’t be such a secret after the “Local Comics Pop-Up Store and Creation Process Exhibit” debuts. The exhibit is set to run from Thursday until Feb. 23 at the Ohio Art League gallery. 

Eppstein, who helped organize the exhibit, said in addition to displaying work by local artists, the exhibit will walk people through the process of creating a comic book, from writing the script to the finished product. 

“It’s complicated, but it’s really just a lot of hard work,” he said. 

Eppstein said a pop-up shop with local comic books will be included at the exhibit.

“In addition to what’s up on the wall, people can come and see the actual final product and how varied it is from cartoonist to cartoonist, from publisher to publisher,” Eppstein said.

The exhibit is slated to feature three presentations. 

The first presentation focuses on the history of comics in Columbus and will be given by Caitlin McGurk, the engagement coordinator at Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. The presentation is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. 

McGurk said she thinks the presence of the Cartoon Library contributes to the local comic book scene. 

“I think people are drawn to that,” she said.

McGurk added that comic books have recently surged in popularity.  

“They’re being taken a lot more seriously in an academic setting, and obviously with the emergence of more and more comic book-based movies, comic books are no longer something that people just deem as nerdy or for kids, but they’re something for everybody,” McGurk said.  

Within the past year, comic book movies released have included “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

The surge of popularity for comic books is mirrored in the expansion of the Cartoon Library, which is slated to move from its current location in the Wexner Center for the Arts to Sullivant Hall in the fall. The move will increase the library’s size to almost 30,000 square feet from 6,800 square feet.

The second presentation, scheduled for Feb. 16 at 4 p.m., will be a panel discussion led by Victor Dandridge from Vantage Inhouse Productions, highlighting diversity in local comics.

“(Comic book artists) are men, women, people from all financial backgrounds, all social backgrounds. It’s pretty universal,” Eppstein said. 

Ryan Seymore, who owns Comic Town comic book shop, located at 1249 Morse Road, said his store sells comic books by local authors such as Dandridge. He said comic books from local artists are not as popular as other comic books, but that’s not because they are not good. 

“It’s not their quality. It’s production value,” Seymore said.

He said because it costs more to print in color, local comic books are often printed in black and white, and as a result, customers are not drawn to them as much as other color comic books. 

Seymore also said some people are wary of comic books that are not from big, well-known comic book publishers like Marvel and D.C.

Rounding out the series is OSU alumnus Derf Backderf as the third featured speaker, discussing his graphic novel “My Friend Dahmer.” The talk is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. 

Eppstein said he hopes that through this exhibit, people in Columbus will learn to be proud of their local comic book scene.

“It’s something that’s just as vital in the long term as, say, music or football or good food,” he said. “It’s part of Columbus’ heritage.”

Ohio Art League gallery is located at 1552 N. High St. and admission is free.

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