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S.P.A.C.E comic expo draws crowd from Midwest

Harry Locke / The Lantern

Comic book aficionados that were looking to take a vacation outside the usual antics found in Metropolis or Gotham City flocked to Columbus Saturday and Sunday to marvel at the latest in underground comics.

An annual event held in Columbus since 2000, the Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo, called S.P.A.C.E., is the Midwest’s largest exhibition of small press, alternative and creator-owned comics. It features more than 150 artists, writers and publishers with work you won’t find in your local comic book store, according to the show’s promoters.

“S.P.A.C.E. is about the comics and the creators with no distractions,” said Bob Corby, show organizer and publisher of more than 100 comic creators through his company Back Porch Comics. “I’ve always felt a great creative buzz during the show.”

Held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, artists and publishers from both Ohio and beyond were in attendance, looking to connect with fans, sell their work and introduce the public to a whole new world of unique cartooning.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful event, and a great way to see a variety of work,” said Bruce Rosenberger, a cartoonist from Hellertown, Pa. Rosenberger writes, draws and self-publishes the “Dutchy Digest,” a series of cartoons that poke light-hearted fun at Pennsylvania’s Amish-Dutch society.

“These things sold like crazy back in Bethlehem [Pennsylvania], so we’re trying to branch out a little here.”

Like Rosenberger, many of the artists in attendance either lack a committed publishing deal or are backed by independent publishers. For them, being able to sell their work and make new fans is vital in sustaining their passion for art as a feasible source of income.
Nikola Jajic, a writer from Lombard, Ill., attended S.P.A.C.E. for an opportunity to promote his recently released graphic novel, “The Big Bad Book.”

“This convention is a great opportunity to get out there, meet new people and get people interested in my work. I’m out trying to do my thing and take care of my family, so events like these really help,” he said. Artists also applauded S.P.A.C.E. for the low cost to set up a table in the dealer’s room, which is the area where most transactions between artists and the public occur.

“It really makes a lot of sense for us financially to come to Columbus and set up shop here,” said Matt Dembicki, as a customer purchased a copy of his latest graphic novel, “Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection,” an anthology comprised of more than 20 different Native American stories and art styles. “At other conventions, I find myself having to sell more books, just to break even on the price it costs to set up a table.”

In addition to financial benefits, S.P.A.C.E. also offers a valuable networking opportunity for artists looking to collaborate with other professionals within the industry.

“You meet a lot of good connections here at this convention,” said Allen Freeman, a professional comic artist who has had more than 30 volumes of work published since the 80’s. “This is my eighth time here, and it’s really a great chance for artists to network with other artists, or find potential publishers.”

This year’s S.P.A.C.E. was held in conjunction with an open house event at OSU’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on Friday. The event allowed the public to view the museum’s latest exhibition and receive free one-day passes to S.P.A.C.E.

Some of the attendees, who visited both events, used the opportunity to enhance their personal education in the world of comic art.

“I’ve been to many of the bigger conventions in New York, Chicago, California, but I love these smaller venues as well, and I love what’s being offered here in Columbus, and at OSU,” said Michael Fitzer, an aspiring cartoon writer and first-time attendee at S.P.A.C.E.

“You can get real one-on-one time with some of your favorite creators, and more importantly, inspiration to keep getting better at what you do because some of these guys are really amazing.”

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