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Convention focused on female comic book artists returns

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

The organizers of ComiqueCon, a comic-book convention spotlighting female talent, hadn’t really planned beyond a single event when their convention debuted last year in Dearborn.

But their inaugural group of attendees left them no choice but to start working on year two.

“They were just like, ‘OK, that was great. You’re doing a second one, right?’ ” says ComiqueCon organizer-sponsor Katie Merritt, the co-owner of Dearborn’s Green Brain Comics.

Prompted by what Merritt calls the “overwhelming” response from last year’s 500 attendees, ComiqueCon returns Saturday to the Arab American National Museum. This year’s most notable guest is Mariko Tamaki, author of “This One Summer,” which won a Caldecott and an Eisner award (respectively the top industry honors for picture books and graphic novels). The convention will feature more than 30 other female creators from Metro Detroit and across the country.

This year’s convention will feature an added emphasis on children’s programming. Among numerous panel discussions aimed at adult comics fans, kids’ events will include a panel on how to write comic-book villains and a “coloring party” with Ypsilanti artist Carolyn Nowak.

ComiqueCon founder Chelsea Liddy says that, too, was prompted by last year’s feedback — particularly parents who brought children to the event.

ComiqueCon founder Chelsea Liddy.

“They were just telling me how much their kids loved meeting the exhibitors, and they’re starting to think of making comic books as a viable career,” she says. “I had a lot of people leave telling me that we had role models there for their kids to look up to, which is awesome.”

Merritt says that’s one positive sign among many that she’s seen for women in comics throughout her 28 years in the industry.

“I have seen the evolution from being this boys’-club type of mentality to being this open environment we’re working towards today,” she says. “Women just feel more comfortable going into comic shops and there’s so many female creators out there.”

However, the comics industry can still be a hostile place for women. Liddy’s original inspiration to launch ComiqueCon was the 2014 incident known as “Gamergate,” in which several women in the video game industry were bombarded with threats of assault and murder via Twitter. The incident made waves across the gaming and comics industries alike.

Since then, Liddy describes progress for women in comics as “two steps forward, a half a step back.” This year the Eisner Awards nominated more female creators than ever before, while France’s Angoulême comics awards neglected women creators entirely.

But Merritt says ComiqueCon isn’t just about elevating female talent. As the mainstream popularity of comics has skyrocketed in recent years, the popularity of comic conventions has grown, as well. Merritt says that’s led to an increase in conventions that cover a broad swath of pop culture, “from cars to TV stars.” More specialized events like ComiqueCon and Detroit’s recently established MECCAcon, which spotlights minority creators, bring the focus back to comic books and those who make them.

“(Creators) know that the people that are attending the show are there specifically to see comics,” Merritt says. “They’re not going there to meet the TV stars and have all these extra bells and whistles and crossover pop-culture items that are kind of diluting the attention on the comics.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

ComiqueCon

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Arab American National Museum

13624 Michigan, Dearborn

Tickets $12

comiquecon.com