■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
The “Get Your Comics-On” comic convention debuted at the Hemet Public Library Saturday, Jan. 13. The seven-hour event showcased the works of some of the valley’s most talented creative minds.
Throughout the day, various creators held panels about everything from the process of self-publishing to the importance of equality in ink. Art classes were taught, belly dancers danced, and some documentaries about the history of comics were shown to those who turned out for the convention. Superhero boot camp and costume contests ensued, and a couple of Star Wars cosplayers even stopped by to crash the party.
SoCal Games and Comics, a local comic book shop in Temecula, had their own booth, inviting residents of the valley to stop by and expand their list of reading material, much to the delight of the Library board.
“We know that the goal is to get people to read, and what does it matter what it is?” said Kathye Caines, library manager. “If a graphic novel is what you want to read, we want to have it here, and we do. We’re trying to appeal to everyone.”
For many creators, conventions like this and others across the country are their big opportunities to sell people on what they have to offer. Below are a few of the creative forces that made the con such a success.
1. Jeri Westerson, Author
of “Booke of the Hidden”. Former journalist turned novelist, Jeri Westerson specializes in historical fiction and lives in Menifee. Before she took her writing seriously, she had aspirations of becoming an actress until she realized how cutthroat the industry really was. After having a child, and wanting to work from home, she began to seriously consider becoming a historical novelist. “I was raised by rabid Anglophiles, people who were very interested in English medieval history, so that was like dinner-table conversation,” said Westerson. “So naturally, when I decided to buckle down and become a novelist, it was going to be medieval.”
Today, her medieval mystery series, which chronicles the adventures of Crispin Guest, disgraced knight turned private eye, is currently on its 10th installment with an 11th on the way. She has several other historical novels, many of which have been nominated for numerous awards, and is currently working on the third book of her new paranormal series, “Booke of the Hidden.”
2. Tara Madison Avery, Founder of Stacked Deck Press. As a self-proclaimed “Amazon trans woman” herself, Avery has made waves in the comic industry by incorporating LGBT themes into her works. This began about 10 years ago, when she went through her own transition, already having come out as a bisexual man at the time. Ever since she started reading in the early ‘70s, Avery had a soft spot for comics and started drawing her own in the ‘90s. Today, she is the founder of Stacked Deck Press, a comic publisher that specializes in LGBT works, operating in Walnut, Calif.
ALPHABET, Avery’s anthology collection of LGBT artists’ comics, was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in 2017 and won an Ignatz Award. “Primahood: Magenta,” a book by Tyler Cohen that she published, won the best Bi Book Award of 2016. She is currently producing a popular series of LGBTQ coloring books, the third volume of “Calogrenant,” a series about a transgender knight at the roundtable, and she is working on the world’s first all-transgender comics anthology.
3. Brandon Noel, Cartoonist
at Destiny Comix. “I’ve been self-publishing since ‘09,” said Noel. Originally, Noel wanted to pursue a career in professional wrestling, but he suffered a foot injury which slowed his career to a screeching halt. “I had to figure out what I wanted to do with myself, and comic books is what hit.”
Although Noel knew he wanted to pursue a career in the comics industry, he ran into a few hurdles along the way. Creating the book itself, having it printed, and getting distribution through another chain were all challenges starting out.
Noel has a couple of series, including “Mr. Cuddles,” a kids book about an angelically possessed bear protecting his family from zombies, vampires, and babysitters. He also publishes a horror anthology every Halloween called, “Terrifying Gruesome Tales of Horror” in response to the 1950s, an era in which the government cracked down on comics to ban the words “terrifying,” “gruesome,” and “horror” from their covers. Noel creates all of his comics with a pencil, ink, and watercolor paint.
4. Karla Aguirre, Freelance Artist and Illustrator. Beautiful paintings of Disney princesses, comic book vixens, and other characters were placed on display, while Karla Aguirre sketched drawings and shared conversations with passersby. She said “Comic-On” was her first comic convention, and she had featured her artwork only in smaller art shows previously. Most of her artwork is created with Photoshop and PaintTool Sai. “I’m nervous,” she said before the event started.
5. Jason and Sean Murray, Artists at Murray Brothers Creative. The Murray brothers, Jason and Sean, have been longtime comic book fans but only started going to conventions in 2006. Both brothers have always been fans of vector art, drawing, and creating content. On Saturday, they had plenty of examples of their artwork to display.
“It’s a fun way of doing art that you don’t see a lot of other people making,” said Sean.
The Murray brothers are currently working on an independent comic book called “Atomic Moo,” which follows the adventures of a fire-breathing super-cow that fought Neo-Nazis in the ‘50s.
6. Michael Sanders, Brian Darnell, and Daniel Cross, Podcasters at Nerd Radio Podcast. Michael Sanders, Brian Darnell, and Daniel Cross (substituting for Anthony Lemaster, who couldn’t make it), brought their regular weekly podcast, which covers all things nerdy, to the Comic-On event, and even recorded a live episode during their panel discussion, giving prizes to the audience in exchange for trivia answers.
“I moved into Menifee, [Brian] still lives in Hemet, and Anthony went out to Santa Ana, and we just started doing it because we didn’t want to lose touch with each other,” said Sanders.
7. Russell “Rus F!” Frechette, Artist. “I don’t usually show people my art, really, so it’s interesting,” said Russell “Rus F!” Frechette of 29 Palms. Frechette, friends with Brandon Noel, cartoonist at Destiny Comix, has always used his artistic talents as a hobby, but he has just recently been considering pursuing it as a career. Frechette started #DoodleJar, a Facebook group that presents a weekly prompt, and artists are invited to submit their entries. “They’re usually pretty funny,” he says. Frechette is working on his own comic book, while his wife colors it, which he hopes to debut at the 2018 Palm Springs Comic-Con.
8. Southland Ghostbusters,
Entertainers. “Other than catching ghosts, we do a lot of charity events, private parties, birthday parties…we come out in gear and play with the kids [or adults],” said Charles Lewin of Southland Ghostbusters, an events entertainment company, as he admired his fully-functional light-up proton pack.
Lewin and his Ghostbusters team are officially franchised by Sony Pictures, and when they aren’t hired for special occasions, they spend their time at other cons promoting the ‘80s franchise which is still alive today.
They just have one question for you…Who you gonna call?