Bam! Pow! Shazam! Comic Book Mania returns Sept. 29 to Elgin

It's coming a few months later than normal. But when the ninth annual Comic Book Mania comes to Gail Borden Public Library Saturday, Sept. 29, it will be bigger than ever.

Spread across both floors of the big Elgin library, it will include the chance to meet professional comic book creators; an opportunity to buy older comic books at bargain prices (and even get one new one for free); plus fun activities ranging from face painting to charades to a super hero training camp.

Jennifer Bueche, director of KidSpace at Gail Borden, said this year's Mania will differ in two ways from the first eight: Bob Cassinelli, the Gail Borden staffer who got the idea for it in 2010 and has organized it every year since, has retired and been replaced by a committee of planners. And the event has been moved from July to September so there will be fewer displays competing for space at the library.

“This is the first year that we'll be able to use all parts of the library,” she said. “Instead of just having the community rooms on the first floor, we'll have activities all over the first and second floors. Last year we had over 1,000 people come to the library just for Comic Book Mania and this year we expect even more.”

As long as supplies last, each attendee will get one free comic book. Anyone who comes wearing a costume also will receive a reward. Children can have their faces painted for free.

Unlike more elaborate comic conventions in places like Chicago and San Diego, “Comic Book Mania is very family-friendly,” Bueche said. “And it's free. Most comic cons charge an admission fee.”

“The purpose of Comic Book Mania is to bring a Comicon to people who can't afford to go to a comic con,” said Keith Anderson, owner of Keith's Komix in Schaumburg. He said his store will bring thousands of “quarter comics,” issues that are older but not collector-worthy that can introduce young people to the field.

“Kids are the future of this hobby,” Anderson said.

Activities will include:

• The chance to meet 40 writers and illustrators (twice as many as in past years) including Art Baltazar, W.C. Carani, Mark Stegbauer and The Satrun Twins. “Families can actually get up close to the artists and talk to them about how to get into the business if they're interested,” Bueche said. “It's almost a career fair.”

• 11 a.m. “Self Publishing 101” — Jim McClain, the math teacher/comic creator who self-published his graphic novel “Solution Squad,” will tell how other creators can take a similar route to readers

• Noon: The Microphone Misfitz, a rap band that also has a line of comics

• 1 p.m. “Fandom Charades” led by writer (and Daily Herald reporter) Russell Lissau

• 2 p.m. A super hero training camp for kids

• 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m.: A superhero escape room

• Cosplayers from the Illinois Chapter of the 501st Legion, dressed as characters from the “Star Wars” saga, will circulate and pose with visitors.

• In conjunction with the Elgin Rocks! painting project, each attendee can paint a rock with a superhero theme that can then be left somewhere around Elgin for someone else to discover.

Evolution of comics

A half century ago writer Stan Lee and a handful of artists in the Marvel Comics “bullpen” revolutionized the comics world with more realistic, believable characters who faced family problems, money troubles and racial discrimination.

Accustomed only to primitive 1940s and 1950s tales about Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman, adults of that era sniffed at these colorful “funny books” as something fit only for children.

Desperate to make their new brand of superheroes palatable to teenagers, Lee's “Bullpen Bulletins” of the 1960s proudly told how rock stars read the books and how college courses analyzed them. For awhile, the company even changed its brand name from “Marvel Comics Group” to “Marvel Pop Art Productions.”

Today, Anderson knows, it's a very different world.

Superheroes may be more popular than ever with young people — in a plethora of TV series and in blockbuster movie after movie.

But when it comes to reading about them in their original genre — in print comic magazines and paperback books — the need is now to attract more kids to the genre.

Anderson, now 53, recalled that when he was a child, “I read almost everything. My grandfather was from Norway and he told me about the Norse gods Thor and Odin. And then I found out there was a Thor comic series.”

“Kids in my time didn't have handheld video games, so comics were our form of entertainment.”

Now, he said, “the movies have made even relatively obscure characters like Groot and Black Panther and Dr. Strange household names. Even ‘Big Bang Theory' on TV shows characters pass time in a comics store. But most of our customers are age teens to the 70s.”

So he hopes Comic Book Mania will introduce some younger folks to the joys of print comics.

Anderson said he got to know Cassinelli when both were employees at the Mount Prospect-based Moondogs Comics chain.

Anderson left to start his own Keith's Komix. Cassinelli left to work for Gail Borden Public Library. When Cassinelli started Comic Book Mania in 2010, he invited Keith's Komix and then-Elgin-based Modern Age Comics to participate, though Modern Age owner Jesse Buck couldn't make it to the convention this year.

Comic Book Mania will offer plenty of photo opportunities with superheroes and villains, including those from "Star Wars." Courtesy of Dave Gathman
Keith Anderson, owner of Keith's Komix in Schaumburg, will offer boxes of "quarter comics" that even young children can afford, at the ninth annual Comic Book Mania event Sept. 29 at Gail Borden Library in Elgin. COURTESY of KEITH'S KOMIX

If you go

What: Comic Book Mania

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29

Where: Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin

Admission: Free

Info: Find “Comic Book Mania” on Facebook or <a href=""></a>

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