The laidback and brainy Jughead Jones, the cold teen ready for war named Maika, and a team of human-like French fries called the Fry Guys have one thing in common: They are all beloved comic characters.
Fans of those characters and more can immerse themselves in the artform at the third annual Boston Kids Comics Fest on June 3 at Northeastern University’s Curry Student Center. Attendees can explore authors’ and illustrators’ tables, meet prolific artists, and attend comic workshops.
While the free, drop-in event is geared toward children ages 5-12, cofounder and author/illustrator Jonathan Todd said, it is for all ages to enjoy. The event began in 2018 at Bethel Youth Center and moved to Pine Manor College in 2019. Following a break during the pandemic, the fest will return with 1,000-1,500 people expected to attend.
Tony Davis, cofounder and owner of Cambridge comic book store The Million Year Picnic, said that one of his frequent customers in his 70s has a newfound love for middle-grade comics.
Davis said the customer expresses his excitement about selecting new titles every time he visits the store. “I’m figuring that if some of the books that are coming out now, intended for 10-, 12-, 14-year-olds, can excite someone like him as much as [reading 100-150 comics], then we are living in a golden age for comics for young readers,” he explained.
Comics and graphic novels are on the rise in North America, jumping 62 percent in sales in 2021 from the previous year, according to Publishers Weekly. In 2021 alone, Comics and graphic novel sales amounted to $2.07 billion — people love their fandoms.
On the local front: Somerville-based comic artist Erica Henderson, who reimagined “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” and “Jughead,” will be a featured guest. “Monstress” creator and Hugo Award-winning Marjorie Liu, who teaches comic book writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will sell her work, chat with fans, and sign autographs.
The workshops will move from “Relax & Make Comics” by Bean, to Ho’s “Let’s Make a Comic,” followed by “Don’t Think, Just Draw” by Moynihan and “Craft Your Cartooning!”with Baptiste. The instructors will teach children how to make their own comics and hone their illustration skills and imagination.
If the fest becomes overstimulating for any participants, they can retreat to the Quiet Drawing Space or the Calmer Space, a sensory-adjusted environment set up by Calm Passion — a nonprofit working to make events more inclusive for people with sensory processing concerns.
One highly anticipated aspect is a Young Artists Table where kids and teens will sell their own comics and other art: “It’s almost like a big lemonade stand,” said Todd.
Needham resident Iris Zhang, 12, will be selling her custom PopSockets — phone grips/stands that adhere to the back of your phone. She seals dried flowers and other embellishments in resin on top of the Popsockets. Her father, Dennis Zhang, said she had dropped off the phone stands with her friends’ initials on their doorsteps during COVID, hoping to make them happier during the challenging time.
“I’m excited to see how people react to [my designs] and to see other people’s projects,” said Iris. This will be her first time selling her designs.
Davis explained that the fest has three main goals, beginning with a “[celebration of] the plethora of amazing graphic novels that are out there.”
The second is a community. “[It’s bringing] together creators, particularly members of the local and regional comic community, to give them a space where they can show their wares where they can connect with fans and readers,” he said, “where they can be discovered and appreciated.”
And third, Davis said that the organizers hope the event sparks kids’ passion for creating their own comics.
Columbus, Gainsborough, Renaissance Park, and West Village parking garages are recommended for those driving to the fest. The event will not have food onsite, but Tatte Bakery & Cafe, Ruggles Pizza and Cafe, and other eateries are nearby.
BOSTON KIDS COMIC FEST
June 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 360 Huntington Ave. Free. bostonkidscomicsfest.org
Maddie Browning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.