Published on February 9th, 2015 | by Martha Buehler
Forest Park Public Library Mini Comic Con
On Saturday, January 10, you could feel the energy buzzing in the library. People milling around, checking in at the desk every once in a while, the same question on everyone’s lips…
“When does Comic Con start?”
2015 marked the fourth annual Forest Park Public Library’s Mini Comic Con, which was started in 2011 by the now-youth services manager Susan Farnum. Of those first couple of years, she says “That first one was an experiment of sorts, and we marketed it as a teen event. We had 25 people attend and at the time, given that it was a new event, I was really excited to get that many!”
The genesis of the convention really goes back to the teen patrons of the library. Susan explains, “I had a really great relationship with the teens in my Teen Advisory Board, and they were all big manga and anime fans…I was just getting into ComicCon culture and learning about cosplay and otaku life, basically, and I thought it would be a fun thing to try – to even see if it could be done on a really small scale.”
And Mini Con truly is a convention in miniature – although it gets bigger every year. Cosplay guests, artists, authors, panels and Q&A’s, photoshoots, and even a snack bar are necessities. Susan has developed her own solid template that she hopes to keep expanding on:
“I want to get at least one of the stores here. I know I have to have at least one pull-out workshop, panel, or talk. I know I want to have at least two featured authors or artists, minimum. I want at least one hands-on activity for younger kids. We’ve got to have good themed snacks. Now, after the crazy success of the last two years, I know I want to lock down a big cosplay or character guest. Those are the basics, and then you go from there if you can.”
When choosing guests and vendors, Susan prefers to go local. Not only does it strengthen the library’s connection with the community, but reaching out to the local comic stores has also provided her with leads to local authors, artists, and performers, like the Chicago Jedi and Midwest Tokusatsu (a midwest-based cosplay group that concentrates on cosplay of live action Japanese genre film and tv, such as the Godzilla films or Power Rangers), both stars of Mini Con 2015. This year, local teen author Dewayne Haslett (author of Invincible and Untouchable, books one and two in The Invincible Chronicles) was spotlighted with a Q&A that almost everyone attended.
Activities for the con focused on turning our guests into superheroes themselves, with a “Make Your Own Cape and Mask” workshop and a blue sky backdrop for photos in flight. We even had an expert face painter to put the finishing touches on. For more sci-fi loving patrons, the Chicago Jedi group held lightsaber lessons with Obi-Wan Kenobi. And even though the Jedi were the draw for many of the guests, Susan says she was impressed by the commitment of the attendees.
“The really satisfying thing about this year and last, was that even though people did have a favorite thing they might have come for, everyone I saw was participating fully in the convention. They went to every table, talked to all the guests, did all the activities.” Attendance to the con reached an estimated 100 people, and kept the library busy past the two hours scheduled for the event.
In the past, Forest Park Public Library has been lucky enough to get such illustrious guests as members of the Midwest Garrison 501st Legion, author and illustrator Yorli Huff (of the comic Superhero Huff), and local comic artist Neil Brideau (in addition to being one of the coordinators of the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, Mr. Brideau also writes and draws kid-friendly comics and owns and operates Radiator Comics, a producer and distributor of small-press comics).
Mini Con also usually hosts several local comic shops, which patrons look forward to seeing in a more personable environment every year. One Stop Comics, based in Oak Park, and Defiant Comics, based in Forest Park, both usually have a strong presence at the convention. Unfortunately, neither store was able to make it this year, but the library enjoys a good relationship with both, purchasing its monthly comic issues from One Stop and many of its trades (especially of the superhero variety) from Defiant.
It’s fair to say that Forest Park Public Library’s Mini Comic Con is only just getting started. The geek culture of the library is going strong, with multiple comic book clubs enjoying popularity, gaming tournaments, and a staff that eagerly awaits the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) every year. This year, the con was an enormous success – and next year is only going to be better.
*You can find the Midwest Garrison 501st Legion at http://www.501st.com/; Chicago Jedi at chicagojedi.com; Midwest Tokusatsu at https://www.facebook.com/Windycitytoku; Yorli Huff at http://engenderingstrength.com/; Neil Brideau at http://neilbrideau.com/, http://ohboycomics.tumblr.com/, or http://www.radiatorcomics.com/; and Dewayne Haslett at http://dewaynehaslett.blogspot.com/.