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Comic Convention Promotes Literacy With a Focus on Youth

Comic Book Mania Convention-runner, Bob Cassinelli, talks to Comic Vine about his convention, this July, in Elgin, Illinois.

While the idea, over the past few years, that comic book conventions have become increasingly entertainment based and less about the comic book industry has become the topic of conversation, there's a much smaller debate, within the comic book community, that isn't getting the focus as much as it should: Are comic book conventions a good place to bring your kids?

Gail Borden Library in Elgin, IL
Gail Borden Library in Elgin, IL

With bigger shows in the area like C2E2 and Chicago Comic Con, they're mainly geared towards older readers, and because of how many people come to these shows, it can be tougher for kids to meet these creators and get around. Cassinelli says that Comic Book Mania's focus is much different and much more kid friendly. "Our show is all about the artists and writers. I also have some vendors, but that is not the main focus. The Artist Alleys at large cons are usually overrun with adults. At a show like this, younger kids can get a shot at meeting these folks, asking about the comics business, getting an autograph, etc. Many of the artists and writers who come to this show have told me they come back because of the interaction with kids that happens here." The atmosphere for the show, as well, is kid friendly, as well as very inviting. There is a sense of awe and childlike wonder at the Comic Book Mania conventions that put smiles on everyone's faces attending.

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In addition, these larger cons can be quite expensive too. A Saturday ticket for someone over the age of 10 can cost $60, at Wizard World. Add parking and food, and that's quite an expensive day for a parent and their child. Cassinelli looks at Comic Book Mania as a way to save a few bucks for the family, while getting an idea of what a larger con is like: "Not everyone has the money or means to attend large conventions like C2E2...This show gives them a general idea of what a large show is like, and they get to experience it for free. As for the artists, I know that table space at large conventions can be very pricey. The way I look at it is that these artists and writers are donating time to the library that they could be using on their various projects, so table space is always going to be free. If they sell anything or make a new contact, that is a bonus." Comic Book Mania is always free (and so is parking), so families or fans don't have save up to experience a con.

Getting kids to read can be tough, but comics seem to be a gateway into loving books: "Many kids have a limited if any interest in reading, in part because what they are given to read does not interest them. Comics can provide the spark that leads kids to enjoy reading." Sparking kids' interest in reading is extremely important and there's no better place to do it than in a library. "Libraries are actually an ideal place for a comic book convention. Where else can you meet the artists and writers of your favorite comic book character, and then check out graphic novels featuring that character for free?" explains Cassinelli. It seems like a perfect match, and hopefully, it won't just get children interested in reading comic books, but rather reading as whole. Luckily, this convention also allows these new readers to meet a slew of people in the industy.

Comic Book Mania also has a long list of creators from the industry coming out to this event such as Art Baltazar (AW YEAH COMICS), Dave Dorman (Star Wars, MAGIC THE GATHERING), Ben Torres (KNIGHT WATCHMAN: GRAVEYARD SHIFT), Chris Ecker (KNIGHT WATCHMAN), Christopher Mitten (30 DAYS OF NIGHT), Serena Guerra (MICE TEMPLAR), Russell Lissau (BATMAN STRIKES!, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE), and many other guests. Also, the show will feature an exhibit called "The Science of Super-Croc" which will feature life-size skeletons of pre-historic crocodiles. The Ghostbusters: Chicago Division will be at the convention with their ECTO-1, so anyone can get their picture taken with it or with a prehistoric crocodile. There will also be free facepainting for the kids and anyone that shows up in costume will receive a prize.

The Comic Book Mania Convention will take place on Saturday, July 13th from 10A.M. to 5P.M. at the Gail Borden Library in Elgin, Illinois. While the event is geared towards kids and making reading fun, it is a good time for everyone else who is a kid at heart. Not every convention has to be a large event. Sometimes, it's the smaller conventions that fans have the best time at. Comic Book Mania takes elements of larger shows, in an intimate atmosphere, all while trying to promote literacy. Plus, it's free, so if you're in the area, you should really check this one-day event out. Many thanks to Bob Cassinelli for taking the time to answer our questions.

Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a comedian, writer, and host of the podcast Vs The Net. Check him out on Twitter, and quickly uncheck him out because he has terrible ideas for themed restaurants.