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Entertainment

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If you go
What: Appleseed Comics & Art Convention
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Grand Wayne Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Admission: $10 single-day passes, $15 weekend passes; tickets available online or at the door; go to www.appleseedcon.com for more information
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Costumes will be common at Grand Wayne this weekend.

Appleseed comic convention marks a milestone

Appleseed Comics & Art Convention will celebrate its fifth year Saturday with a “BANG!”

The convention, which continues to increase in reputation, reflects its growth by extending into a two-day event with special guests that mark a milestone for founder and organizer Zack Kruse.

“It’s a big change for everything. It’s a big risk, but I think it’s something that the show and the city are ready for,” he says. “I’m excited to see how it all works out.”

After last year’s convention, Kruse turned to Kickstarter, an online fundraising website, to help lengthen the convention’s schedule, attract more talent and promote more community events. Offering gifts from T-shirts to commissioned works of art in exchange for pledges, the Kickstarter project exceeded its $8,000 goal by more than a $1,000, which Kruse says has elevated the upcoming convention.

“My biggest goal was to get a bigger and better lineup of artists and writers. Every year we always have a really talented group of people, but with moving to two days and the success of the Kickstarter, I really wanted to up the ante,” Kruse says.

While other industries may still view crowdfunding as a novel idea, Kruse says the comics community has embraced fan-driven fundraising. He says many artists and writers are able to self-publish their work and create a fan base all online through websites like Kickstarter.

Kruse says he was confident the convention’s reputation for presenting well-known artists and writers would bring support.

“It’s a model that works, and it’s become increasingly popular in the comic book community,” Kruse says. “I think comic fans tend to take the medium very personally and, since they take it personally, they have artists and projects they want to see flourish, grow and succeed. They want the work not just to have as individual fans, but to share it with friends and other people, too.”

The convention’s guest list include writers and artists such as Rachel Deering, Mike Norton, Tom Scioli, Dave Wachter and Ed Piskor, author of New York Times best-seller “Hip-Hop Family Tree.” Kruse says he is the most excited to welcome Marvel Comics artist Jim Steranko and Peter Bagge.

Steranko, an Eisner Award Hall of Fame winner, is a renowned artist-writer for Marvel’s “S.H.I.E.L.D,” “Captain America” and “X-Men.” Kruse says Steranko, a pop artist who transitioned to comics, has impacted pop culture in and out of the comics community.

“It’s a huge honor to have him. Jim has done some multimedia things as well as he designed the look for ‘Indiana Jones’; the reason Harrison Ford looks the way he does is because of Jim Steranko’s concept art. I can’t overstate how important he is to the comics community,” he says. “This is not something that would happen without Appleseed and the support of the Kickstarter.”

Bagge is the artist behind “The Bradleys,” “HATE” and “Neat Stuff,” which mostly centers on Buddy Bradley, a pessimistic outsider. Bagge, inspired by the underground comic scene in 1970s New York, also uses his in-your-face artwork for social commentary ranging from pop culture to the comics industry.

“Peter (Bagge) is something of a comic book and artistic hero of mine,” Kruse says. “I’ve been trying to get Peter for a few years, and this is the first time our schedules have matched up, and it’s worked out. He’s been creating independent comics for decades. His work on the character of Buddy Bradley is something that has had a profound effect on me as a comics reader and as a person, really.”

Guests of the convention will also be conducting discussion panels on the creative process, independently producing comics and cultural influences, such as “Comics on Comics,” which features a panel of comedians and artists speaking on the comedy aspect of comics.

Another panel will be “The Hip Hop/Comics Connection,” in which Piskor, an artist and avid fan of hip-hop, will walk through the 40-year relationship between the two from their cultural beginnings in New York to the hip-hop milestones he chronicles in his own comic books.

“Ed (Piskor) is not only super sharp and a great cartoonist, but he really struck a chord with hip-hop fans and people who are normally outside of the comics culture,” he says. “It’s not just music, and it’s not just cultural history. It’s all of that in one complete package.

“This is the sort of thing that brings new people into comics.”

As the convention matures into a weekend event, Kruse says the intent is to keep its focus on the comics community and its creators remain the same. He hopes that visitors, whether they’re returning to the convention or newcomers, take advantage.

“It’s not a quirk, it’s a legitimate medium, and when you look over the past 15 years of Hollywood films that have come out, it has shaped our cultural identity. To be able to meet someone like Jim (Steranko), someone like Peter (Bagge) or any of these guys is a big deal,” Kruse says. “It’s a great opportunity to not just meet creators and get their artwork, it’s an opportunity to build a lasting relationship with the community, and be a part of something the city is both fostering and wants.”

kcarr@jg.net

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