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Chester County Press

Kennett Public Library to host comic convention on July 25

07/07/2015 11:21AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

A year ago, two local teenagers approached Kennett Public Library program coordinator Ivy Weir with a great idea: To hold a comic book and popular culture convention at the Library. Weir thought, "No problem."

The result? More than 500 people attended the event last July, and in the process, an entire library was turned over to an overflow audience swept up in a growing phenomenon. Subsequently, the event drew national press, drawn to the narrative that an entire convention organized by middle- and high-school students could be so successful.

On July 25, the comic book culture will again be taking over Kennett Square.

The 2015 Insta-Con is expected to draw twice as many people this year for a full slate of activities and appearances. The Comic Book Shop in Wilmington will be selling comic books, graphic novels and toys, and will be joined by local artisans who will be selling handmade pop culture items. The event will hold a cosplay costume contest, and this year, the convention has invited internationally known comic book author Greg Pak and illustrator Brooke Allen, who will be speaking about how to break into the comic industry.

Pak is an award-winning comic book writer and filmmaker who is currently writing "Batman/Superman" and "Action Comics" for DC Comics, "Turok" for Dynamite, and "Storm" for Marvel. Pak wrote graphic novel based on the songs of Jonathan Coulton and co-wrote (with Fred Van Lente) the acclaimed "Make Comics Like the Pros" how-to book. Pak was named one of 25 Filmmakers to Watch by Filmmaker Magazine, described as "a talent with a future" by the New York Times, and named "Breakout Talent" of the year by Wizard Magazine.

Allen is the illustrator for the popular series "Lumberjanes," which follows a group of girls spending summer at a scout camp, and the strange creatures and supernatural phenomena they encounter there. Originally planned as an eight-part series, the comic was quickly made an ongoing series after strong sales and critical acclaim.

In addition, Joe Kelly, the creator of the "Ben Ten" comic series, will be appearing at the convention, via Skype. The convention will also welcome Annie Mok, a Philadelphia-area author and illustrator and contributor to Rookie magazine, as well as webcomic creators Sean Dillon and Luke Foster. 

Along with a spike in interest in the comic book, cosplay and gaming culture, the business of comic book conventions has risen dramatically since they were first introduced in New York City 50 years ago. It is now not uncommon to see attendances of more than 100,000 at comic book conventions in San Diego, Denver, Seattle, Chicago and New York City. Comics, cosplay and gaming, once thought to be the safe pockets of escapism populated mainly by the geek culture, has now gone mainstream, and the once heavy lines of demarkation that separated the geeks from the popular crowd are now blurred.

"Geek culture is not just a niche culture any more," Weir said. "It's mainstream culture now. Kids are so much more aware of it, because it's everywhere. A lot of that is owed to the large comic books that have been translated to the big screen. You're not so alone with your Captain America comic book anymore, because the kid sitting next to you has also seen 'The Avengers' and read the books."

For those who were not able to attend last year's event, "They can expect a lot of relentless enthusiasm," Weir said. "Part of what I love about working in the geek culture is that everyone involved in making this event happen – whether they're into filmmaking, comics or Doctor Who – brings with them so much energy and passion. It's incredible to think that something this successful is being organized by people who are 14, 15, and 16 years old."

The 2015 Insta-Con will be held on July 25 at the Kennett Public Library, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. The Kennett Library is at 216 E. State St., Kennett Square.

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