Courtesy Wikimedia

An Unconventional Comics Convention

All the free Emerald City Comicon events not happening at Emerald City Comicon.

With Emerald City Comicon landing at the Convention Center, all of Seattle will be suffering from a ferocious case of nerd fever this weekend. But if you can’t make it, you shouldn’t feel as though you’re missing out on the fun. In fact, this may be controversial to say, but the afterparties and side events—all open to the public, even to those not in possession of an ECCC lanyard—look to be more exciting than the main event.

First, if you haven’t visited Seattle’s newest comic- book store, Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique, stop by on Saturday, when the Seattle Video Game Orchestra and Choir will give a free, all-ages concert of some of your favorite video-game standards from 8 to 9 p.m. Outsider Comics will host a full complement of comics creators all week, from Fraggle Rock artist Jeff Stokely to O Human Star cartoonist Blue Delliquanti (visit Outsider’s Facebook page for details). Capitol Hill’s Phoenix Comics is hosting several events, including a book-signing with Seattle writer G. Willow Wilson and artists Gene Ha and Babs Tarr Friday at 7 p.m.

If you’re looking for less fuss and more commerce, Wallingford’s Comics Dungeon, which recently announced it would house Comics for Community, Compassion and Culture, will host one of its trademark huge sales, with proceeds going toward the new nonprofit’s worthy mandate to introduce more comics into libraries and schools.

But the whole point of a convention is to get out into the world, to see people and to be seen. And if that’s your goal, the Seattle Public Library is hosting maybe the best ECCC-related event on Friday. It’s a celebration of one of the country’s most underrated comics publishers, the New York-based First Second. Its all-ages books serve as marvelous entryways into the world of comics; they’re beautiful, with high production values and a wide array of nontraditional comics subjects that effortlessly draw in comics noobs.

This promises to be a fun and freewheeling night at the library: First Second cartoonists Gene Luen Yang, Box Brown, Pénélope Bagieu, and Matthew Loux will take part in a panel discussion, book signing, and what promises to be a truly epic game of Pictionary. Loux’s brand-new book, The Time Museum, is about a young woman who interns at a time-traveling museum powered by a gigantic brain named Gregory. French cartoonist Bagieu’s comics biography of Mama Cass, California Dreamin’, will be published this month. And Brown’s biography André the Giant documents the world-famous wrestler’s bizarre beginnings—Samuel Beckett used to drive the young André to school—and his star-studded, tragically short life.

The biggest cartoonist on the bill, of course, is Yang, whose comic about race and identity, American Born Chinese, is one of the best comic books—OK, graphic novel, if you’re snooty—of the new millennium. An advocate of youth comics initiatives worldwide, Yang will likely serve as the (very young) elder statesman of the batch, introducing the bold new cartoonists to an eager audience. And really, isn’t that what comics conventions are supposed to be all about? First Second Comics Panel, Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., 386-4636, spl.org. Free. All ages. 7 p.m. Fri., March 3.Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

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