After adding a full slate of programming focused on comics and graphic novels for the first time at last year’s fair, The Miami Book Fair International, scheduled November 8-15 in downtown Miami, returns with new additions to its slate of comics events, panels and workshops. Called the Comics Galaxy, the slate of comics programming and events is a collaboration between the MBFI and Diamond Comics Distributors.

This year on Nov. 13 for the first time the show is featuring comics writer and educator Alex Simmons and his Kids Comic Con, an annual event held in New York City focused on kids, comics and education, and two comics-related exhibitions (which opened last week), "Color of Comics," an exhibition of original comics from around the world, also organized by Simmons, and "The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders," an exhibition of the original drawings and photos from the graphic memoir of the same name by artist Emmanuel Guibert and photographer Didier Lefèvre.

Diamond Comics sales manager John Shableski, an organizer of the Comics Galaxy, pointed to the Color of Comics exhibition, a show focused on diversity in comics. Shableski said the topic was brought to his attention at last year’s show by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Junot Diaz, a big comics fan and a guest at MBF last year. “He told me he wanted to see folks on the dais that looked like him,” said Shableski. Shableski also pointed to about 13 exhibitors, a mix of publishers like Archie Comics and individual artists; and the School of Comics and Graphic novels, a workshop event focused on introducing teachers and librarians to comics. “Last year we had more than 150 teachers and librarians attend each presentation. Every workshop was packed,” said Shableski, “we show them why comics work with kids and how comics can work for them.”

Indeed, The School of Comics and Graphic Novels, is a day-long event slated for Friday, Nov. 13 (organized by the Graphic Novel Reporter) and its workshops and panels are focused on helping teachers and librarians use comics in the classroom. Presenters include Diamond’s John Shableski (on the history of comics) in addition to presentations on comics and the curriculum, webcomics and comics as a teaching tool. The slate of presenters include James Sturm, director of the Center for Cartoon Studies; artist Carol Tyler (You'll Never Know: A Good and Decent Man); Alex Simmons, Dan Goldman (08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail) and others.

And look for Weekend Comics on Saturday and Sunday, a slate of panels featuring comics artists discussing their latest works, including David Small (Stitches); Laurie Sandell (The Impostor’s Daughter); Tim Hamilton (Fahrenheit 451); Brian Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?); Neil Kleid (The Great Kahn) and Marisa Acocella Marchetto (Cancer Vixen).

The Miami Book Fair International is one of the biggest book festivals in the country and attracts more than 250,000 people over the course of a week. Lissette Mendez, program coordinator for the Miami Book Fair, oversees a wide variety of events at the show. While she said the economic downturn had affected the number of publishers exhibiting, she also said she was excited about the debut of the Kids Comic Con at fair and about comics programming at the show in general.

“Comics are a very popular category and this year we have more artists exhibiting,” Mendez said. “The Kids Comic con is really cool. It’s a great addition; its interactive, hands-on and educational and it covers all the bases for the kids.”