“I came here to meet the kids.”

That was what creator after creator had to say at the third Kids Comic Con, held April 25 on the campus of Bronx Community College.

Show director Alex Simmons estimated attendance at 750 to 800 people, and he figures about two-thirds of those present were children, some brought by parents and grandparents, others coming as a class from places near (Brooklyn) and far (Poughkeepsie).

Compared to the New York Comic Con, which many of the artists and fans had also attended last February, the scope of the Kids Comic Con was modest: it lasted just one day and was confined to a small space. But the display of talent was impressive.

The big publishers were there. At the Archie Comics booth, artist Dan Parent autographed copies of Betty and Veronica Spectacular, while managing editor Mike Pellerito handed out comics to enthusiastic fans as vintage Archie cartoons played in the background. First Second brought in a display of their popular children’s graphic novels, including Sardine in Space, Little Vampire, and Prince of Persia, and Neil Numberman, the artist of the newly released Joey Fly, Private Eye, gave a drawing workshop. Fiona Robinson, whose 3-2-3 Detectives is due out in August from Abrams, also gave a workshop in which children created their own characters. “As they described their detectives, a lot of them realized they had put a lot of themselves into their own characters,” she said.

Individual creators were there as well. “I’m glad to see an all-ages convention,” said Dave McDonald, author of The Secret Adventures of Hamster Sam, a self-published book about a time-traveling hamster. “Typically at these shows, the kids’ stuff gets lost, and the parents don’t know how to find it.”

“There is a comic con everywhere, but not a kids’ comic con,” said Samuel Vera, who was promoting his comic and graphic novel, There’s an Alien in My Toilet. “It’s a great opportunity to get to talk to the audience I target.”

The kids themselves were also enthusiastic. “I made my mom and dad come,” said eight-year-old Joshua Vanterpool, as he thumbed through Bionicle comics at the Papercutz booth. He looked askance at a sign promoting a new title: “Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid?” he asked. Artist Rick Parker grinned and said “You gotta get this,” as he autographed a catalog for Vanterpool.

A clown made balloon hats for a noisy group, creators drew sketches, and kids sat around a table coloring and drawing. Periodically, Simmons and other staff took the microphone and announced a workshop or event. Simmons said the most popular events were the manga drawing workshops, led by Yali Lin and Misako Rocks, and the workshop led by Disney animator Scott Gimple, the creator of Fillmore! and Heroes Anonymous. “It was standing room only,” Simmons said. “He didn’t just run the Fillmore cartoon, he ran the animatics for how he developed the show, the changes he had to make. He talked about the [entire] process.”

Gimple flew in from California just for Kids Comic Con, as did Josh Hoover of Emotes. “It was funny to have these two gentlemen fly out from California just to do our little Bronx event,” said Simmons. “It speaks to the theme of the event. It’s for kids. That’s what pulls people in.”

Every child who attended the show got a brightly colored bag filled with comics, including an assortment of Archie and Scooby Doo titles and a High School Musical graphic novel. Simmons said that the comics store Jim Hanley’s Universe had donated comics, as had several different publishers, and Sakura of America donated pens for the children and teachers who took the drawing workshops.

This is the show’s third year, and Simmons says one shift has been that more mainstream publishers are participating in addition to smaller producers of comic books. “We are building what I feel is an eclectic and very good representation of who is putting out material for young people in the comic book and graphic novel arena,” said Simmons.

One exhibitor who has taken the show’s message to heart is 13-year-old Jessica Weiss, who was promoting her self-published comic, Crisis in Geezerville. Weiss started out as a fan of Jimmy Gownley’s comic Amelia Rules but became impatient with Gownley’s pace. “He didn’t come out with a book for a year or two, so I wrote my own,” she said. “My friend Brianna illustrated it.” Now she is working on the second issue of Geezerville, which features senior citizen superheroes; she draws the comic by hand, colors it with Photoshop, and uses InDesign to prepare it for print. Weiss has attended New York Comic Con, but she came to the Bronx for the same reason all the other creators did: “I really like how kids come and get the comics,” she said, adding, “I really like doing comics because they are creative and fun.”

Teacher and writer Peter Gutierrez explains how comics promote literacy in a workshop at Kids Comic Con
Gabriel Mat, age 9, and brother D.J., age 12, drawing at the Emotes table.
Neil Numberman, the artist for Joey Fly, Private Eye, holds up a model of his creation, Sammy Stingtail
Third-grader Joshua Vanterpool checks out a Bionicle comic
13-year-old Jessica Weiss promotes her graphic novel, Crisis in Geezerville