At a comics festival, you might expect to find people dressed as superheroes and lots of collectibles for sale.
But if you’ve been to the Olympia Comics Festival before, you’ll be expecting something completely different.
The ninth annual festival, set for Saturday, will feature burlesque dancers, a political salon and comic fight club, a sort of battle between hastily drawn comic characters.
It also features free workshops and the opportunity to meet independent comics artists from around the Northwest, including British Columbia.
This year’s special guest artist is Peter Bagge of Seattle, best known for his “Hate” series of comics, which depicted life among the grunge-rock set.
“ ‘Buddy Does Seattle,’ a book collection of his work, is probably the best description of what Seattle was like in the ’90s,” said Patrick Mapp, owner of Danger Room Comics in Olympia, which organizes the festival. “He really captured the moment.
“Everything he does is very critically intelligent,” Mapp said. “He came out of the New York comics underground scene; he worked with Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelmann.”
Bagge will appear at the salon on politics in comics, at a book signing at Danger Room and as part of the stage show that caps off the event.
The show will also feature live music by the Olympia Free Choir, the Artesian Rumble Arkestra and Todd Luque.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Mapp said of the festival. “We’re more ambitious this year.”
The burlesque dancers, though, are not part of the stage show. Instead, they’ll appear – clothed – at the festival’s first live drawing event.
“Bring a sketchbook and your art supplies and just hang out and draw for an hour,” Mapp said. “It will be good practice and good social time.”
The festival – which is free except for a $5 charge for the stage show – has drawn 300 to 600 people each year. This year, 31 artists will be showing their work at the Olympia Center.
Some of those artists, as well as anyone attending the festival, are welcome to compete in the comic fight club, a new event suggested by comic artist Jon-Mikel Gates.
“Everyone who shows up is going to draw a character, and we’re going to pit the characters against each other,” said Chelsea Baker, the festival organizer. “Whichever one ends up defeating everyone is going to be the winner.”
Generally, the winner of a match will be determined by a look at what each brings to the match.
“Jon-Mikel has done this before with friends,” Baker said. “Every now and then, if they thought it was going to be a really tight race, they’d draw out a quick comic of what would happen.
“It sounds like it will be a lot of fun.”
And the winner won’t necessarily be the character with the biggest muscles or the one armed with the biggest bomb.
“This first time he ever did this, the winner of the tournament was a character whose superpower was having really stinky diapers,” she said.