Olympia Comics Festival: The art of the comic

Unlike the stereotypical comic convention populated by people in costume and vendors looking to turn a big profit, the Olympia Comics Festival focuses on independent comics artists.

“It’s all about meeting the artists,” said Patrick Mapp, owner of Danger Room Comics in downtown Olympia, which organizes the festival.

And that’s true whether the artists are local people making zines or award- winning graphic novelists. In fact, it was the popularity of zines – a kind of self- published magazine – that helped spawn the festival.

“About 10 years ago, we decided to do Comics Appreciation Day,” Mapp said. “There seemed to be a lot of interest, and there are a lot of people in town who make their own comics. So we wanted to make it into more of a festival – almost a comics convention, but a really art-centric comics convention.”

This year’s special guests – featured on an afternoon panel, at the evening stage show and in an extra appearance at the Olympia Timberland Library – are award-winning graphic novelists Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang, co-creators of the new book “The Eternal Smile: Three Stories.”

“The stories in ‘The Eternal Smile’ are an intriguing mix of fantasy and reality,” said Olympia librarian Sara Pete. “Magic and soda pop bottles, talking frogs and television studios, fictional Nigerian royalty and Denny’s: The stuff of daydreams and of everyday life graphically collide in each story.”

At the expo, visitors will find artists who draw their own comics or zines. The library also will have a table featuring examples from its zine collection, as well as graphic novels and information about special programs.

The day’s events also include a host of panel discussions at the Capitol Theater.

“We’re going to do one on the use of comics in education, and we’re also going to do a panel on autobiographical comics, almost a how-to sort of thing,” said festival organizer Chelsea Baker. “We’re also going to do a kids’ comics workshop, a self-publishing 101.”

Kim and Yang will interview one another at a panel discussion in the afternoon and will be featured in the evening stage show, which also includes a slide show and contests.

“The Eternal Smile” is already getting high praise from literary critics, and both men have received awards in the past. Yang won the American Library Association’s Printz Award for “American Born Chinese” and was a National Book Award finalist. Kim won both the Harvey and Eisner awards in 2004 for “Same Difference and Other Stories.”

Yang’s work also has been featured in a series in the New York Times Magazine.

“These guys have a really high profile right now, and they both do really quality work,” Mapp said.

Meet the graphic novelists

What: Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang will talk about and sign copies of “The Eternal Smile.” Copies available for purchase.

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Olympia Timberland Library, 313 Eighth Ave. S.E., Olympia

cost: Free

information: 360-352-0595 or www.trl.org Olympia Comics Festival

What: The eighth annual festival includes an expo of Northwest cartoonists showing and selling their work, panel discussions, and a stage show. Special guest artists are Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang, both award-winning graphic novelists who have collaborated on the new book “The Eternal Smile: Three Stories,” which includes three stories illustrated in different styles.

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: The expo is at The Vault, 425 Franklin St. S.E., Olympia, from noon to 5 p.m. Panel discussions (between noon and 5 p.m.) and a stage show (beginning at 6 p.m.) are at the Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia.

Tickets: Free for festival, $1 donation requested for the evening show

More information: 360-705-3050 or www.olympiacomicsfestival.org