Crammed in the Rotunda in West Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 5, dozens of independent artists proudly displayed their work, sharing personal stories, struggles and issues through art.
The gathering of local artists assembled creators from all types of comic genres. The Rotunda’s two circular rooms were lined with stands overflowing with handmade merchandise, paintings, sculptures, and art prints of nearly every type, showing how various the medium of comics has become.
“The beauty of comics is their versatility,” said Steve Walker, illustrator of “The Battle of Blood and Ink.” “They’re rich and involved.”
This versatility was also exhibited by Temple alumnus and former film student Phil Kahn, whose table promoted the first collected edition of the Philadelphia iteration of the art competition Super Art Fight as well as his webcomic “Guilded Age.” Described by Kahn as “Pro wrestling meets Pictionary,” Super Art Fight pits two local artists against one another in a drawing duel.
The festival also served as a grounds to use comics to raise awareness for social issues. HollabackPHILLY’s Erin Filson, Rochelle Keyhan, and Anna Kegler used their new comic “Hollaback: Red, Yellow, Blue” to highlight the dangers of street harrassment in what Filson called “a great medium for hardcore cultural change.”
Editorial cartoonist Vishavjit Singh used a New York photoshoot as a Sikh Captain America to “shatter deep rooted stereotypes” about the culture and his heritage. Singh recently filmed a segment featuring his cosplay for the FX television series “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” which will air in November.
Portions of each donation made by festival attendees went to the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, dedicated to the legendary comic artist best know as the co-creator of Captain America, the Hulk, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Represented at the festival by treasurer Randolph Hoppe, the museum exists solely online until the funds are raised to arrange for a location in Kirby’s home, New York’s Lower East Side. Hoppe expressed the affinity that Kirby would have had with independent artists like those at the festival, as much of Kirby’s work had the same “personal” touch put into it.
The second effort of Locust Moon Comics owners Andrew Carl, John O’Neill, and Chris Stevens, the festival was meant to foster a sense of collaboration and community among Philadelphia’s aspiring artists and to hopefully drum up more support for the medium in the city by way of what Stevens called “mutual discovery.” The comic shop recently published Rob Wood’s “36 Lessons in Self Destruction.” Woods appeared at the festival to promote the darkly comedic work in addition to designing the festival’s flyers and logo. The operators’ favorite part of the festival was the brotherhood that comics creates, especially in a large, artistic city like Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia has the potential to be a sort of comic book Mecca,” Stevens said.
Gerald Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.