Comic Arts Symposium expands

Workshops, cosplay, exhibits to fill Patriot Hall

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Following the success of the first Sumter Comic Arts Symposium in March 2015, the Sumter County Arts Commission, in cooperation with the University of South Carolina Sumter and Sumter-Shaw Comic Con, is expanding its offerings this year. The symposium begins Friday with a 2 to 3 p.m. event moderated by Dr. Andrew Kunka, Engish professor at USC Sumter, and continues Saturday with a variety of events from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. at Patriot Hall.

Commission director Carmela Bryan said the feedback from those who attended last year guided organizers in adding or augmenting the symposium's events.

"People wanted more activities for children, for one thing," Bryan said, "and we're adding a food truck, because so many people stayed all day (at Patriot Hall, where the Saturday, March 5 programs will be held again this year)."

Other additions will include a costume contest at 6 p.m. Saturday on the auditorium stage.

"We're hoping people will come dressed as their favorite characters all day and then enter the contest," she said. It will be "an epic evening of comic art and Cosplay. Cosplay, derived from the terms "costume" and "play," means exactly that: People dressing up in costumes and engaging in role play of their favorite characters."

In addition, there will be many more exhibitors attending this year, because "people told us they wanted the opportunity to peruse more comics-related items," Bryan said. She said about 20 exhibitors have already registered.

"We hope the symposium will be a gateway to an exhibition of comic book art for aspiring writers/artists," she said.

Bryan said some of the symposium's programs will provide information on how to come up with ideas for comics or graphic novels, how to create characters and even how to use Kickstarter for funding.

She said she was surprised last year by "the large following of comic books and graphic novels in Sumter" and surrounding areas.

"There's a big subculture, especially with the renaissance of comic characters on TV and in movies," Bryan said. "A lot of people are completely immersed, especially in the graphic novels. They have a lot of depth and extraordinary art."

Twelve artists or writers, some of whom are both, will participate in the weekend symposium. Roy Thomas is back from last year, Bryan said, "and Kyle Starks, whose series 'Sexcastle' has been optioned by Fox.

"Thomas will be interviewed by Andy Kunka at 1:30 p.m. Saturday," she said. "He's probably the best known, but a lot of the participants have been nominated for an Eisner Award," considered the Oscar of awards for comics.

Participants are:

Roy Thomas has written almost every superhero in the Marvel and DC universes, including legendary runs on Conan the Barbarian, The Avengers, X-Men, All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. He served as Editor-in-Chief at Marvel in the early 1970s, and he currently edits Alter Ego, a magazine of comics history.

Erica Henderson is the artist of the highly acclaimed, New York Times best selling Marvel comic The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Archie Comics' Jughead.

Babs Tarr gained international attention for innovative art of her favorite characters, including a "Biker Gang" take on Sailor Moon, before landing the job re-launching Batgirl with a bold new design and direction.

Chris Schweizer writes and draws the all-ages, historical graphic novel series Crogan's Adventures from Oni Press, which has been nominated for two Eisner Awards.

Kyle Starks is the creator of Sexcastle, a loving tribute to the absurdities of '80s action movies. Sexcastle has been recently optioned by Fox with the minds behind Workaholics and the producers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Sanford Greene has done design work with Lucasfilm and is currently working on Power Man and Iron Fist for Marvel Comics. He has also worked on Marvel's Runaways with fellow South Carolina native Noelle Stevenson.

Jeremy Whitley is the writer of Eisner-nominated Princeless, as well as a contributor to IDW's My Little Pony series and Marvel's Secret Love comic.

Chris Sims and Chad Bowers are the writers of Marvel's X-Men '92 and the upcoming Deadpool: Bad Blood, as well as the Oni Press graphic novel Down Set Fight.

Matt D. Wilson writes the comic series Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective. He has also written The Supervillain Handbook and The Supervillain Field Manual for Skyhorse Publishing.

Gabriel Dunston is the creator behind Purgatory Pub, a humorous graphic novel series that recently published its second volume, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Max Miller Dowdle is the artist and the creator of the original graphic novel Shattered with a Curve of Horn.