Over the past five years, Genghis Con has established itself as a premier comics convention for small press and independent print media, drawing exhibitors and fans from Chicago and Pittsburgh to Columbus and beyond. For the sixth year, organizers have some major changes planned to make it bigger and better than ever.
First of all, after half a decade at the Beachland, organizers are moving the Nov. 30 convention to the Lake Erie Building, aka the Screw Factory in Lakewood; hours are 2 to 7 p.m. The move allows for more exhibiting artists and organizations than ever before. Also new this year is a kickoff party at Mahall's 20 Lanes set for Saturday, Nov. 29, from 7 to 11 p.m. The biggest change this year, however, is the cost. In years past, general admission was $5. This year's bigger, better convention, as well as the kickoff party, is free and open to the public. Beat that? You can't.
"I'm looking forward to the new space at the Lake Erie Building," says local artist and co-founder of Genghis Con John G. "We needed more room to expand for more exhibitors, which also made it possible for us to make the show free for attendees. We still love the Beachland, it was a great home for Genghis Con for five years. However, the show has just grown and we're excited to have found a space we can get bigger and better in."
From Superman to Calvin & Hobbs and American Splendor, Northeast Ohio has a rich history of cartoonists and comic creators. Additionally, there are plenty of artists and writers working in our area that are just starting to find their creative voices. (Plenty of whom have been featured in Scene's annual comics issue, which will land on newsstands and the Internet in January.)
"Six years in, one of the most rewarding aspects of Genghis Con is how the show is actively encouraging growth in the comics scene," says co-organizer and comics artist Kevin Czapiewski. "We're starting to see people whose careers began at Genghis Con flourish into emerging and established artists. Added to the pedigree of our more well-known exhibitors, we're seeing an image of a thriving and personally exciting comics and 'zine culture in Cleveland."
Although there are many positive changes, the sixth annual Genghis Con is still dedicated to showcasing the region's finest independent artists and writers in the industry – with a focus on the art and language of visual storytelling through comics and other forms of print media.
This year's exhibiting artists include a laundry list too extensive to include here, but it's impressive. Trust us.
"After nearly three years and 32 murals, this is the first time we've had the chance to focus solely on the merchandise table," says the Rust Belt Monster Collective in a group statement. "The plan is to have some new stickers and prints but the most exciting part of this event is the opportunity to connect with fans and peers without the task of a live mural to worry about. It's a very fitting event for Thanksgiving weekend, as it's a chance for us to take a break and sit with our family."
"This will be my first time attending the Cleveland convention and I'm pretty jacked about it," adds RBMC co-founder James Giar. "Just to get out there, speak with other Cleveland creators and artists. I've always said Cleveland is a comic book town — from the retailers, to the fans and especially those that are in the trenches creating, writing and drawing. It's my chance to meet them all and share in the love for the medium that is so deeply ingrained in this city."
"I love this event: It's underground, independent and thriving. Every year it gets better," says local artist/illustrator Angela Oster. "If you're thrifty and an art connoisseur, this is the place for you: You can pick up a lot of great art really cheap! I love that there are a lot of ladies exhibiting at this event, not like at big-name conventions where women are vastly outnumbered!"
We'll brush off the jokes about fanboys being excited about girls and note that there are some seriously talented female artists working in the region in comics and cartooning, and Genghis Con is a great chance to experience their work.
"This is the convention I've been looking forward to all freaking year," exclaims Ashley Ribblett. "Genghis Con is a serious roundup of some seriously talented artists in the local (and not so local) indie scene. I'm consistently bowled over by the ingenuity and creativity."
The highlight of Saturday night's kickoff party will be the 8 p.m. screenings of two comics documentaries. Root Hog or Die explores the 25-year career of cartoonist John Porcellino's self-published King Cat series. Die Hard follows local artist and Genghis Con's co-founder, John G. A Q&A will follow around 10 p.m. Both artists will be exhibiting at Sunday's convention.
For the second consecutive year, local podcast Comics Are Go will host an episode from the convention floor. The award-winning Barrio taco truck will be parked outside with options for vegetarians and vegans.
Genghis Con Cleveland
13000 Athens Ave., Lakewood, thegenghiscon.com.