Genghis Con Shines Light on Rust Belt Comics and Cartoonists

Our generation

Genghis Con

Screw Factory, 13000 Athens Ave., Lakewood

It's no secret that Northeast Ohio has a rich history of comics and cartoonists. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, Zap Comix's R. Crumb, Derf, Harvey Pekar's American Splendor (with Gary Dumm) and Marvel Entertainment's Brian Michael Bendis all got their start in and around Cleveland. Less familiar are the countless artists, cartoonists and writers currently living and working in Northeast Ohio. This new generation of comic creators inspired local artist John Greiner (better known as John G., and for his Lake Erie Monster comic, Draw Hard documentary and Melt Bar & Grilled posters).

Now in its seventh year, Genghis Con is back — bigger and better than ever. This year's convention includes more than 80 exhibitors: mostly local and regional, but some from as far away as Philadelphia and New York.

"Genghis Con continues Cleveland's unique and often overlooked history with the comic book medium, and provides the pro platform new artists and writers need to get exposure for their voices," says Guide to Kulchur's RA Washington. "I can think of no better example of direct action arts advocacy."

Genghis Con 2015 takes place at the Screw Factory (13000 Athens Ave., Lakewood) from 2 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29. The convention is an opportunity for creators and fans to interact and connect on a very personal level. Guests have the opportunity to meet these artists and support them directly. Attendees can even request autographs and commission sketches and original artwork.

"Genghis Con is all about the independent, small press, underground comics and 'zines, with a focus on the Rust Belt region (and beyond!)," explains organizer John G. "What we're celebrating is the artists, writers, and cartoonists who have been, and are currently, making and publishing comics and 'zines of their own unique design with interesting and original perspectives. These are storytellers and creatives making work that comes from the here and now. We're getting these people in a big room together — and turning on the lights. We want that room to be as accessible as possible for anyone to be able to join us. That's why it's free to get in, and Lakewood is a great place for that."

Following half a decade at the Beachland, the free convention moved to the Screw Factory last year. The venue offers more space and allows for more exhibitors. Additionally, Barrio's food truck will once again be parked outside to feed hungry guests.

"Genghis Con originally came out of the need for a small, close-knit, comic convention in Cleveland, focused on and celebrating the independent voices in the region between Detroit, Pittsburgh and Columbus," reflects John G. "That first year, in 2009, we crammed just short of 50 exhibitors into the Ballroom at the Beachland. The intimacy of that space really inspired more engaging interactions between the exhibitors and the attendees. That was our objective. Since then, the show, and the community, has grown considerably. When we jumped to the Lake Erie Building last year, it gave us a lot more breathing room but the paradigm has been established. While we now have over 80 exhibitors, in a much bigger space, that just means it's more comfortable for everyone to have that more open and engaging dialogue. We more than doubled our number of attendees and it never felt crowded or claustrophobic."

This year's exhibitors include Czap Books, Derf, Gary Dumm, Amber Esner, John G., Guide to Kulchur, Jake Kelly, Clare Kolat, Angela Oster, Nix Comics, Ashley Ribblett, Tim Switalski, Nathan Ward and many, many more new and returning creators.

The night before (Saturday, Nov. 28), organizers are kicking things off with a free Dance-N-Draw pre-convention dance party and drink 'n' draw at Mahall's in Lakewood (13200 Madison Ave.). Beginning at 8 p.m., this party will begin the celebration with music, dancing, drawing, drinking and socializing. Blick Art Supplies will provide materials for guests to draw with a beer, their friends, and dozens of local and regional artists. (Guests are encouraged to bring their own materials to draw with)

"The kick-off party at Mahall's is about giving ourselves, and our out-of-town guests, something fun to do the night before the show," says John G. "What could be more fun than a dance party/drink 'n' draw at a bowling alley? We lined up some great DJs (DJ Mimi Lean, DJ White Rims and DJ Rachel H of WRUW's Guilty Pleasures) for the dance party side. As far as the drink 'n' draw, it's another component of the community outreach side of Genghis Con. It's fun to draw, and even more fun to draw with friends, at a bar! We also want to encourage people that maybe don't draw all the time to come and have fun giving it a whirl."

If you're familiar with their work, Genghis Con is an opportunity to meet your favorite underground artists and writers, pick up their latest and greatest work and have it signed —maybe even talk them into drawing something for you. However, if you're new to underground comics, you'll experience the thrill of wandering from booth to booth discovering an overwhelming variety of artists, with exciting stories and intriguing characters.

"Genghis Con is the ultimate conqueror and ruler of the Cleveland comix and indie publication scene and has been for seven years running," says legendary local cartoonist and comic creator Gary Dumm. "Artists and self-publishers travel here from the wilds of Cuyahoga County, the vast southern reaches of Columbus and even the exotic Far East (Philadelphia and further on) to pay homage and present their creative wares for sale. I've attended almost all of them and found these gatherings to be a potpourri of fun, inspiration, new art and publications fit for a world ruler (or even those who are just fans of indie comix, books and art of a strange and original flavor)."

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