Zoinks! Kids’ Comic Con offers the art of graphic storytelling for all ages

Lake Erie Ink will host its ninth annual Kids’ Comic Con Friday and Saturday, March 19 and 20. The free, virtual two-day event is open to all ages—from children to adults—and features nearly 40 comic artists from all over the country who will be speaking on various panels and putting on workshops.

As one of Lake Erie Ink’s signature and most popular events, co-founder and executive director Amy Rosenbluth says even though they had to adjust Comic Con to create it in a virtual space, they would be doing the kids a disservice neglecting the event.

“We had a parent about three years ago drive in from really far away [and] tell us that this is the one time a year where his kid gets to be with all these other kids who like what he likes, and he doesn’t get bullied because of it,” says Rosenbluth. “That’s why we do it.”

Last year Lake Erie Ink was able to host about 165 kids for the event, creating a safe place for imaginations to run free. This year, Rosenbluth and her team reached out to youth groups and after-school programs that host kids on Friday nights and offered the session to them before the kids go home for the weekend.

Rosenbluth says she expects a smaller crowd this year but hopes that, with their efforts for inclusivity, kids who want to participate will be able to do so.

“Every young artist has a different style or different technique so it’s really cool to be able to introduce kids to different ways of storytelling,” she says.

The workshops challenge participants to think outside the box and be creative when creating their art. The first session of the weekend is a Random Word Generator workshop to put participants’ brains to the test.

Although the event has focused on kids in the past, this year’s Comic Con is for all ages—adults are welcome to register and participate. Each event has a suggested age, but participants can join any sessions they like.

“Participants and adults who may be reluctant readers or who may struggle reading can get into reading comics because it is really accessible,” explains Rosenbluth. “You can see what’s happening in the story even if you can’t read the words.”

Educators can also benefit from Comic Con—learning ways to incorporate comics into their curriculum.

“As far as equitable teaching practices, comic characters can have whatever powers you want to give them, and the same rules don’t have to apply,” says Rosenbluth. “So, it’s a really safe place for kids to try things out.”

The diverse panel of comic professionals will share their unique experiences on subjects that include how the industry represents marginalized communities and how to learn through comics. Rosenbluth says the Career in Comics panel discussion will reveal a non-traditional path for kids.

There is also a teen session that is going to allow conversation between artists and students who want more information about a career in comics.

“Over the years we have had kids come to Comic Con who may have not been joiners in other places,” Rosenbluth explains. “But coming to Comic Con and being surrounded by kids who also like to sit and draw, it welcomes them into this larger community.”

This year their partnership with Cleveland Public Library is making the event possible by granting access to the library’s streaming service, Hopin. Upon registration, participants will receive an email with a link to use all weekend to access the events.

Heights Libraries is hiring sign language interpreters to make the event more accessible.

The events will be livestreamed on Lake Erie Ink’s YouTube channel for those who miss registration. But streaming does not give access to the workshops.

The event is free for all participants and is open to all ages. Registration closes Thursday night, March 18.

In addition to the yearly Comic Con, Lake Erie Ink plans to host both virtual and outdoor, in-person summer Comic Camps. In-person camps include Comics for Kids for students in third through fifth grades and Comics ‘N’ ‘Zines for grades six through 12. Comic Journaling will meet virtually for students in grades six through 12. Contact Lake Erie Ink for more information.

Read more articles by Jylian Herring.

Jylian Herring is a current journalism student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She has previously worked with two student-run campus magazines and is also a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She enjoys writing about topics such as social justice and locally owned businesses. When Jylian isn't giving her time to one of her student organizations, she likes to listen to podcasts and try new restaurants.