If Lake Erie Ink has anything to do with it, the next generation of comic book and graphic novel talent will be straight outta Cleveland.
On Saturday, Feb. 29, Lake Erie Ink will welcome approximately 125 budding animators and writers to its eighth annual Kids’ Comic Con at the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. campus. The daylong event is designed to connect young creatives ages 8 through 18 with professional comic creators, while providing a forum for self-expression and leaving kids inspired to try their hand at something new—literally.
“Since we first started doing it, we’ve really seen the connection between comics and literacy, comics and self-confidence, and comics and social learning,” says Amy Rosenbluth, co-founder of Lake Erie Ink. “We don’t take this work lightly.”
It shows in the carefully curated lineup, which includes a keynote address from Cleveland-based filmmaker Ted Sikora and four hours worth of workshops on topics ranging from manga storytelling to drawing heroes to zine-making. According to Rosenbluth, one of the most popular sessions involves creating a superhero figure character and bringing it to life in clay form. “It’s been a huge hit, especially for the younger kids who need a break from sitting and listening and writing,” says Rosenbluth.
This year, Lake Erie Ink is also introducing a teens-only “after-party” replete with a cosplay fashion show, snack-and-sketch session (inspired by drink-and-draw events for adults), and a panel on “Making Change with Comics.” Also new will be the addition of an interpreter in an effort to make the event more accessible for kids with hearing impairments.
Throughout the year, Rosenbluth works closely with Lake Erie Ink co-founder Cynthia Larsen to curate the lineup of artists, the vast majority of whom are locally based. “Cynthia goes to events like Genghis Con and Flaming River Con to connect with creative talent, and I met [participating artist] Perris Mackey at IngenuityFest,” says Rosenbluth. “There are so many people doing cool things out there, but we have to make sure they can convey it to kids.”
And that’s exactly what Rosenbluth and Larsen pride themselves on doing: making a safe space for youth to express themselves through writing and other creative endeavors. According to Rosenbluth, families travel from as far away as Painesville, Cuyahoga Falls, and Parma to take part in their programming—which spans after-school programs, summer camps, workshops, and more.
“Over the years, I’ve talked to so many parents who drive in from other places because this is the only place their kids feel like they belong,” says Rosenbluth. “As educators, we look for interesting and unique ways to help kids learn and grow."