If you have any doubt that comic books are ascendant in popular culture, look no farther than the film Thor, based on the Marvel adaptation of the Norse god, which has earned more than $344 million in less than a month in theaters. Green Lantern, based on the DC Comics standby and due in theatres next month, will probably show similar earning power, although the film that fanboys seem the most primed for, The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final entry in Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise, is still a year away. No doubt all three films will be part of the conversations at the Maine Comics Arts Festival, a celebration of comics, manga, and graphic novels convening this weekend in Portland.
On Saturday things kick off at the Portland Public Library in Monument Square, with an 11 am workshop on how to draw comics and other aspects of visual storytelling with Eisner Award-winning artist Andy Runton, creator of the popular Owly series. Later on Saturday the library will also host a discussion entitled "Comics in World History and Cultures" led by cartoonist and teacher Marek Bennett. The event website suggests Bennett's exhaustive (and, we suspect, lengthy) talk will span "modern Japanese history, medieval European history, ancient Mayan culture and mathematics, local history research, and more."
Lincoln Pierce, Maine native and creator of the syndicated comic strip Big Nate, will be on hand to discuss his work when events move over to Ocean Gateway on Sunday. How can an aspiring cartoonist break into the business? Will Big Nate ever get with his longtime crush, Jenny? Has Big Nate's rock and roll band, Enslave the Mollusk, really broken up? Inquiring minds want to know.
More than 100 artists, writers and publishers are expected to attend. There will be workshops, opportunities for aspiring artists to have their portfolios judged by professionals, and even a live reading by AudioComics featuring Bill Dufris, better known to children of all ages as the voice of Bob the Builder.
You might even see fans dressed up as their favorite characters. To quote Bruce Wayne, from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns: "Children, pull on your tights!"
Maine Comics Arts Festival | Ocean Gateway Terminal, Commercial St, Portland | May 22 @ 10 am-5 pm | $5, 12 & under free | mainecomicsfestival.com | with related events at Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq, Portland | May 21 @ 9 am-2 pm | free