Truth be told, it wasn’t Tacoma’s flourishing cartoonist culture that brought Saturday’s Jet City Comic Show to town.
Organizer James Taylor said schedule conflicts were what persuaded him to move the comic book show out of Seattle this year and put it in the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.
But, as the center’s exhibition hall filled with hundreds of comic book artists, venders, collectors, costumed space warriors and a small army of superwomen in push-up bras and leotards, the venue seemed like a match that was meant to be.
“This is fantastic,” said Tacoma cartoonist Mark Monlux, chatting and sketching in a near-manic state as the throngs filed past his table. “We haven’t had a big comic convention here in 16 years.”
Monlux is one of the founding members of the Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians, and he said he and other Tacoma CLAW members have been talking for years about organizing a convention here.
“Now they’ve done it for us,” Monlux said. “Cartooning and urban art is really on the upflow. More and more of it is coming to Tacoma.”
Taylor, directing traffic and fielding questions, said he was happily surprised by the number of people who showed up for the fourth annual show.
“We weren’t really ready for this line,” he said, indicating about 100 people waiting to buy tickets at 11:30 a.m., “but it’s great.”
Taylor said later in the afternoon that approximately 1,600 people had purchased tickets for the daylong event.
That’s just a fraction of the 60,000-plus people who typically attend Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon, the giant Seattle comic book convention held each year in March.
But Taylor said that mega-show has grown away from the pure art form and has become more of a media production.
“What we’re doing here is focusing on the creators and the comics and just keeping it that way,” he said.
The Tacoma event included costume contests, photo ops with comic book heroes, thousands of vintage comic books for sale, and chances to meet artists – well-known and unknown.
Artists in attendance included animator Michel Gagne, whose film credits include “Ratatouille,” “An American Tail” and “Brave”; and longtime Disney artist Mike Royer.
Houston-based artist Courtney Huddleson was there with the first chapter of his upcoming graphic novel, “Bully’s Bully,” a story he says was inspired by his younger daughter’s experience with bullies in elementary school. The heroine’s super power is her empathy for victims. “She feels it as if it were happening to her,” Huddleson said.
Another highlight was Seattle boudoir model Sierra McKenzie, the official “mascot” of the show and inspiration for the superhero “Bomber Girl.”
McKenzie, convincing in leather World War II bomber jacket and tight jeans, said she personally has never been that much into comic books.
“I was into other aspects of nerd culture, though,” she said. “I read all the Hobbit books, and I love Star Trek and sci fi.”
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693