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Earlier this month kids, parents and comic books fans across the Bronx descended on the Church of the Mediator to participate in the annual Kids Comic Con. Graphic Universe’s editorial director Carol Burrell—a resident of Riverdale in the Bronx—and GU illustrator Alitha Martinez—from upper Manhattan—were on hand to represent GU’s vast array of colorful and engaging titles. Also present was Robyn Chapman, GU’s assistant editor (and Brooklyn resident), who happily made the journey north to conduct a workshop on accordion bookmaking. These books are long pieces of paper folded into sections that form a unique presentation. (See pictures below)

One of the convention’s special guests was veteran animator Dan Haskett, creator of the character designs for Disney’s Belle (Beauty and the Beast) and Ariel (The Little Mermaid), who also conducted a workshop for kids and other aspiring artists.

GU illustrator Alitha Martinez (left); the convention floor comes alive (right).

Graphic Universe’s colorful line up.

Established about five years ago by author, comic artist, and educator Alex Simmons, the Kids Comic Con formerly was held on the campus of the Bronx Community College. But because of scheduling conflicts, this year’s event was relocated to the Church of the Mediator in Kingsbridge on West 231st Street. Those who participated said the new hosts were gracious and enthusiastic.

An accordion book success! (above); a youngster engrossed in a Twisted Journeys title (below).

This convention, with its small but loyal following, will only grow in size and prestige as more young people are exposed to the art of comic books and graphic novels.

Samples of accordion books from Robyn’s workshop (left); kids working on their masterpieces (right).

Who knows, maybe someday some sort of alliance could be formed with the behemoth New York Comic Con? That would be very interesting.

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Graphic Universe’s much anticipated and beautifully produced new book Little White Duck: A Childhood in China received a star review from Kirkus. The book is about sisters growing up in Wuhan, China immediately following the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao Zedong’s decades-long reign. Kirkus calls Little White Duck, “a striking glimpse into Chinese girlhood during the 1970s and ’80s.”

Based on the early life of the book’s author, Na Liu—now a doctor of hematology and oncology—and illustrated by her husband, Andrés Vera Martínez—an award-winning artist and graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of Visual Arts—this page-turner is described by Kirkus as “beautifully drawn and quietly evocative.” The book explores, in eight stories, the childhood of the author—who was nicknamed Da Qin (Big Piano) and her younger sister, Xiao Qin (little piano), in Wuhan, one of the nation’s largest cities, right along the Yangtze. Different aspects of China’s history are weaved into the book—from the “Four Pests Campaign” (a time in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the country fought back against the ravages of rats, flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches) to the observance of the Chinese New Year—Na’s favorite holiday and a time of national pride and great celebration.

Judging by its initial reception, this book’s universal appeal has the ability to educate and inspire young and old and people from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds. In other words, this book is a clear winner.

On any given spring weekend in New York the city comes alive with street fairs and conventions. Last weekend (April 28-29), Graphic Universe was right smack in the middle of one such festival. The annual Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) fest, taking place at the historic 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, was center stage for aspiring and seasoned comic book artists alike to show off their wares and expand networking. It was also a perfect place for comic book aficionados just to take in a festive atmosphere.

      

Carol Burrell with GU authors Lars Jakobsen and Colleen AF Venable.    

This year Graphic Universe had prime real estate at the event as well some notable GU authors and illustrators on hand. A continual stream of interest surrounded our booth with special guests like Lars Jakobsen who came all the way from Denmark. He was there to promote his much anticipated, upcoming time-traveling-detective series Mortensen’s Escapades, which is expected to be released this September. Lars also demonstrated his impressive drawing chops by offering free sketches to convention goers. And then there was the always effervescent Colleen AF Venable of Guinea PIg fame—one of Graphic Universe’s favorite and bestselling authors. And to round off the booth was the much admired GU illustrator Alitha Martinez, whose My Boyfriend Bites (from My Boyfriend is a Monster series) was one of the most requested titles there. Other well-received books were The Girl Who Owned A City: The Graphic Novel, and series Lou!, The ElseWhere Chronicles, Nola’s Worlds, and Miss Annie.

Although tiny compared to the New York Comic Con, this fun little convention packs a punch when it comes to artistry and earnestness in comics and graphic novels. Graphic Universe is always proud to be part of it.

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