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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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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.

Last Wednesday morning, I hopped on the subway from Brooklyn and headed to the Graphic Universe office at the Empire State Building in Manhattan. But on that day, the GU office was just a temporary stop to grab a box of books and then to continue my way uptown to an elementary school. By uptown I mean way uptown, to the northernmost tip of the island, in a neighborhood called Inwood at 10th Avenue and Dyckman Street. This is where P.S. 5 sits and where the talented Graphic Universe illustrator Alitha Martinez’s son attends school. But this was no ordinary day–it was career day and great anticipation was in the air. Today Alitha was on hand to share her impressive career as a comic book artist—both with DC Comics and, yes, with Graphic Universe and its critically acclaimed series Twisted Journeys and My Boyfriend is a Monster.

The day proved to be a huge success–not only for Alitha, who marvelously inspired the students with her artistic gifts and career accomplishments–but also a winner for Graphic Universe. I was told that kids at this school just love Graphic Universe books. Indeed, the process of teaching rather mundane subjects comes alive through comic books. Utilizing graphic illustrations to convey ordinary topics in ways that kids can truly appreciate and understand is a remarkable feat. And Graphic Universe books shine bright in that department.

I now have proof of this.

After her presentation the jubilant Alitha wrote to me with this: “It really strikes a chord with the kids when they can see books as more than something that’s forced on them. In the play yard on a beautiful day children were huddled around reading. The manga math book and the tricky journeys, WOW!! Teachers were in love. Kids wanted more to take for their siblings….I only had 30. Kids wanted a book that taught math?? You really had them properly tricked into learning with that one.”

Wouldn’t it be great if Alitha continued the career day tradition next year at P.S. 5! (In fact, she was present the past couple years with equally memorable experiences.) Come to think about it, imagine spreading this idea to having career day participation with dozens of GU authors and illustrations in schools across the country. There could be quite a lot of eager people and it would certainly help spread the word to kids, parents, and teachers about the wonderful line of GU books.

Alitha further espoused the benefits of GU and its stellar line of educational and entertaining titles by declaring that “they remembered every book by name that was brought over the years.”

How can you beat that? Great news for children’s book publishing!

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...is written, scribbled, drawn, and tweeted by GU's editorial director and stalwart editorial assistant.

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