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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

April 22, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Annual comic-book themed convention aims to unite community

It is not every day that actors from Star Trek are seen on campus or that superheroes are buying comics and talking to students in the halls of the Campus Center. At the 43rd annual Ithacon, though, the Ithaca College and local community will have the chance to experience these rarities firsthand.

Ithacon, an annual comic book-themed convention held at the college, is the second–longest running comic convention in the country, with San Diego Comic-Con being the first. Ithacon is open to students and the general public.

The 43rd annual Ithacon will take place March 24 and 25 in the Emerson Suites and Williams Hall. Ithacon is hosted by the Comic Book Club of Ithaca in collaboration with the School of Humanities and Sciences. The Comic Book Club of Ithaca is a nonprofit organization formed in 1975 and is the longest-running comic book club in the country. The first Ithacon took place in 1976, with only four guests. Bill Turner, an Ithacon co-chair and president of the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, said this year there are expected to be approximately 55 guests and 10 vendors.

Guests include writers, artists and crafters who come to share and sell their own work including clothing, cosplay accessories, original artwork, posters, prints, comics and books. Vendors are classified as people selling work that is not their own.

Turner said that in the beginning, Ithacon represented a safe space for comic book lovers, who he said were seen as a minority at the time. Now, the event is more geared toward bringing the community together, he said.

“I don’t know of any parents who are worried about exposing their kids to comics; instead, they treat the conventions as family events,” Turner said.

Emily Swann, an illustrator, has been tabling at Ithacon since 2016. Swann said this year she will be selling her books, prints, T-shirts and pins.

“I always look forward to seeing my convention ‘family,’ fellow artists and patrons, as well as interacting with the attendees,” Swann said. “Ithacon is an incredibly friendly show and a great way to start convention season.”

Senior Sallie Sims is a student coordinator for Ithacon and has been attending Ithacon since her freshman year.

“Ithacon provides so much to see and explore in the two days it happens, and it’s a good time for all ages,” Sims said. “From those who want to create and craft, to those who want to show off their epic closet cosplay skills, to those who just want to buy a few trinkets from vendors.”

Carmela Merlo, a coordinating assistant for Ithacon and secretary of the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, said due to the club’s nonprofit status, Ithacon is a nonprofit event, making it free to the public.

Events taking place this year include a zombie maze, a cosplay runway, a Harry Potter room and a Star Trek panel. The panel will be held March 25. Actors J.G. Hertzler and Tim McCormack, and writer Nick Sagan, lecturer in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies, will be on the panel. Workshops centered around teaching people how to create their own comics will also be held.

Katharine Kittredge, professor in the Department of English and Ithacon co-chair, said the partnership between the Ithaca comic book club and the School of Humanities and Sciences began in 2013 with the Pippi to Ripley Festival, an academic conference that looks at sex and gender in children’s literature and science-fiction and fantasy comics.

“I think we need to have more conversations between scholars and collectors,” Kittredge said. “We all share a love of the material. We just come at it at different directions.”

Kittredge said Tim Grey, owner of the comic book store Comics for Collectors in downtown Ithaca, reached out to her during the summer of 2012 to inform her that the Comic Book Club of Ithaca was looking for a venue for Ithacon 39.

Turner said the original venue, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, became unsuitable for the convention after it went through a series of renovations. Since then, the convention was held at various locations in the Ithaca area before coming to the college.

Kittredge said artists will be creating designs and printing them on cards for attendees to decorate and then have the artists sign at the convention.

“We’re hoping it becomes a way for artists and guests to interact and talk about a shared joy in creating and enjoying art,” Kittredge said.

There will also be a book drive held by the Books Behind Bars Club, where people can donate graphic novels and comic books to incarcerated people, Kittredge said. When people donate their graphic novels or comic books, they will receive a raffle ticket giving away gift certificates for Comics for Collectors, Buffalo Street Books and craft stores.

“Thinking about this as a way to give other people pleasure is exciting,” Kittredge said.

Adriana Darcy can be reached at adarcy1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @icadrianadarcy