By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
Exclamation points, thought bubbles and surreal landscapes are on tap as comic books take over the North Olympic Peninsula this weekend.
Veteran creators of comic books meet out west for the third year at the Clallam Bay Comicon, while budding graphic artists will show off their work in a mini comicon in Port Angeles.
“The secret for the growth of comicons is that they welcome all arts,” said Donna Barr, organizer of the Clallam Bay Comicon and a long-time comic book artist.
“If you do something creative, bring it along.”
The Clallam Bay Comicon will be Sunday and Monday in the Clallam Bay-Sekiu Lions Club, 90 Bogachiel St. in Clallam Bay.
On Friday, the Kapow Comic-con features art from the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center's commercial arts students from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the North Olympic Skills Center, 905 W. Ninth St. in Port Angeles
Admission to both events is free.
Barr noted the comic book dates back to a time when the books were drawn as light-hearted cartoons.
“The name 'comics' hasn't applied since the 1930s,” Barr said.
The form has changed since, she said, with artists using the comic book form to make all kinds of statements.
Barr likes to call them “drawn books,” which she defines as “art and writing in perfect balance.”
Barr mentioned seeing a car recently in front of the Forks library, covered by the young woman who owned it with paper cutouts and marker sayings, all weather-proofed with clear acrylics.
“Under the 'drawn book' definition, [that] car is a four-wheeled comic book,” she said.
With their stories of unrequited love, oppressive bureaucracies, kitties who hunt vampire rats — even the efforts of a necromancer to stay under cover — the youth convention in Port Angeles showcases different interpretations of the style.
Melissa Klein with the Port Angeles School District said the youth event is aimed at boosting the skills of the students who have been working with professional comic book artist and animator Jim Bradrick.
“Holding a mini comic-con for students to present and discuss their stories is a way to practice those skills and build a strong foundation for a successful career,” Klein said.
“However, a better reason to come out to this event is because it's interesting — and the stories and art have many plot twists.”
Barr has been creating comic books since the 1960s and publishing her own work and that of other artists she appreciates since the late 1980s.
Her work is featured in San Diego State's Love Library Special Collections.
Another artist that will be featured in Clallam Bay is Roberta Gregory, who will feature her new True Cat Toons book at the comicon.
Barr and Gregory are co-authoring Only a Zombie, an online blog story based on the Olympic Peninsula, especially Clallam Bay. They will be writing another episode during the comicon and invite locals to compete — by audience vote — to appear as a character in the online novel.
The story can be followed at www.onlyazombie.com.
Catalyst Studios will also have comics for sale at Clallam Bay, where attendees will be able to pore over selections from around the country.
For more on the Clallam Bay Comicon and to see a selection of Barr's work, visit www.donnabarr.com.