Highland Library Comic Fest features Archie memorabilia, giant puppets, artists, authors and games

Winners of the costume contest at last year’s Comicfest at the Highland Library. This year’s festival will take place on July 6. (Photo by Lisa Gill)

Do you read about the fun goings-on at ComiCons all summer long and wish that San Diego were closer, or that you had an affordable place to stay overnight in Manhattan? Despair not, fellow fantasy/science fiction/superhero nerd! There are smaller-scale events of this nature happening right here in the mid-Hudson nowadays. They may not have the budgets to draw big-name TV and movie stars, but they do spotlight fascinating people working in the field who have talents to share and stories to tell. And they provide excellent opportunities to hone your cosplaying skills, purchase books signed by the authors and connect with fellow obsessives.

Here’s one coming up close by: The Highland Library Comic Fest returns this Saturday, July 6 — on a much grander scale than last year’s event, which drew about 150 attendees, according to Young Adult librarian Caitlyn Stever, who adds that about 20 more exhibitors have signed onto the 2019 Comic Fest. There will be authors, illustrators and graphic novelists showing their work, at least one panel discussion, hands-on activities, a costume contest, raffles, food trucks and plenty of attractions for fans of all ages.

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One component of the event is an exhibition that will remain on view in the Highland Library through the end of July: a display of Archie memorabilia that’s part of a traveling collection assembled over many decades by the former co-CEO of Archie Comics. Besides mint-condition vintage comic books and associated art, it includes “toys and costumes dating back to the ‘50s and ‘60s,” says Stever, along with items from the current Riverdale TV series. Sounds like a good excuse for a grandchild/grandparent outing!

The Comic Fest will have two headliners, one of them a native mid-Hudsonite who went on to fame and fortune within the comics universe: Scott Lobdell, who grew up in Marlboro. He wrote the screenplay for the 2017 time travel/slasher movie mashup Happy Death Day (like Groundhog Day, except that the protagonist is a college student who has to figure out who keeps murdering her over and over). Lobdell has had a long career as a story writer for both DC and Marvel Comics; beginning in the 1990s, he was deeply immersed in the X-Men part of the Marvel franchise, creating many new characters under the Generation X series. His work for DC has included stints on the Teen Titans and Red Hood. According to Stever, Lobdell will be interviewed live at the library at 1 p.m. for the podcast It Came from the Radio.

The other big name on the Comic Fest roster is veteran puppetmaker Bill Diamond, noted for his 1980s TV show for kids, Land of the Moonshins. Over the years, Diamond worked frequently with Jim Henson, including such projects as the movie Labyrinth, several of the Muppets movies and the Sesame Street TV show. Stever says that he’ll be bringing along some of his “giant amazing puppets,” hopefully including the Audrey 2 that he created for the touring production of Little Shop of Horrors: “As long as it fits through the door, we are good.”

Exhibits and presentations will be staged throughout the new library building, which was designed for modular rearrangement. All the exhibitors will be on hand the whole day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. At various tables visitors will be able to meet comic book artists Belinda Sinnott, Christian St. Pierre and Eddy Eder; graphic novelist and illustrator Kayla Miller; and authors C. L. Schneider (Crown of Stones, Nite Fire series), Jen Place (Building 51, Journey’s End), Myael Simpkins (the Emancerian Chronicles), A. V. Griffin (The Demon Rolmar) and Nirmala Narine (Ellishiva Cinnamon). The latter, known locally as an expert on spices and the proprietor of Nirmala’s Kitchen, will set up “an interactive tent representing the world she created in her fiction,” says Stever.

Other vendors on hand will include the Alterniverse Comic Shop and Kirwan’s Game Store, who will conduct demonstrations of both tabletop and electronic games, including a retro videogame station featuring low-tech classics from the early days of video arcades. Youngsters can try their hands at making ectoplasmic slime at the booth of the Hudson Valley Ghostbusters, who will have their iconic Ghostbuster vehicle parked outside the library and will interact in-character with anyone who wants to roleplay. 50 Shades of Blue Eyes Cosplay will offer advice on how to perfect your costume for the next ComiCon and do the judging for the cosplay contest set to start around 3 p.m.

The Highland Library will be using this event as an opportunity to put a newly acquired piece of technology through its paces: a green screen, just like those used to insert CGI backdrops in TV and movie scenes. At the Comic Fest, visitors will be able to choose a background from “a substantial collection on an app,” and take selfies or make videos of themselves in an alien landscape, dragon’s lair or whatever other fantastical scenario strikes their fancy. Photo ops are only the beginning of the new programming that the library plans to do using the green screen, according to Stever: Expect to see filmmaking, theater and other workshops for youth being offered in the near future. A “Tween and Teen Green Screen Makerspace” session is already scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 11.

The Comic Fest is a fundraiser for the Highland Library’s programs for children, teens and adults with special needs. Admission for the full day costs $5 with any library card and $10 without. To purchase a ticket or find out more, visit https://highlandlibrary.org/about/news-updates/comic-fest-saturday-july-6th-10-4 or call (845) 691-2275.

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