The local Nittany-Con 1 comics convention Sunday promises formidable superheroes, evil villians, menacing creatures — and a bunch of happy eighth-graders.
At the Quality Inn on state Route 150 near Milesburg, 48 students from Bald Eagle Area Middle/Senior High School will have a table to display original comics done for their art class.
Their work will be in extremely good company: classic issues by Marvel’s legendary Stan Lee and other industry titans, plus contemporary comics from professionals such as Jason Lenox, an up-and-coming Pennsylvania Furnace artist.
In fact, Lenox started the whole idea in motion.
He emailed eighth-grade art teacher Rose Cox about the show, thinking her students would be interested in checking it out.
She had another idea.
Every year, she teaches about comics and cartooning. Students learn not only cross-hatching, stippling, shading and other techniques, but also copyright laws, animation and the use of editorial cartoons.
“If you think about middle schoolers, they’re always doodling,” Cox said. “They’re always drawing comics on their own.”
They get plenty of practice in class. One exercise involves drawing animation cells for ordinary objects around them. Another leads to a finished comic character produced by students adding to each other’s work.
Eventually, each student creates a multi-panel strip with an original character, both in color and in black and white. Works communicate a positive message about issues relevant to the students’ age — such as bullying, drug and alcohol use and academic achievement — and are accompanied by statements from the artists.
When Lenox sent his note, Cox’s students were starting their first drafts.
“A little light bulb went off,” she said.
Cox asked Lenox if her students could participate in the convention and show off their talents, giving them further incentive.
“Here we have a comics convention coming in a timely fashion just a couple of miles from where they’re taking their art classes,” Cox said. “It makes it especially relevant to them.”
Lenox consulted the show’s promoters, who agreed to donate a table. In turn, the students will make their own philanthropic gesture.
Enlarged copies of three or four selected strips will be available for sale at the show, with the proceeds supporting the local chapter of the Jeans for Teens charity.
Admission to the 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. show will be $3, but children 12 and under get in free. The first 100 visitors will receive free comics.
Everyone, however, will have a chance to talk with young artists already enamored with fame. Recently, to their surprise, the school district touted their public debut — a boost that sent them into orbit faster than a speeding bullet.
“At lunchtime, my students came in and they were ecstatic,” Cox said. “They were so excited there was something on the school website about them.”
Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email email@example.com or call 231-4620.