By Steven Adamo
Hundreds of people celebrated comic books at the first-annual East Los Angeles Comic Con held at El Gallo Plaza in East Los Angeles.
Artists from the area and beyond shared their comics, buttons, clothing, illustrations, paintings and comic-inspired creations with the community.
Among the vendors, a few were former East Los Angeles College students, like Al Guerrero.
He was handing out free posters of his upcoming comic book “Al Desmadre, tales of terror from the east side.”
Al Guerrero began doodling in his text books as a kid and continued his education at ELAC during the 1980s.
“I took any art classes I could, from ceramics to life drawing,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero grew up in East Los Angeles and is happy that he gets to communicate with comic book fans from his old neighborhood.
As a fan of comic cons and the variety of art genres that were represented, he says it’s a fantastic way to connect directly with the community and vice versa.
“This event means a lot for our community in the big picture,” Guerrero said.
“I’ve had a tremendous response, beyond what I expected.”
Amber McCall, another former ELAC student, sold a variety of items that were manufactured by her friends all around the United States.
Her zine, Thunderpuss, is a mock-women’s magazine that features illustrations, comic strips and writings.
Peter Mellini is the convention’s creator, a 35-year-old East Los Angeles native.
He said organizing the event was challenging in the beginning because he hadn’t seen an event like this in the area, so the owners of the Gallo Plaza were skeptical at first.
In a phone interview, Mellini said it was a dream of his to own a comic book store.
This September, Mellini said he will make the final payment on his comic book store, Nostalgic Books and Comics, in San Gabriel, so he wanted to do something big to celebrate.
He and his friends have been wanting to do a show like this in the area for a long time, so he is excited that it’s happening.
Rafael Navarro was one of the artists asked by Mellini to be a part of the convention.
Navarro is the creator of the series Sonámbulo, which is about a 1950s luchador who becomes a paranormal private detective. Mellini also contacted Joe Benitez, creator of Lady Mechanika is an East Los Angeles native and lives right up the street from Mellini.
The event displays the talent of a lot of East Los Angeles natives and locals, as well as artists from surrounding areas.
“We have a big, wide variety of people,” Mellini said.
Mellini and company also hosted a Cosplay contest at the event.
The first place winner was a little girl named Helena dressed as Owlette from the animated television series PJ Masks.
Two of the contest’s judges were Santos Medrano and his girlfriend Julia Diaz.
The couple was dressed as Han Solo (aka Han Cholo) and Princess Leia (aka Princess Loca) from Star Wars, posing in front of a Star Wars poster that was edited to say “Estar Guars.”
Diaz’s son, Owen, wore a silver sombrero and a white serape painted like R2-D2, or in his case, “Artudito.”
Comadres y Comics was there to represent Latina comic book fans. It’s a podcast that reviews comic books created by Latinos. Their grading scale consists of a Mexican pastry called “conchas.” One concha is bad, three conches is good but three conches and a champurrado (a Mexican drink) is a must read.
Kristin Parraz, one of the podcast’s hosts and co-owner of Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica, said she had the idea for the podcast when people at her shop would ask her for comic books with Latino characters. Parraz and her co-hosts, Jen and Sara, were enthusiastic about their experience at the event. “We’ve been getting a really great response and I’m super excited to record our next episode,” Parraz said. “It really motivates me to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Neat-O Comics creator Johnny Parker II is originally from Detroit, but now lives in Los Angeles. “When I saw that this was going on in the East LA community, I wanted to be a part of this,” Parker said. “There are not many comic book conventions that are based on communities of color, so I wanted to show my support.”
Parker is the creator of comic “Black Fist and Brown Hand” with Luis Calderon and Rafael Gonzales. “It’s a comedy book, but it touches on social justice issues through humor,” Parker said. Parker likes to represent all cultures in his book, a practice he attributes to living in a diverse community himself.
Comic book fan Randy Gomez from Cudahy was there when the convention began at 11a.m. Gomez said that a panel discussion at the convention would have been a welcomed addition. Gomez hopes that Jaime Hernandez will be at the next one.
Links to all the artists mentioned:
Black Fist & Brown Hand by Johnny Parker II & Luis Calderon
Thunderpuss by Amber McCall
Comadres y Comics