Gone are the days of thinking of comic books as inferior reading material. At the Beale Memorial Library, comic books and graphic novels are a literary art form worth celebrating.
On Saturday, the library will host its second annual Mini Con, a free event featuring local authors and artists, game demonstrations, cosplayers, workshops and more.
"Comics are a really good community connector," said Ariel Dyer, library associate at the Beale Memorial Library. "I know people of all ages who read comics. It's a great way to promote community literacy because it's very accessible."
The convention will include workshops on how to get into comics and the art world, so kids with dreams of a creative career can hear from people who are doing it themselves.
"The idea behind the Mini Con is wanting to connect young people, who are naturally creative, with adults who are still creative," Dyer said, explaining that lots of adults are told to grow up and move away from being creative. "Kids can connect with adults who didn't listen to that."
Local artists and authors will be at the convention offering advice. Two comic creators will be coming from Los Angeles: Matt Hawkins and Henry Barajas from Top Cow Productions.
That's just one part of the activities planned for the library's convention.
"The Mini Con is going to have a lot," Dyer said. "There's a little bit of everything."
Also at the convention will be local vendors, like Silver Wolf Comics & Collectables, Phantom Stranger Inc., Hectic Films, Wasp Nest Videos, Bakersfield Comic-Con, Bubble Pop Gallery and more. Artist Saida Woolf will have a booth and lead a workshop. Vendors won't actually be selling anything but instead offering information.
"It's a gateway for reluctant readers," Dyer said of comics. "They realize reading can be fun. It's not just homework."
On the library's second floor, guests can check out the game room, hosted by Barnes & Noble and Cimulated VR. There will be game demonstrations for "Dungeons & Dragons," board games and virtual reality games.
Hero for Hire Bakersfield will host a costume contest, and there will also be photo ops with cosplayers and a Superhero Storytime. Those who forgot their costumes at home can transform into a superhero thanks to face-painting and a mask-making station by Kern Creatives.
There will be an art gallery, also hosted by Kern Creatives, with about 60 pieces from local artists of all ages.
Dyer pointed out that guests do need to register for demonstrations, workshops and the costume contest. They can do that the day of the event, she said.
Last year's first Mini Con was a hit, Dyer said, so it made sense to bring it back for a second year.
"We had more than 500 people, just concentrated in one area," she said. "I knew people would like it, but I didn't know there would be that much response."
If it seems like there's a lot more to do than at last year's Mini Con, there is. But don't worry, there's also more time to do it all, with the event starting three hours earlier than the first convention. The event won't just be in the auditorium either.
"We're expanding the time and area," Dyer said. "It's all over the library now."
Dyer is hoping turnout for this year's Mini Con will be at least as much as what the first one received last year. The first 300 guests will receive a swag bag with goodies inside.
Adult comic fans are just as welcome to attend the Mini Con as younger fans.
"It is definitely all ages," Dyer said, adding that last year's costume contest was judged in age groups. "We definitely had more in the 6-to-12 category, but we had people for every single one."
Dyer encouraged comic fans to come out for a free and fun time, to celebrate comics with fellow fans and check out the library.
"People should come to connect with their community," she said, "and try something new."