Indie comics step into the spotlight

Scott A. Ford talks shop and widening the market to a larger audience

Ark Land and its author Scott A. Ford are among the local creators being showcased at Prairie Comics Festival, running Sept. 10 to 11 at the West End Cultural Centre.

Small-press comic books will take centre stage at the fifth annual Prairie Comics Festival, which runs from Sept. 10 to 11 at the West End Cultural Centre.

Established in 2016, and returning from a two-year COVID-induced hiatus, the festival aims to showcase what the independent comics community has to offer through educational panels hosted by professionals, interactive workshops and a bevy of small-press vendors.

The completely free event is open to both novices and enthusiasts of all ages, with the aim of spreading publicity for the niche realm of indie comics.

Among the exhibitors are Winnipeg’s own At Bay Press, as well as HighWater Press, an imprint of Portage & Main Press.

“It’s similar to a comic-con or a local craft show, but we’re showcasing local artists, specifically local comic creators and original work,” co-organizer and indie comics creator Scott A. Ford says.

Ford hopes to fill a niche often overlooked by bigger, more commercially focused conventions such as Winnipeg Comiccon or anime convention Ai-Kon.

“Indie comics have always seemed to slip between the cracks of a traditional comic-con that has grown so huge but has become more and more about movies, television and video games,” Ford says. “The goal is to make a space that is just for original, small creators making original art and original comics.”

This year’s exposition has a special focus on local talent, featuring artists from Winnipeg’s eclectic and active sequential art scene. Local creators Scott Henderson and Silvana Moran are two of the festival’s main guests.

Ford cites the creative freedom and experimentation afforded by lack of oversight that make indie comics indispensable in the context of the industry. Larger mainstream comics publishers, on the other hand, tend to focus less on individual experiences and personal stories.

“As an individual creator, you can tell this story to 10 people, 50 people, 100 people, and that’s fine. It makes for more unique and experimental storytelling and art,” he says.

“It feels like such an outdated perspective to think like ‘comic books are superheroes, comic books are the things that Marvel then uses to make movies’ ... but it’s still a perspective a lot of people have on comics.”

Originally, the festival was conceived as an answer to the Toronto Comics Art Festival, Ontario’s independent comics exhibition that draws over 25,000 in attendance annually.

An accomplished artist himself with years of professional experience, Ford imparts some advice for fledgling creators making a comic of their own for the first time.

“I think you often hear the advice ‘start small,’ and I think that is good advice. But I also think ‘start passionately’ is my two sides of the same coin. I think starting small only counts if you’re starting passionately. The passion needs to be there for something that takes so much time and effort.”

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Published in Volume 77, Number 01 of The Uniter (September 8, 2022)

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