A few years ago the Pima County Library started an annual celebration of Japanese manga and anime. Last Saturday marked the third "Manga Mania," a free mini-con intended for teenagers to come together and celebrate the final moments of summer before they go back to school.
The event had outgrown the Murphy-Wilmot Library, where it was held the first three years, so it was moved to Pima Community College's Downtown campus this time around.
Activities included lifesize anime chess games, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon card game tournaments, video game competitions, cosplay change station — where you can try on different costumes — a life-size outdoors Angry Birds game and comic book panels.
Pima County Librarians Catilin Burns and Jennifer Caldwell approached me to present a comic book writing workshop and asked for suggestions about local creators to approach to present programs. (Throughout the years I have made many presentations at the University of Arizona and managed social media for the Tucson Comic-Con and Phoenix Comicon.)
Adam Yeater, creator of "One Last Day," taught a "Do It Yourself Comics" workshop. Yeater has been writing, illustrating and self-publishing comics in Tucson for more than a decade. Local stand-up comedians and creators of the comic book "Orbital Decay" Jacob Breckenridge and Mike Esham talked about their independent publishing experiences.
There was a "Creating Creatures" panel with New York Times bestselling artist Adam Rex. Rex, who lives in Tucson, is best known for his children's books, such as "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich," and he illustrated Neil Gaiman's "Chu's Day." Jeff Mariotte ventured from Douglas and gave a presentation on "Writing Novels Based on Comics" on a panel with Phoenix-based writer Marsheila Rockwell. I'm glad Rockwell was invited because the previous four years' Manga Mania events have lacked female professionals.
It was great to see Mariotte finally get recognized at San Diego Comic-Con a couple of weeks agofor his 17-plus years in the comic industry. He has written novels and comics based on Superman, Spider-Man, CSI, Star Trek and much more. He's become a friend and inspirational figure to aspiring cartoonists in Arizona.
Mariotte told me that last year about 75 percent of the people who attended Manga Mania were female. It was pretty much the same story this year, and that's a good thing — it's important to have a welcoming environment for everyone in a medium with a declining readership.
Cosplay is what makes this event and every con around the nation so popular. It's heartwarming to see when literature inspires young readers to write and draw their own stories and create costumes from scratch. Events have become less about the people who develop the stories and more about the attendees who dress as their favorite fictional characters.
The only downside to the Manga Mania event is that after three years it still doesn't have a grasp on its target audience. "Manga" — a niche comic created in Japan — alienates a large portion of the comic book fans this event's panels are tailored to to. Also, panel attendance could have been much better if it wasn't on the opposite side of the campus where all the attendees were located.
Though without its little glitches, this event shows no sign of slowing down. I won't be surprised if organizers have to look for larger venues in the future. Click here to see a photo gallery put together by the Pima County Library.
Manga, a form of comics that originated in Japan, is wildly popular with teens and young adults in the United States. View manga titles you can check out at your local library.
There are two cool events planned this weekend in Tucson; I'll blog about them later in the day so check back soon.