EAST LOS ANGELES — The owner of a San Gabriel comic book shop is staging an East Los Angeles Comic Con beginning at 11 a.m. May 20 at the El Gallo Plaza, 4545 E. Cesar Chavez Ave.
Admission to East Los Angeles Comic Con will be free. In addition to having vendors selling a variety of pop culture merchandise, independent artists will be at the event to promote their work and interact with fans.
Artists include Rafael Navarro, who is known for his series “Sonambulo” which means sleepwalker in Spanish. Navarro is known for genre crossing and is credited with establishing the genre known as lucha noir, which blends lucha libre (profesional wrestling) with noir detective stories.
Navarro’s series received the Xeric Foundation Award, which provides self-publishing grants to promote literacy.
Representatives of the professional wrestling promotion and serial television series, “Lucha Underground” also will attend. They will be selling merchandise and have a rotating cast of wrestlers signing autographs.
East LA Comic Con will also host a cosplay contest, which is still being planned out. Cosplay, which stands for costume and play has become a big part of comic cons throughout the country. Some of the convention’s earliest supporters are the cosplay groups Geeks of East LA and Monkey Monsters.
The owner of Nostalgic Books and Comics, Peter J. Mellini, said he and his co-sponsors were pleasantly surprised when they announced the event by the immediate feedback they received on social media.
Mellini, Joanna Morales, Enrique Cruz, Patrick J. Martinez, Jonathan R. Diaz and Rodolfo Orozco all said they are excited to bring the community they grew up in together to celebrate comic book culture and other fandoms.
The group of friends said they want to make the convention family friendly to introduce the medium to younger readers.
“[Comic books are] clearly not a kids thing anymore,” Mellini said. “Even though comics are a good entry level for readers, the youngest people that walk into the store are usually in high school.”
Mellini said he wanted the event to grow and sought out sponsors to help publicize the event and attract more people, but he still wants to make it a local event.
“We wanted to get local people involved early on. We have local artists attending, vendors and business,” Mellini said.
Nostalgic Books and Comics has a tradition of being involved in the community. It hosts toy drives for children and most recently handed out free comic books at the East Los Angeles Library for free Comic Book Day May 6.
Mellini said it hasn’t been easy keeping Nostalgic open for seven years, but he says the popularity of comic book adaptations into movies like the “The Avengers” has helped revitalize the industry.
The popularity of pop culture conventions has also been on the rise. However, some of them have become a less accessible for many fans because of the demand for passes and increasing prices. The mecha of all pop culture conventions, the San Diego Comic Con, is nearly impossible to attend for the average fan with more that 160,000 people crowding the convention floor last summer.
Mellini and the other organizers hope a free convention will encourage closet fans, young fans and new fans to read, and become involved in the community.