Capital City Comic Con

    Saturday, Sept. 8

    10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    Tickets: $15

    Children 7 and under are free.

    www.capcitycomiccon.com

    The Breslin Center is being dolled up to host comic book writers, illustrators and slingers alike as Capital City Comic Con returns Saturday for its fourth consecutive issue. As movies like “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” blast their way into the larger culture, all the attention gravitating toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe is reverberating at comic conventions and, organizers hope, boosting the smaller, niche comic market.

    The Marvel films are what pulled Christina DeJong, one of the convention’s co-owners and an associate professor of criminal justice at MSU, into the Capital City Comic Con.

    “The movies got me into reading the comics and the graphic novels they were based on,” she said. “I had been to a couple of comic cons before; I thought they were fun and it seemed like something Lansing really needed.”

    Each year, the convention tries to find a middle ground between the elite comic connoisseur and the casual fan who is patiently waiting for the “Avengers: Infinity War” sequel.

    “That’s a tricky thing; it’s another lesson we’ve learned over the past few years,” said DeJong. “For the hardcore comic fans, our special guests are always people who are involved in the comic industry in some way.”

    This year’s biggest name is Ryan Stegman, a resident of Troy, Michigan, who is best known for his work on “Superior Spider- Man,” “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Renew Your Vows.” Stegman has since been enlisted by Marvel to work on the latest “Venom” series — a pulp reboot for the infamous Spider-Man villain, as the Tom Hardy film vehicle of the same name approaches theaters.

    What’s new for the convention? Over the past few years, DeJong said it’s shaken off a lot of the growing pains and her team has found new ways to engage attendees.

    “The first couple of years, we were really focused on comics and getting a lot of vendors in the door,” she said. This time around, the team has given more thought to families who come and stay all day. “One thing we don’t want to do is charge people on the way in and keep charging them for every little activity,” DeJong said.

    The biggest change is the date. Previously, the convention was held before Michigan State University students returned. Now it can finally lure in wandering Spartans who are exploring their new campus and looking for something to do before they’re demolished by the semester’s workload.

    Alongside the top talent that illustrates and writes some of the biggest superheroes and supervillains, Comic Con will also host independent artists like Adam Lopez, who runs his own independent comics imprint, Merritt Road Comics.

    Artists like Lopez partially rely on events like Capital City Comic Con as an opportunity to become better known and connect with fans. Last year’s convention was the first comic con Lopez ever attended. “I heard about it through my studies at MSU,” he said. Capital City Comic Con runs a scholarship through MSU for comic students. Before the convention, all of the scholarship finalists are invited for a meet and greet with the bigger guests.

    “It’s really cool for independent artists to meet the people who’ve been in the business,” Lopez said.

    Lopez writes noir-inspired short stories accentuated with his bold black-and-white illustrations, which keep the action moving.

    He said that not every convention out there gives small artists the opportunity to set up shop.

    “You’ll see a lot of comic conventions that are mostly about cosplay, or actors from movies, but not necessarily geared toward independent comics,” he said. “That’s one thing Capital City Comic does really well — it makes a point to focus on independent comics.”

    DeJong added that the convention focuses on smaller publishers, as it’s “how most people get started in this industry.” According to DeJong, there is a slight runoff from the Marvel hype that gets back to the smaller comic houses.

    “What we’re trying to do with our events is make people aware of all the different kinds of comics there are,” she said.

    DeJong mentioned MSU’s own underreported stake in comic book lore. The university library is home to world’s largest collection of comic books and has a minor dedicated toward comic art and graphic novels.

    “Honestly, a lot of these things I didn’t know even as a faculty member, until I started working on the convention,” she said.

    There’s also alumni like Geoff Johns — a comic book industry superstar, known for penning long running series for some of DC Comics’ largest properties. DeJong hopes Johns can one day return to campus for a future Capital City Comic Con event.

    “This comic art program at MSU has a lot of really young talent,” she said. “There are future superstars and we are really excited they have this path.”