By Christine Sampson
In the comic book world, when a particular character or story line sparks such rave reviews that discussion of its merits stretches on well past the last page or scene, what happens next?
It gets a sequel, of course.
That’s exactly what happened after Nancy Silberkleit, the co-chief executive officer of the Archie Comics empire and a part-time East Hampton resident, wrapped up last year’s Comic Extravaganza, the sort of miniature comic book convention she held on the sprawling lawn of her house.
The event, inspired by larger ones she had been to in cities and bigger towns across the country, was such a smash-boom-pow success that it was clear she had to do it again. Local high school kids and grown-up nerds raved about it for weeks. Area newspapers covered it as if the Martians had landed. It was the first of its kind on the East End.
“It was phenomenal. That told me that this is a venue that will be appreciated, and why not do it again?” Ms. Silberkleit said in a recent interview. “It was the vibe of the people who attended, the vendors, creative artists and everyone else who participated — they wanted to come back.”
This year’s Comic Extravaganza is planned for Sunday, August 6, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 111 Cove Hollow Road. Admission is free.
Ms. Silberkleit, a former teacher, is hoping her event will spark an interest in reading among youth. She herself admits she was never an enthusiastic reader — until she picked up Archie comics when she was in her 50s. Comic books and graphic novels, she says, can play a role in helping children understand the importance of reading.
“The way reading came to me was a struggle when I first started out,” Ms. Silberkleit said. “Now I find that reading is relaxing, it’s enjoyable, it brings you to places, and especially with Archie, it kind of recharges your batteries. It makes you laugh and think.”
She will also use the Comic Extravaganza as a venue to promote her non-profit organization, the Rise Above Social Issues Foundation, which deals with issues such as bullying in school, environmental awareness, gun violence and more. The organization publishes original comic book stories with positive and constructive messages.
“Utilizing the platform of graphic literacy can be very useful in opening up conversation on topics that are tough or uncomfortable to talk about,” Ms. Silberkleit said in an email.
This year’s Comic Extravaganza will feature an appearance by Marty Grabstein, best known for his work as the character “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” along with numerous artists, authors and vendors of comic books and memorabilia.
Whereas most comic book conventions are an in-your-face crush of pop culture, the Comic Extravaganza has a more welcoming, family-friendly, relaxed feel. That’s according to Teresa Loos, an East Hampton mom who brought her family to last year’s event, and who plans on returning this year.
“It wasn’t as big and overwhelming as the ones that they have in the city,” Ms. Loos said in an interview. “We like the smaller, friendlier, hometown kind of events more than the big flesh fests where all the women show their bodies.”
She admired the way the artists at last year’s event took the time to talk one-on-one with her daughter, answering questions about going to art school and what it’s like to be a professional, working artist.
“It turned out well, and I think if [Ms. Silberkleit] keeps doing it every year, more people will come,” Ms. Loos said. “People will equate ‘Comic Extravaganza’ with the Hamptons.”