This Saturday is an event at The Dragon in Guelph Ontario that will have Jeff Lemire, Scott Chandler, Marco Rudy and Jesse Jacobs. I plan attending to get a few books signed and a sketch or two so watch for coverage here.

For my area of Southern Ontario there isn’t a long history of comic shows, but for as long as I can remember there have been comic shop signings: creators coming to your local comic shop to sign and sketch for free. That’s right, the comic shop visit by creators has long been a free event for fans; I’m sure it’s rarely free for the comic shop but that’s another story.

Way, way back in the 1980s the comic shop chain Silver Snail brought in all kinds of wonderful artists like Moebius, Charles Vess, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker and many more. They weren’t celebrities, they were ordinary people making the comics you loved and they were right there to shake hands with and interact. A personal connection in an intimate setting, the shop you were already comfortable in and could discuss all manner of comic minutiae that would only take place in that location.

My Moebius sketch from his Silver Snail visit

My Moebius sketch from his Silver Snail visit

That spirit of sharing and connection has been sparked lately through Free Comic Book Day and its opportunity to reach out to the community at large. People outside the collecting community don’t care who the artist is, they care that the guy who draws Spider-Man or Superman is at the comic store and they or their children can get a picture.

My local shop Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario tries to get someone in twice a year for FCBD and their anniversary sale.  They’re always popular and the crowd really enjoys the experience of interacting with a local comic artist.  Once they had a big name local artist who doesn’t sketch, so he mostly sat around; artist as celebrity.

I was surprised when I visited my first convention and had to pay for sketches, but that’s the way it goes at a show for North Americans. Last weekend at Montreal Comiccon the bandes desinee artists were all brought in by La Gallery and all sketched for free as long as you had one of their books; if you didn’t they were for sale. I was thrilled to buy a book for $15 to $25 and have a wonderful sketch to boot.  That seemed to jive with the crowd at the show: lots and lots of families with parents and children wandering around and enjoying themselves.  I would never bring my family to Fan Expo: too large, crowded and focused on the fan as an individual.  But I digress.