Literary Event of the Week: First Second at Seattle Public Library

With Emerald City Comicon landing at the Convention Center, all of Seattle is suffering from a ferocious case of nerd fever this weekend. But if you can’t make it to the show, you shouldn’t feel as though you’re missing out on the fun. In fact, the after-parties and side events — all of which are open to the public, even those who don’t have an ECCC lanyard — look to be more exciting than the main event.

First of all, if you haven’t visited Seattle’s newest comic book store, Outsider Comics & Geek Boutique, you should stop by for a visit on Saturday night, when the Seattle Video Game Orchestra and Choir will give a free, all-ages concert of some of your favorite video game standards from 8 to 9 pm. Outsider Comics will be hosting a full complement of comics creators all week long, from Fraggle Rock artist Jeff Stokley to O Human Star cartoonist Blue Delliquanti. Visit their Facebook page for more details. Capitol Hill’s Phoenix Comics is hosting several events, including Seattle writer G. Willow Wilson signing books with artists Gene Ha and Babs Tarr on Friday night at 7 pm.

If you’re looking for less fuss and more commerce, Wallingford’s Comics Dungeon, which recently announced it was becoming home to a comics literacy organization named Comics for Community, Compassion and Culture, will be hosting one of their trademark huge sales, with proceeds going toward the new nonprofit’s worthy mandate to introduce more comics into libraries and schools.

But the whole point of a convention is to get out in the world, to see people and to be seen. And if that’s your goal, the Seattle Public Library downtown is hosting maybe the best ECCC-related event on Friday March 3 at 7 pm. It’s a celebration of one of the most underrated comics publishers in the United States, First Second — a New York-based publisher of (mostly) all-ages books that serve as marvelous entryways into the world of comics. First Second’s books are beautiful, with high production values and a wide array of nontraditional subjects that effortlessly draw in comics noobs.

This promises to be a fun and freewheeling night at the library: First Second cartoonists Gene Luen Yang, Box Brown, Penelope Bagieu, and Matthew Loux will take part in a panel discussion, book signing, and what can only promise to be a truly epic game of Pictionary. Loux’s brand-new book, The Time Museum, is about a young woman who takes on an internship at a time-traveling museum powered by a gigantic brain named Gregory. French cartoonist Bagieu’s comics biography of Mama Cass, California Dreamin’, will be published this month. And Brown’s biography of Andre the Giant documents the world-famous wrestler’s bizarre beginnings — Samuel Beckett used to drive the young Andre to school — and his star-studded, tragically short life.

The biggest cartoonist on the bill, of course, is Yang, whose book about race and identity, American Born Chinese is one of the best comic books — or, okay, graphic novel, if you’re snooty — of the new millennium. As an advocate of youth comics initiatives worldwide, Yang will likely serve as the (absurdly young) elder statesman of the batch, introducing the bold new cartoonists to an eager audience. And really, isn’t that what comics conventions are supposed to be all about?