Saturday, May 6, won’t be the first time that the Warwick Public Library has celebrated Free Comic Book Day. But plans for this year’s giveaway have been scaled up considerably – the first Warwick Fan Festival is scheduled to include games, contests, and visitors from places as exotic as Tatooine, Hogwarts, and Gotham City.
Event coordinator Corey Paul says the event is modelled after another popular celebration of “geek culture.” “I go with my kids to Comic Con in Providence regularly,” the children’s librarian said. “The title is copyrighted, so we couldn’t actually use it. But the Fan Festival is going to be based on the same idea of bringing people from different communities and ‘fandoms’ in order to share the things their passionate about.”
Much like the popular comic book convention, attendees at Fan Fest are encouraged to dress up (or ‘cosplay’) as their favorite characters. Paul indicated that she would be wearing Gryffindor student robes for the event.
So far, the schedule includes displays and activities based on a wide-ranging collection of media franchises – extending well beyond superheroes. “Our small meeting room will be Doctor Who themed, with a Tardis to check out and a trivia contest organized by one of our staff members,” said Paul. “The teen room will be Percy Jackson; the children’s room upstairs will be entirely Harry Potter themed, with a chance to select your Hogwarts house and color in your own uniform necktie. Then just after lunch we’ll be serving Scottish snacks at our Outlander selfie station.”
Science fiction fans in particular will find much to enjoy, with Star Wars and Star Trek being well-represented in the scheduled list of activities. This will even include a military delegation straight from a ‘galaxy far, far away.’
“We’ll be expecting a visit from the 501st Stormtrooper Legion in the early afternoon,” Paul said with a smile. “They’re a regiment of cosplayers that perform as Star Wars villains for charitable events. Then later in the day, we’ll hear from Joe Francazio of New England Droid Builders. He’ll be bringing along a fully-functional R2D2 and explaining how he constructed it.”
Regular patrons will not be surprised to learn that library director Aaron Coutu will be organizing the Star Trek portion of the event.
“I’ll be in costume as a Starfleet captain,” Coutu said. “We’ll have Star Trek: Prodigy playing in the background, and I’ll put some of the more interesting items from the memorabilia collection in my office out on display.”
According to Coutu, events like this can have an important community-building effect. “A lot of fans of these franchises might not have other friends with the same interests,” he said. “They might be the only comic book collector or Trekkie or Harry Potter fan in their family. A gathering like this gives them an opportunity to meet other people who share their passion, as well as introducing them to new stories and characters they might not know yet.”
Comic culture has slowly started to become more mainstream, said Coutu, with Marvel movies and television programs like The Big Bang Theory leading to widespread popularity for media previously stigmatized as “nerdy.”
“Events like this are meant to remind kids that it’s cool to be a geek about something,” he said. “People should be proud of the things they care about. And you get a free comic book for coming, so it’s a good way to promote reading.”
The comics are at the heart of the celebration, and the library’s large meeting room will transform into a bazaar of comic book swapping. “Everyone who attends will receive one free comic book of their choice,” said Paul, noting that this year’s choices included popular characters like Batman and Doctor Strange, as well as options for younger readers like Mickey Mouse and Frozen.
“In addition to the free book, we’ll also have a table set up where people can trade comics,” she continued. “We just want to get everyone reading. Some people might look down on comics because they’re not ‘real’ books, but I think that anytime we can get children and teens excited to read, it’s a win.”
The event will stretch from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. giving participants plenty of time to complete the associated scavenger hunt.
“Contestants will have to search the library for items from all of the different franchises on display,” said Paul, noting that the list includes artifacts like Darth Vader’s mask, Harry Potter’s broomstick, and the iconic scarf worn by the Fourth Doctor of Doctor Who. “Everyone who completes the scavenger hunt will receive a goody bag filled with fun prizes,” she added.
Warwick Fan Fest is free and open to all ages. Additional details may be found on the library’s website, and photos of noteworthy costumes will appear in our next edition.