By Bob Jackson
Where can you go to find Batman, Bart Simpson, a man pounding a spike into his nose and a baby wearing a superhero’s cape and mask all in the same place? You need go no farther than Chris Yambar’s front yard.
Yambar, a West Side resident and nationally known comic artist and writer, hosted the third annual Lawn-Con on Saturday afternoon. The event lures scores of comic afficionados and creators alike, all in a venue where they can mix and mingle without charge. It included vendors selling comic books and memorabilia, a costume contest, and a sideshow demonstration.
“It’s amazing the amount of pull [Yambar] has in the industry,” said Murad Shorrab, a 29-year-old West Sider who lives just a couple of streets away from Yambar. “Last year, I came here and met Ron Frenz, the guy who does the ‘Thor’ comics. He was just sitting at a table under a tent, and I got to walk right up and talk to him.”
Shorrab, who attended Lawn-Con with his wife, Brooke, and their 2-month-old son, Harrison, said he has been a comic-book fan for years and has traveled to several regional comic-book conventions, or cons, as they’re known in comic circles.
“I met Stan Lee at a convention in April,” Shorrab said. “And at the same convention where we met him, Chris Yambar was there. That’s how big a name he is.”
Yambar has created his own line of characters, including Mr. Beat, and also is a writer/artist for brands such as The Simpsons.
The Shorrabs said they’re close friends with Yambar, who officiated over their wedding and who gave Harrison a superhero-type costume as a baby gift. Harrison was wearing the cape and mask Saturday.
Yambar said having a convention on his front yard and making it free to the public is his way of trying to increase exposure for the comic industry, a field in which it has become increasingly difficult to enter and flourish.
“It’s an American art form,” said Yambar, between signing copies of his work for visiting fans. “We created this, and you used to be able to find comic books on the store shelves anywhere. Now you can barely find them.”
He said allowing fans to meet comic creators up close is a reward to them for their loyalty and support. Comic-book conventions sponsored by publishers and corporations can be costly to attend – both for fans, who have to shell out money for admission, and for artists and writers who generally have to rent space to show their wares.
“As long as people are excited about comics, then I win by doing this,” Yambar said. “I hope we get more fans into the hobby, and I hope we attract more young people into the field.”
Joe Pangrazio, 26, came from Rochester, N.Y., to take part in the event, and said he’s been to all three of Yambar’s Lawn-Cons. He writes a comic called “Cthulho Holmes,” which currently is available only online.
“It’s about Sherlock Holmes, who has been possessed by an elder god, and then high jinks ensues,” said Pangrazio, laughing.
He said Yambar’s outdoor lawn convention is the only one of its kind, and he enjoys it so much that he’s going to have one next year in New York.
“I am just enamored by this,” Pangrazio said. “I mean, just look around. People come here, and they’re happy. It’s a great thing. People want comics. People want expressions of art. They want all this stuff, but times are tough, and they don’t have a lot of money, so this is great for them.”
Matt Gross came from his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., at Yambar’s invitation, to take part in Lawn-Con. The two met at a convention in Columbus several months ago, but Gross said he’d never seen a front-yard convention before.
“This is something new to me, and I think it’s great,” said Gross, 30.
Gross is the writer and artist of a comic called “Caaats,” which also is available only online at www.caaats.com. He said the strip was inspired by his two cats, Olive and Hazel, and that “web comics” are growing in popularity.
“With the Web, there is really nothing stopping you from getting your work out there,” Gross said. “Plus, if you’re able to build a strong following, then that’s really helpful when you’re trying to promote your strip to a publisher.”
“Comics has always been a cheap of way of getting a message out,” said Pangrazio.
“It’s not like making a movie. There’s no special-effects budget. And now with the web, you don’t even need paper. All you need is an idea and some talent, and you can get your message to the world.”