For children, one of the favorite creators in attendance is Jay Piscopo, who does free sketches of popular superheroes along with signing his own books. Piscopo is known by kids around Maine thanks to his Capt'n Eli comics, a series born from the Captain Eli line of sodas owned by Shipyard Brewing. His graphic novels and comics are so popular that the series has spun off into coloring books, action figures, and trading cards.

One of the biggest names at the show is special guest Kazu Kibuishi, author and illustrator of Scholastic's Amulet series. An ongoing series already four volumes deep, Amulet follows siblings Emily and Navin, who move into their great-grandfather's house after losing their dad. The two find a door in the basement to an alternate world (not unlike the classic Narnia books), and have to venture through after their mother is kidnapped from beyond the door. The series has been optioned by Warner Brothers, and is a perennial New York Times bestseller and young-adult favorite.

Spending so much attention on catering to kids has been so successful that it's almost become a detriment. Though Lowell insists that there's plenty for fans young and old, some people skip MECAF because it's perceived as a kids' show. It's a sign of that divide between kids' books and the comics market at large — even when things are sold as "for all ages," the term is often read as "for children only."

With the slate of sure-to-be blockbuster comic movies scheduled for this summer, it's a bit surprising the dire straights the print versions of the characters are in. Now that Warner Brothers has snatched up DC and Disney has purchased Marvel, there's debate about how long the corporations will keep the print part of the comic business alive — and how willing they are to face the question of how to reverse a shrinking audience. For fans of the comic form but not necessarily of the stereotypical content, it's encouraging to see the smaller parts of the industry flourishing. The creators at shows like MECAF may not be the licensing cash crop of today, but they're the ones who will ensure comics have a tomorrow.

More information on the Maine Comics Arts Festival, including a schedule and complete guest list, can be found at

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