Cartoon Crossroads Columbus returns: Here are the special guests, events

Attendees gather at a previous Cartoon Crossroads Columbus expo.

Every year, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus becomes the destination for the world’s top cartoon talent.

Comics creators specializing in everything from daily newspaper strips to political cartoons to animated films flock to Greater Columbus to participate in the event, which features panels, question-and-answer sessions and a huge expo.

“It’s the perfect opportunity . . . to meet creators, discover fresh stories and be inspired,” said Executive Director Jay Kalagayan. “We have over 50 hours of creator-driven programming at iconic locations citywide.”

This year’s event will take place at a wide variety of area arts venues from Sept. 27 through Oct. 1.

Co-founder Smith to miss event

In no small part, cartoonists are drawn to participate in CXC, as the event is known, thanks to its enthusiastic co-founder and artistic director, well-known Columbus cartoonist Jeff Smith.

The creator of the comic book “Bone,” Smith dreamt up CXC following the demise of Ohio State University’s long-running Festival of Cartoon Art.

This year, however, Smith will miss his first CXC since its formation in 2015: The 63-year-old experienced a cardiac arrest on Aug. 19, according to his website, boneville.com. The health issue prompted Smith to cancel a planned tour to promote his latest comic book, “Tuki.”

Jeff Smith, the cartoonist who co-founded Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, is recovering from a health issue.

CXC organizers confirmed that Smith would also have to sit out the comics event. In a recent post on his Instagram account, Smith’s company, Cartoon Books, wrote that he was now recovering at home.

“He (will be) with us, but not physically present,” Kalagayan said.

Even in the absence of its spirited co-founder, however, CXC will have no shortage of gifted cartoonists to meet, greet and celebrate. Below are highlights from the five-day event.

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Opening night

On Sept. 27, CXC will take up residence at the Gateway Film Center, 1550 N. High St. At 6 p.m., comics fans can congregate at an opening-night reception; and at 7:30 p.m., the film center will present a screening of animated short films by Ohio filmmakers.

“We’re asking people to get a drink, eat popcorn and watch cartoons with us,” Kalagayan said.

Time to take a tour

Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, 1813 N. High St., will be the place to be on Sept. 28 and 29. On both days, the noted institution will offer behind-the-scenes tours for guests to get a sense of its massive comics holdings.

“The Billy (Ireland) is a treasure,” Kalagayan said. “It’s a great opportunity for those who have been to the Billy maybe just in the museum to actually get a look at the library itself. … I took a tour this past summer, and their Manga collection is huge.”

Also at the Billy Ireland on Sept. 28, assorted “Talk & Teach” workshops will take place, including the following sessions: “Powerful Pedagogy: Teaching with Comics” (11 a.m.) and “The Art and Craft of Curating Anthologies and Crowdfunding” (1 p.m.)

“Our programming is creator-driven, so it has a little bit more of a focus to it,” Kalagayan said.

Numerous other workshops and educational sessions are also scheduled, from those centered on “bad lettering” in comics (11 a.m. Sept. 29) to “comics script editing 101” (1 p.m. Sept. 29, both at the Billy Ireland).

A shot from a presentation at a previous Cartoon Crossroads Columbus,  a five-day event featuring some of the top comics creators.

Animators to take center stage

During the afternoon and evening of Sept. 28, the focus will turn to animation — specifically, animated movies released by DreamWorks Animation.

Attendees can take the short walk from the Billy Ireland to the Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High St., where numerous events will spotlight DreamWorks. Talks by NBCUniversal archivist Chase Schulte will take place at 4 and 5 p.m.

Then, at 7 p.m., director Brenda Chapman will introduce her 1998 film, “The Prince of Egypt.”

“Brenda Chapman (is) one of the first directors who identifies as a female who did a major animated film,” Kalagayan said. “Afterwards, there will be a Q&A with Brenda Chapman. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

As part of the tribute to DreamWorks, the Wex will also host screenings of the studio’s beloved films “Kung Fu Panda” (11 a.m.), “How to Train Your Dragon” (1 p.m.) and “Shrek” (3:30 p.m., all on Sept. 30).

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Guests galore

Major cartoonists will be on hand to give talks throughout CXC, including a conversation with children’s cartoonist Raina Telgemeier at 5 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Mershon Auditorum, 1871 N. High St.

Also at the Mershon Auditorium at 8 p.m. Sept. 29, cartoonist Daniel Clowes, best known for his acerbic comic book portrait of adolescence “Ghost World,” will give a talk and unveil his latest work, “Monica.” The event will take place at 8 p.m.

“It’s before it’s available to the public,” Kalagayan said of Clowes’ new graphic novel, which will be published on Oct. 3.

“(‘Monica’ is) premiering here at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus,” Kalagayan said. “I know I want to read it, I know I want to get it, I know I want to get an autograph. I have not had an opportunity to see it, because it’s advance.”

And at 8 p.m. Sept. 30, perhaps the most notable guest of the entire event will be front and center: Traveling from Japan, Manga artist Keito Gaku will participate in an on-stage interview at the Columbus College of Art & Design’s Canzani Center, 60 Cleveland Ave.

“This is his first appearance at a festival in the United States,” Kalagayan said. “He’s one of the first publicly out trans Manga creators, and his book is about this subject as well. … Keito Gaku stands out as a rarity to have among the artists coming in.”

Attendees gather at a previous Cartoon Crossroads Columbus expo.

Don’t forget about the expo

CXC’s expo will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 30 and 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library, 96 S. Grant St.

“We’re taking over the library Downtown,” Kalagayan said. “We’re going to have 100-plus creators on the second floor of the library. … We’re taking over the atrium, where we’re going to have signings, with Raina Telgemeier and Keita Gaku; and then we have programming in the auditorium.”

Year in and year out, CXC confirms central Ohio as the epicenter of all things comics.

“There’s something to be said for trying to make Columbus a capital for comics, a capital for comic books and cartoons and animation,” Kalagayan said.

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At a glance

Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) will take place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 at venues throughout Greater Columbus. For more events, a full schedule and ticket and parking information, visit cartooncrossroadscolumbus.org.

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