Moncton's comic expo is back for the first time since it was shuttered by the pandemic in 2020.
Happening this weekend, June 9 and 10, at the Moncton Coliseum, organizers said it's hard to say how the comic book scene has evolved in the Moncton area since their last event.
Danica Brine is a freelance illustrator based in Moncton and a guest at this year's expo.
"It's hard to tell because again, this is the first show in like three or four years now," Brine told Information Morning Moncton.
"I'm curious to see the diversity of the people that are going to be coming, because you have to consider the sheer growth of newcomers here and how they're going to find themselves in the community."
Brine said their ticket sales are already projected to outpace those of their last show in 2019.
Freelance illustrator and expo volunteer Nick Bradshaw said he attends comic conventions all over North America and attendees are often older collectors, but a lot of younger kids have come out to East Coast Comic Expo since its first year, and it's something they have embraced.
"That's what we try to target, making it accessible for a new generation of fans," he said. "These are great forms of literature for you and to celebrate and have fun with it, there's a community around that."
As to why the event waited until this year for a comeback, he said they had heard of people getting sick at conventions last year in other places.
"We didn't want to take a chance," said Bradshaw. "We were looking at the trends of other shows and we were just, like, it's better if we just take the time, wait one more year."
Bradshaw said the time off during the pandemic gave freelance illustrators more opportunity to start their own projects.
Initially, he said the big companies contacted their creators and said they didn't know what was going to happen, so they put a temporary freeze on projects. That gave the artists five to six months on their own.
"A lot of creator-owned projects were developed during the pandemic and now you're seeing them being released," he said.
"And it's quite exciting, because it was a little refreshing to see people taking side steps and pivots in the industry and testing this, trying that, artists trying to write their own material. So it did sort of bring a little renaissance coming out of it a bit."
The pandemic hasn't affected their ability to get guests at the expo, especially since according to Bradshaw, there is no shortage of Canadian comic book talent.
Even from New Brunswick, there will be several artists at the expo who have worked on Archie comics.
"A lot of people might not be aware, but we have quite a few Canadian creators that live in Canada that work for Marvel or DC," he said. "There's actually 19 creators that are nominated for the Eisners, which is like the Oscars for comic books."
His partner, Brine, is one of them.
Brine will be showcasing her recent work as an illustrator for the graphic novel Chef's Kiss written by Jarrett Melendez.
The graphic novel is a LGBTQ story for young adults, and was recently nominated for an Eisner award, which will be handed out at San Diego Comic Con in July. It was also nominated for a GLAAD award and won a 2023 Alex award from the American Library Association.
"Ultimately, we weren't really doing it for the awards," said Brine. "But to be recognized and be on the list with huge creators, and especially Canadian creators like Margaret Atwood and Chip Zdarsky, it's huge, it's awesome."