Believe it or not, there are comic-book conventions where 40-year-old guys don't dress up in Spider-Man tights. In fact, this weekend's Minneapolis Indie Xpo (MIX) is so cool it has its own cocktail.
While MIX is all about the little guys -- independent creators and publishers -- the fest has big aspirations. Last year, it took over the massive Soap Factory for one summer day. For its second go-around, MIX expands to two days and is expecting more than 2,000 fans. The woman behind MIX is Sarah Morean, a one-time fledgling cartoonist turned comics crusader. By day, she's a library assistant at the University of Minnesota. By night, she's a mover and shaker hell-bent on putting the Twin Cities scene on the map.
"I have very vivid memories of getting into comics and what it meant to me to find this community," Morean said. "I know now that I wasn't a very good cartoonist. But other cartoonists were so supportive of me. I just wanted to pass that on."
Here are five things to know about her indie behemoth.
1) The names are bigger this year.
Fans can buy comics and art from nearly 200 artists, including such local luminaries as Sam Hiti, Kevin Cannon and Tim Sievert. Bonus: a few artists from top-selling publisher Drawn & Quarterly are exhibiting, including Kevin Huizenga ("The Wild Kingdom") and Anders Nilsen, whose epic "Big Questions" is one of the year's most acclaimed graphic novels.
2) These geeks like to party.
Saturday's after-party is at Honey (a nearby club), where fans can hang with indie heroes and taste the official "Mix Drink," a bright-red vodka doozy made especially for the fest (6:30-10 p.m.). Sunday's after-party is at the Red Stag (starts 9 p.m.).
3) The Soap Factory couldn't contain all this art.
The weekend kicks off Friday with two shows off-site. "Women of MIX" is a free exhibition (focusing on the ladies) at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, curated by Barbara Schulz and Britt Sabo (reception 6-8 p.m.). Pink Hobo art gallery in northeast Minneapolis is hosting a "drink and draw" party (7:30-11 p.m.). Booze provided; bring your own ink.
4) Break into the business yourself.
Since this fest is dedicated to small-press comics, it's only right that the schedule is stacked with panels detailing the tricks of the trade, some with funny names like "How Not to Succeed."
5) The fest might not return next year.
Morean possesses an uncanny superpower for organizing, but MIX is a ton of work and she's operating on a shoe-string budget. She's thinking about taking a hiatus in 2012. Here's hoping this MIX is a wild success and she puts that super-strength to work again next year.
- Follow Horgen on Twitter: @tomhorgen