Lake Como Comic Arts Festival 2023 – The Ultimate Exclusive Con Experience

There are comic-cons. There are comic art shows. And then there is the Lake Como Comic Arts Festival.

Known as LCCAF, this show is unlike any other in the world, thanks to its focus on comic art and artists, its spectacular location and its exclusivity.

Set this weekend on the banks of Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy, LCCAF annually hosts hundreds – not thousands – of comic art fans, some A-list artist talent and just a few vendors who specialize in art.

Many cons are comic conventions in name only. Most rely on genre movie or TV stars as headliners to pull in a wide audience and to sell autographs and photo opps. LCCAF isn’t about that. It’s about the art and the access.

At Como, you won’t find the 3-D printed tchotchkes or knock-off DVDs or mini-Lego figures that clog the aisles of most cons. You also won’t see any cosplayers or Marvel movie fans who have never picked up a comic book. Instead, you’ll interact with a few hundred dedicated comic fans who are looking to get original art – either published or a commission – from a hard-to-get artist.

And oh, what an array of artists are there to choose from! Thanks to the connections of co-founders Steve Morger and Arnaud Lapeyre, LCCAF features a who’s who of artists primarily from the US and Europe. There are more than 100 artists, including such highlights as Adi Granov, Peach Momoko, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Arthur Adams, Brian Stelfreeze, Dave McKean, Esad Ribic, Frank Cho, Gabriele Dell’Otto, Gary Frank, Kevin Eastman, Lee Bermejo and Milo Manara.

What is exciting to the festivalgoers is that most of those artists will be sketching over the course of the weekend. Commissions from certain artists are in considerable demand. It has gotten to the point where the organizers have made the unusual – and highly controversial – move of auctioning off certain artists’ first commission of the weekend. The auction winners could easily pay several hundred euros to guarantee their premiere spot on the list and then thousands of euros more for the commission itself, depending on the artist.

With some hard-to-get artists, many collectors see this as little more than the cost of pursuing their passion. Artist Simone Bianchi, for example, is only painting one piece this weekend. And that will go only to the person who won his auction.

While getting that grail piece from an amazing artist is what LCCAF is all about, the exclusive nature of the show lends itself to unprecedented access to many of the other participants. With so few attendees – the show limits itself to 1000 but it’s not come close to that number in its first three installments – the ratio of festivalgoers to artists makes for longer, more meaningful conversations.

In the show’s first year in 2018 (like the rest of the world, LCCAF took off 2020 and 2021 because of Covid), I was standing at one artist’s table flipping through pages and noticed that Greg Capullo had no one at his stand. Thanks to years of drawing Spawn, then Batman, Capullo is an in-demand illustrator who commands a huge audience at nearly every convention he attends. Yet I was able to pull up a chair and talk to him for 30 minutes about his work and history. Getting more than 60 seconds with him at a regular convention would be a rarity. At Como, its commonplace. Expected even.

Just last year, I was in Geof Darrow’s line to get an autograph, when I mentioned to him that I would be reviewing his newest Shaolin Cowboy series for Comicon. He looked at me, then pulled out all seven covers – most of which had never been revealed to the public. It was an extraordinary moment for me, but frankly, it’s the norm at LCCAF.

For the high rollers, exclusive access to many of the artists starts at Friday evening’s opening reception. In addition to the Italian food and drink, and the setting on the grounds of the iconic Villa Erba (I defy you to find a comic-con at a more picturesque location), the reception allows attendees to literally rub elbows with their heroes.

The reception is an extra fee so many festivalgoers save their cash for commissions and opt for getting a full night’s rest so they can be ready to be close to the front of the line when the doors open.

In the first year, I had the chance to eat dinner with the legendary Neal Adams. There was nothing pretentious about the experience. It was Adams – a famous showman – talking about his trade and inquiring how many of his pieces each of us owned. In 2019, my friends and I sat with Adam Hughes and his wife Allison Sohn. Again, those were two nights that will stay with me because they could almost never be replicated at another show.

In essence that sums up LCCAF. There are no other shows like it. For comic art fans who can afford to get there (the good news is that the high season in Como doesn’t start until later in the summer) it’s a trip worth taking – if only once.

There are comic-cons. There are comic art shows. And then there is the Lake Como Comic Arts Festival. Known asCOMICONRead More

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