The Salinas Public Library is bringing back its Graphic Novel Contest for kids and teens. | Art, Theater & Culture

There used to be a Comic-Con (a comic book convention) in Salinas sponsored by the National Steinbeck Center. This is how the Salinas Public Library Graphic Novel Contest began.

“The winner would receive art materials and tickets to Comic-Con,” says Luis Manzo of the Salinas Public Library, whose background is in computer animation. “And we just continued with that, for fun. We are always looking for new writers.

The contest went on hiatus in 2019 and 2020 before returning in 2021. It is also ongoing for 2022.

“It doesn’t have to be very complex,” Manzo says, regarding expectations. “We are looking for a fun story with good drawings.”

Last year’s submissions were done on paper, then a copy or scan of the graphic novel was submitted. Half of them came in black and white, the other half in color, and the color ones stood out, Manzo says. Picking the winners wasn’t difficult, he adds. “Some submissions were fun but not great art. You could really see the difference in quality.

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The term “graphic novel” is quite broad. This includes and goes beyond what is called a “comic book”. Graphic novels are meant to be more serious in subject matter, execution, and readership, attracting older, often lifelong, fans. Still, Manzo admits that the line between a graphic novel and a comic is fluid. “Before, people thought that comics were just for kids,” he says, “that it’s not a form of literature. But a comic, or a graphic novel, can be used to express their ideas and share their drawing with their friends.

For the contest, graphic novels can be up to 15 pages. “If you can tell the story on one page, that’s great,” Manzo says. “But you have to get your message across.” Entries will be judged by a panel of library and community professionals.

In the meantime, there’s a little graphic novel at the El Gabilan Library in Salinas with two posters on top that the library commissioned for the occasion. One shows a dinosaur chasing a child, the other shows three children fighting three monsters coming out of library books. “That’s the theme of our library,” says Manzo.

Irene B. Bowles