Across the street from MacEwan’s City Centre Campus, you can find a peaceful locale for the pop culture enthusiast: Happy Harbor Comics. The store does a lot more for the community than simply fulfill your nerdy needs; Happy Harbor has been heavily involved in local charities for quite some time. Just last weekend, they held one of their more famous events: 24-hour Comics Day. Local artists had only one full day to produce a 24-page comic, fully written and drawn. The event started back in 2004 and, since then, the store and its participants have raised close to $90,000 for multiple charities.
The atmosphere of Happy Harbor was a bit unusual at midnight, when the store was almost empty until you reached the main room, where there were numerous artists dispersed across tables, frantically scribbling in the minor details they may have missed earlier. The room was buzzing with local talent, and it was interesting to see how quickly artists could create their comics — a process that would normally be quite lengthy. Jay Bardyla, who runs both Happy Harbor and the event, shared the same observation. “It’s amazing what people will produce off the cuff in the flow of creativity,” said Bardyla.
Bardyla’s experiences with the event range from strictly overseeing it to actually participating. “Yes, I participated last year. I can assure you my art today is as good as it was when I was nine. It’s nice to know I artistically peaked in high school,” Bardyla joked.
However, artistic merit isn’t the key focus of the charity event. Whoever participated was there to hone their skills and raise money for Boys & Girls Clubs/Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area, the charity for this year’s event. Any money raised over the course of the 24-hour period went to the charity, and Happy Harbor would match 10 cents to every dollar raised. Once the event reaches its completion, five of the finished products are published and any proceeds earned from those books go to the charity as well.
It’s nice to know that there is a place for those who not only want to consume comic book culture, but also to participate in it, and do it for a good cause. The amount of art created during the event was staggering, to say the least. Maybe there aren’t only heroes in the pages of comics, but also right across the street.
Photo by Casey Pollon.