In September, a hastily organized event dubbed Nerdville drew more than 800 comics fans, collectors and geeks of every ilk to celebrate superheroes and share their love for a genre that has captivated the world since the Phantom debuted in 1936.
Friends of Watsonville Parks and Community Services is now bringing the event back for a sequel on April 30 and May 1.
Featuring prominently in the event will be Salvadorian author Randy Ertll, whose most recent illustrated children’s book Supersiguanaba features a female mythical hero from El Salvador who represents the struggle and perseverance of women.
Also at the event will be Stephen, Charlie and Edward Chiodo, whose iconic film Killer Klowns from Outer Space was filmed in Watsonville. The brothers will be on hand to talk to fans, and for a screening of the film after the event in the Mello Center starting at 7pm.
Diversifying the Multiverse
Ertll, who lives in Los Angeles, is also known for several other nonfiction and children’s illustrated books. In his El Cipitío, a mythical three-foot-tall, 10-year-old boy with a big hat and backwards feet strives to do well in school and eventually runs for president of the United States.
“I want to influence young students to see themselves as the characters or the ideas within the stories,” Ertll says. “I want kids and community members to see that there are books that are bilingual and have characters like them.”
Ertll will be on hand to talk to attendees and sign his books.
He says his characters are in part an answer to what he sees as a dearth of Latino and otherwise nonwhite protagonists in mainstream comics.
That is slowly but inexorably changing. In 2018’s Into the Spiderverse, New York City high schooler Miles Morales–who has a Latina mother and a Black father–is bitten by a radioactive spider and takes the mantle of protecting the city as a young Spiderman. The Marvel hero Black Panther debuted in 1969, but the 2018 film adaptation was that company’s first with a predominantly Black cast.
Those books, comics and movies have changed the literature landscape for anyone looking for heroes and literature they can relate to.
“I think we can all learn from different stories, different cultures, different characters,” Ertll says. “I think that’s what makes great literature that can transcend where the characters come from and what race they are. If there is a great story and character, I think it will appeal.”
Nerd Night Out
Nerdville will kick off on April 30 with a pre-party called “Nerd Night Out” at El Alteño restaurant in Watsonville, where participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero, or any other character.
The pre-party will feature food and drinks, music and dancing.
During the event the next day in Watsonville High School’s cafeteria, attendees can browse among vendors selling toys, collectibles, art and crafts. There will be raffles all day, as well as free prizes.
Visitors can also take part in a costume contest.
The Watsonville Community Band will be on hand to play such sci-fi classics as the Star Wars theme.
Friends of Watsonville Parks and Community Services President Alfonso Lobato says the event is Santa Cruz County’s tinier answer to the large-scale comics conventions events held in major cities.
“Our community hasn’t been exposed to this type of event, and some of these youth, they will probably never have the opportunity to go to San Jose, L.A. or San Diego to attend one of these big conventions,” he says. “We wanted to bring something like that to our community, and make it accessible and affordable.”
Nerd Night Out is April 30 from 7-10pm at El Alteño Restaurant at 323 Main St. in Watsonville. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. Nerdville is May 1 from 10am until 5pm at the Watsonville High School cafeteria at 250 East Beach Street. Tickets are $5-10 and can be purchased at the door. Tickets to both events can also be purchased friendsofwatsonvillepcs.org.