Prolific comic artist Terry Blas is returning to Boise for some home cooking, but that's just a bonus, as he's also going to be a guest at the Boise Comic Arts Festival (formerly the Library Comic Con), Idaho's largest comics-focused event, on Saturday, Aug. 25, and Sunday, Aug. 26.
"I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in the library," said Blas, a graduate of Borah High School who now lives in Portland, Oregon. "When I was a kid, there was nothing like this event. I can only imagine what it would have been like for a kid from Boise to go to something like this."
Now in its sixth year, the newly renamed festival will feature its largest guest list yet, including some of the planet's most acclaimed comic book authors, writers and creators. That includes the 38-year-old Blas, who is currently penning his fourth graphic novel and was catapulted to fame by his 2015 comic, You Say Latino, which caught the attention of NPR and the Huffington Post.
"You Say Latino was a reflection of my own cultural identity. My dad is from Idaho and my mom is from Mexico. I was brought up in a bilingual home," said Blas.
The bestselling comic peers through what Blas said is an "admittedly American" lens, looking at the often-debated difference between the terms "Latino" and "Hispanic."
"Well, that comic went viral; then my next comic, Ghetto Swirl, got a lot of attention. It was all about growing up Mexican, Mormon, gay and nerdy," said Blas.
Not to mention being all of those things in Idaho.
"My parents were incredibly supportive. I ended up going to, and graduating from, [Pacific] Northwest College of Art, here in Portland," he said.
Today, Blas shares studio space with a couple dozen other artists as a member of downtown Portland's Helioscope artists and writers collective.
"I believe it's the largest collective of comic artists in the U.S.," said Blas. "The comic world can be very a solitary profession, so having a studio with a good many other peers is pretty unique."
That said, Blas spends a fair amount of time on the road, appearing as a guest artist at comic cons across the U.S.
"I can't tell you how exciting it is to be at this year's Boise Comic Arts Festival," he said. "I'll be participating in a panel with another artist who illustrated my recent graphic novel, Dead Weight: Murder at Camp Bloom."
According to Blas, It isn't unusual for two illustrators to work together. For instance, he's currently working on a new graphic novel for Oni Press (publishers of the wildly-popular Scott Pilgrim series), and while Blas writes the story, someone else will illustrate it.
"I recently attended the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans, where it came to my attention that the fastest-growing section of most U.S. libraries is the graphic novel section," he said. "A big part of that is because visual imagery, combined with words, helps a lot of kids with reading comprehension. That's why so many American librarians are behind the graphic novel movement."
All the more reason for Blas to be a part of the Boise Public Library's upcoming comic arts festival.
"Year after year, our guests tell us this is one of their favorite events, and that's helped us attract some really stellar talent," said Library Events Coordinator Josh Shapel. "With over 10,000 attendees over two days last year, we simply outgrew our location. That's why we're excited to celebrate that continued growth by partnering with this year's venue, Jack's Urban Meeting Place."
Blas will undoubtedly be a major draw at this year's festival, but he's rather modest when talking about his own celebrity.
"Living the dream?" he said. "Well, maybe. I guess it may as well be my dream."