The Underground Comic Community Gathers For 5th Annual N.O.I.C.E.

by | Feb 3, 2023

Unbeknownst to most Americans, there’s an artistic culture of comics flourishing beneath the mainstream. Europe, Japan, and other countries hold comics in the same regard as filmmaking, novel writing, and other art forms. Yet, here in America, comics are mostly associated with the Marvel universe and the occasional Sunday paper three-box comic. Many would be surprised to learn that some of their favorite movies and TV shows actually started as comics. 


Juan Marable was inspired by the world of comics that he found while working at Local Heros on Colonial Ave. “Comics, for me, are the most creative and artistic outlet,” said Juan. “It’s a visual medium first and foremost, but also a wonderful story-telling device. You can literally do whatever you want in comics and are only limited by one’s imagination.”


He quickly learned about the huge events like SPX in DC/Maryland, Cartoon Crossroads in Columbus, Ohio, or Angoulême in France that were showcasing massive exhibitions of creative talent. The only problem was that Juan worked most weekends and couldn’t get to those places. 


In 2018 Juan got fed up with not being able to get to the events and decided to build one right here in Norfolk. Juan reached out to Greg Steele, the artist behind Harrington Comics, for help. In 2019 NOICE, Norfolk’s Original Indie Comic Expo, was born. 


The first few years saw incredible growth and success. Huge names have come in for the show, including Chuck Forsman, whose comics became a Netflix show, and Katie Skelly from California. This year’s show features special guests Dustin Harbin and Mason Dickerson, both well-published comic artists from North Carolina. 


Some comic artists are coming from afar just to be a part of the community that Juan and Greg have built since 2019. Enzo Garza, the creator of Guttghost, a comic about a ghost with exposed guts, is coming all the way from Florida for the show. Bubbles Fanzine, from Richmond, will be at the show ahead of appearances in Barcelona, Spain, and Athens, Georgia. Other cartoonists and zine creators from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, DC, and other spots around the country will be there.

While every artist creates illustrated stories, they’re free to sell whatever they like at the show. Many will be selling their comics and zines, while others will be selling t-shirts, pins, posters, and other items. Shows like these are important not just for artists because they can make a few dollars to support their work but because they can help grow their individual audiences and grow the number of comic enthusiasts generally. 


This Saturday, NOICE is back in Norfolk and better than ever. Organizers are dozens of artists to be set up and hundreds, possibly thousands, of attendees to come to check out the show. The event runs 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm at Smartmouth Brewing in the Chelsea area of Norfolk. 



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