Wednesday, May 22, 2024

After the all-virtual Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo demanded by 2020’s raging pandemic, the free event returns Saturday and Sunday in a new form defined by a more confusing Covid delta variant moment: as a Mini-MICE with room to breathe inside the open-air Starlight Square entertainment complex.

The regular, indoor event usually held in a Lesley University building near Porter Square is canceled again for 2021, organizers said, and the panels and workshops of years past are on hold. That will put the focus on creator–attendee interaction.

“With all the planning involved, we need to start the process of putting MICE together in early spring, and there was no way back then for us to feel confident an indoor event would be possible, much less for Lesley to be able to commit,” said Dan Mazur, a cofounder of the 11-year-old event. His Boston Comics Roundtable had already been looking at Starlight Square for a comics marketplace event; eventually the ideas converged. “At this point we’re really glad we went in that direction, since indoor events are highly problematic again with the delta thing.”

Visitors will also be able to shop for the comics and other merchandise coming out of the area’s fertile creative scene.

A spread from “Katie the Catsitter” by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue.

“There’s nothing like meeting creators and discovering comics in person,” organizers said.

Several graphic novels and other materials released during the pandemic will make their festival debut, including “Katie the Catsitter,” an all-ages adventure full of cats and capes by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue; “Dracula Motherf**ker,” a grindhouse take on the horror classic illustrated by Erica Henderson, moved to a Californian setting by Alex de Campi; and “Fights,” a memoir about violence and trauma by Joel Christian Gill.

The event will also mark the debut of the fourth issue of “Boston Powers,” the locally based superhero comic for kids that Boston Comics Roundtable has been putting out since early last year, edited by Mazur. There’s a crowdfunding campaign to fund the second year of the series.

The latest issue of “Boston Powers” debuts this weekend at the Mini-MICE.

The roster of more than 64 local comic creators is being divided between the two days to ensure space for social distancing, and attendees and exhibitors are asked to wear masks despite the outdoor setting.

There is still talk of MICE presenting online programming later in the year, “but nothing definite,” Mazur said. And talks with Lesley make a return to full-fledged, in-person annual events likely once the Covid crisis is in the past.

The free Mini-MICE is scheduled for noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Starlight Square, 84 Bishop Allen Drive, Central Square. Attendees are asked to RSVP via Facebook or Eventbrite.