NCSFest, America’s Biggest Comics Festival, Takes Over Huntington Beach This Week!

It’s Toon Time! All images provided by NCSFest

The first-ever National Cartoonist Society Fest— also known as NCSFest— takes place this week, and if you’re like us comic-obsessed nerds, you’re secretly (or openly) geeking out. But don’t think it’s another comic con— consider it more like a Buskerfest for comic arts where various parts of Huntington Beach will be involved and will include some sort of amazing and fun attraction while hosting the biggest names in modern indie comics, from Daniel Clowes to Gemma Correll.

Helmed by artist Steve McGarry (aka Luke’s dad!!) and Julie Tait, they and the rest of their intrepid organizers have taken it upon themselves to recreate a comic art festival in the city meant to mirror those in Europe. Orange County— hell, maybe even the whole country??— hasn’t seen the likes of this type of event ever, and certainly not of this scale. Various locales and venues will host this massive event, its hard to know where to begin or what’s what. Check out the online events schedule guide here, and enjoy this quick primer of what’s events we’re looking forward to the most.


The fest officially takes place Friday and runs until Sunday, but small pre-events begin today with tonight’s Picture This! free live animated comedy show at Old Crow Smokehouse. The concept is an appealing one: stand up comics— in this case Nicholas Rutherford, Barbara Gray, Jason Chatfield,  Paul Danke and Brodie Reed— will be up at the mic while cartoonists— Mike Hollingsworth, Mike L. Mayfield, Luke McGarry, Jason Chatfield, Rick Stromoski and Gemma Corell— live draw them. For more information on the show and the hosts/creators Brandie Posey and Sam Varela, you can check it out online at . (Old Crow Smokehouse, 21022 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-0381)

Thursday night hosts a giant artists signing that’s free and open to the public at the Hyatt Regency. The massive lineup includes David Silverman, Ann Telnaes, Jeff Keane, Steve McGarry, Caroline Belefski and others. The actual list of talent is way too overwhelming to include here, so check out the full lineup at this handy link: (The Mariners Ballroom at Hyatt Regency, 21500 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, (714) 698-1234)

Later Thursday night, Old Crow Smokehouse hosts an evening with Brit comedians Viz Comic as they roast royals and live draw definitions from some of Viz Comic’s Profanisaurus, a comprehensive collection of irreverent and deliciously vulgar vocabulary.  (Old Crow Smokehouse)


All weekend long, panel discussions and talks from comics luminaries like Daniel Clowes (Saturday @ Hyatt Regency), Los Bros. Hernandez (Saturday @ Hyatt Regency), Mary Fleener and Penelope Gazin (Friday @ Hyatt Regency), Sergio Arragones (Friday @ Hyatt Regency), Luke McGarry (Saturday @ Hyatt Regency), Lalo Alcaraz (Saturday @ Hyatt Regency) and others will take place.

Saturday’s programming provides enlightening panel discussions on some favorite, iconic cartoon classics like Popeye, The Simpsons, Patrick McDonell’s long-running “Mutts” comic strip and the memorable, meme-able, “Family Circus” comic strip by Jeff Keane. (Pier Plaza, 401 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach)

My personal favorite event is Sunday’s “From Ghost World to Love & Rockets Via Brazen- Great Stories: Great Comics”, a discussion at the Big Tent with Daniel Clowes and Los Bros. Hernandez as well as French comic artist Penelope Bagieu discussing what makes them excellent comic storytellers. (The Big Tent at Pier Plaza)

*Special note: while many of these events are free, select talks require a ticket for entry. They will be clearly designated online.


If you’re interested in drawing zombies, The Walking Dead‘s Charlie Adlard will discuss his work and the best tips for creating brain-eating flesh popsicles. (Saturday morning @ Main St. Branch Library, 525 Main St, Huntington Beach, (714) 375-5071 )

Adlard will be in tow later that evening for a zombie concert at the Big Tent at Pier Plaza, along with Steve McGarry, festival co-director and artist Julie Tait, and Lyon BD Festival director Mattieu Diez. The artists will be live drawing the monsters while composer and musician Julien Limmone will score.

Sunday marks the Great Zombie Walk where guests are encouraged to come dressed as their ideal living dead flesh puppet and walk with others from the Huntington Beach Pier to the Big Tent. Orange County School of the Arts students will be on standby beforehand to face paint willing participants.


What’s a comic festival without an artist alley? over 150 artists, small publishers and small press peeps will table and sell their merch for comic art enthusiasts. (Main St., Huntington Beach)


Various comic courses will take place at Main St. Branch Library throughout Saturday and Sunday, so if your dreams of getting better at art making have been stifled up to this point, now’s your chance to learn from the masters!

Take a quick course in drawing The Simpsons with David Silverman and Bill Morrison; caricature art with caricaturist Ed Steckley, cartooning with Darth Vader & Son creator Jeffrey Brown (all on Saturday), cartooning secrets with Rick Kirkman, drawing superheroes with Sean and Jake Phillips, and space creatures with Star Wars Adventures artist Nick Brokenshire (all on Sunday).

Interspersed throughout will be comic book readings and more talks, too!


  • Over fifty storefronts will have window displays featuring art by comic artists, designed to turn heads on your normal walking commute across downtown Huntington Beach.
  • OC School of the Arts theater students will put on a play styled as a comic strip (or a play told through a giant physical display of a comic strip, if you want to get technical) about an octopus named Buddy’s misadventures. (Saturday and Sunday at Huntington Beach Pier)
  • If you want to keep the NCSFest comic love going on far after the event ends, check out the Huntington Beach Art Center’s “Wonderful World of Comics” exhibit, which explores the history of comics beyond Sunday funnies and superheroes. The exhibit runs until June 1. (Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St, Huntington Beach, (714) 374-1650,

NCSFest runs Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19, with special pre-fest openers happening Wednesday, May 15 and Thursday, May 16. For more information and details about these and other events in the program, go to See you there!

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