Local illustrator introduces Nerd Prom to Wampus Wonderland, Northwest Arkansas

2017 Wampus Wonderland / Courtesy photo

Where will all the Cool Kids be on Dec. 7 and 8?

At the Nerd Prom and the Wampus Wonderland Holiday Craft Show, of course.

The two events are the creation of Fayetteville artist, designer, and entrepreneur Chad Maupin of Big Bot Art Laboratory and will be held at the Fayetteville Hilton Garden Inn at 1325 N. Palak Dr.

The Nerd Prom is from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Dec.7, and tickets are $10 at door, or can be bought online at stubs.net.

The Wampus Wonderland holiday craft show is free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8.

Maupin is putting a new spin on craft shows with his seasonal events that put the focus on artists and craftspersons themselves rather than on corporations and sponsors that dominate space at larger events.

Like a latter-day Stan Lee, Maupin brands his CattyWampus Co-op shows as an art experience where the Cool Kids can buy, sell, and connect as a community.

What: Nerd Prom
When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Dec.7
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, Fayetteville
Tickets: $10 at stubs.net

What: Wampus Wonderland holiday craft show
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, Fayetteville
Tickets: Free

This will be the third iteration of the Wampus Wonderland show, but Maupin is jazzed to introduce the first Nerd Prom to the Northwest Arkansas region.

“The Nerd Prom is a celebration of all things that are cool today that we all wanted to hide when we were in junior high,” Maupin said. “It’s great, but it’s weird. And that’s cool.”

The Nerd Prom is an exclusive shopping event and party featuring music by DJ Clunk (Chris Selby), drinks, cosplay, special prizes and a special appearance by Krampus, the Christmas goat monster, who is the Wampus Wonderland mascot.

While costumes are definitely encouraged at the Nerd Prom with prizes going to the most original, best kids, best group, and best overall costumes, Maupin said the prom is an event where everyone can be who they are or want to be.

“We want people to come in costume or as their best selves and just have a great time,” Maupin said.

The Wampus Wonderland Holiday Craft Show once again will feature of bevy of local and regional vendors, offering a variety of original works and hand-crafted items that would make unique and possibly outrageous gifts for family, friends or maybe even yourself this holiday season.

Vendor Sara Sarquist, owner Crimson and Conjure, a crystal jewelry and apothecary store, said Wampus Wonderland and Maupin’s other CattyWampus Co-op shows are Etsy brought to life.

“This grassroots-style, indie market is home to many sellers of all price ranges, so that the buyer has choices at the show,” Sarquist said.

For the artist, Sarquist said the shows offer a community that’s like family.

“This ragtag group of misfits is where I call home,” she said. “I am proud to be a Cool Kid.”

Littler Rock jewelry designer Stacey Bowers of BangUpBetty.com had a similar experience with one of Maupin’s shows last spring in Little Rock, and her experience there prompted her to opt in to Wampus Wonderland.

“I just love the adventurous vibe of this event,” Bowers said. “The artists and makers who do these shows are so unique, and every show I meet more makers that I’ve never even heard of. There are always new faces with fantastic art.

“This event has a sense of humor that I absolutely love. From the Nerd Prom to live Krampus encounters at the Wampus Wonderland, it’s so fun and so funny, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s still well done.”

Courtesy photo

The first 100 entrants into Wampus Wonderland on Saturday will receive a free copy of the first issue of “Death Ray,” a regularly $7-priced, tabloid-sized comic book anthology written, illustrated, and produced by talent appearing at the show in the Death Ray Artists Alley.

“The agenda of our “Death Ray” artist’s alley is to show the diversity of what is available in the comic-book format that might appeal to a wider audience of art fans,” Maupin said.

Illustrators and graphic novelists John Lucas (Deadpool and After Houdini), Jeremy Haun (Berserker and Battle Hym), Michael Sweater (The Wizard and Bottoms Up! True Tales of Hitting Rock-bottom), Cole Closser (Black Rat and Little Tommy Lost), and Rob Israel (Society6.com), who contributed to the Death Ray comic will be on hand as will current Fantastic Four and former Superman artist Aaron Kuder.

“Comic books or sequential art is a medium for art and story of all kinds,” Maupin said. “It’s more diverse than steroided-up dudes in spandex beating each other up. If that’s what you like, very cool, but there is more out there. We want to open people’s minds to all the various types of stories available.”

Lucas, who recently moved to Fayetteville and will be signing his new graphic novel “After Houdini” from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Barnes & Noble in Rogers, said Wampus Wonderland is refreshingly different than most of the comic conventions that he appears at regularly.

Courtesy photo

“This is more of a DIY [Do-it-yourself] art show that includes comics, which is very cool,” Lucas said. “The capital “A” art world tends to look down its nose at what it considers commercial or low-brow lower case “a” art, which is ridiculous when you consider most out the art now accepted as capital “A” began as outsider art and only over time was recognized as somehow legitimate. The CattyWampus community, from my limited experience — I just moved here — is more inclusive. It seeks out creativity, regardless of form. Inspiration can come from anywhere. As a creator, I find that exciting.”

Based on the comments from the artists and craftspersons vending at Wampus Wonderland, Maupin is executing his vision of a hybrid illustrator and crafts expo that focuses on the needs and desires of the vendors and attendees rather than corporate partners and giant exhibitors.

Maupin began to evolve his vision for this type of show after several tainted experiences at more conventional fantasy and comic conventions. At a Wizard Entertainment Inc. comic show in Tulsa, he was put off by a corporate booth that just seemed out of place at an all-ages show.

“I’m a people watcher,” Maupin said “I’m noticing the crowd at that show, and there were just as many women here as men, which is telling about the geek culture today. But most of the show wasn’t speaking to them. So the natural question is what would happen if the show was designed to speak to them?”

As an example, Maupin said he noticed two female teens enjoying themselves while perusing through boxes of comics at a large booth.

“You could tell they were close friends and X-Men fans,” Maupin said. “They were going through the boxes and pulling issues out to show each other and just having a great time. They were legit into comics.

“But, right across the aisle from that comic vender was an energy-drink booth with — I’m not kidding — a totally nude woman body painted as Captain America with just little pasties covering the naughty bits. I almost didn’t notice they were covered at first. I’m not a prude, but I thought that this is just not the time or the place.

“Then those two young women noticed it and had that look on their faces like ‘yeah, this is how it always is.’ That energy-drink booth had the worst parts of maladjusted, frustrated masculinity on display for everyone to see.”

Courtesy photo

Maupin vended at a Dallas-based fantasy convention where he was gouged left and right just to set up a small booth. The venue wanted to charge $300 for internet access on top of the booth fee. Making matters worse, sales were slow not just for him but other vendors situated around the event floor.

“I didn’t see people there buying art,” Maupin said. “I saw people spending a lot of money dressing up and people there to get a $500 autograph of Ben Affleck. If you want to do that, more power to you. But I had no interest. It was a money grab.

“I was complaining about this incessantly to my wife, and then it dawned on me to do something and stop complaining about it, and I began to think about how I wanted CattyWampus to evolve.”

Maupin’s vision for a more creative and interactive experience for fans and artists alike will be on display next Friday at the Nerd Prom and Saturday at the fourth Wampus Wonderland.

Maupin invites everyone to join in and have fun with the Cool Kids.

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.