Comic Books With a Conscience

Nancy Silberkleit of Archie Comics stages a different kind of comic convention.
A dogfighting operation is destroyed in an issue of Matt Miner’s Critical Hit. The art is by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, with colors by Doug Garbark. At right, issue number one of the mini-series.

The cover of Critical Hit number one shows its two heroines, faces obscured by scarves, bandit-style, cargo pants looped with utility belts worthy of Batman, wielding the heavy tools of their vengeance-wreaking trade — a sledgehammer and an ax. In shaded relief above them we see what spurs their mission — the lab-experimented cat, the hunter-stalked deer — and understand that the gals have turned the implements of the abattoir and the barnyard into weapons of animal liberation.

Matt Miner created the mini-series, with its action “on behalf of tortured animals,” he said in an email, “as a way to give voice to the frustrations I feel working in the animal protection arena and, at times, feeling helpless to stop the cruelty all around us on a daily basis. Our heroes don’t fight guys in capes and tights, they take on dog fighters and animal abusers.”

And it’s for this reason that he’ll be at what could be called a comic-book convention with a conscience, courtesy of Nancy Silberkleit, co-C.E.O. of Archie Comics, on Sunday at 111 Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton. “It excited me that he was using graphic literacy that way,” she said of what prompted her invitation.

Mr. Miner, who lives in Queens, donates his profits from the series and from its predecessor, Liberator, both published by Black Mask, “back into my real-world dog rescue work with redemptionrescues.org.”

In what would otherwise be its dotage, Archie Comics, as it nears 76, has become hip, even aware, you might say, thanks to Ms. Silberkleit’s interest in social issues. “We’ve made efforts to promote healthy eating — well, you can’t make Jughead that way,” she said, laughing over the stick-thin character’s indulgence of his hamburger habit, which could out-clog Elvis Presley’s.

Archie Comics not long ago introduced a gay character created by the writer-illustrator Dan Parent — Kevin Keller, who’s also popular on the atmospheric CW television series “Riverdale,” based on the comic book. In print, “Riverdale High School just didn’t represent who makes up these schools today,” Ms. Silberkleit said.

What’s more, she led the company to publish a Rwanda issue, one titled “Bottle Battle” addressing ubiquitous plastics, and another, “The Trend Setter,” in which Archie Andrews himself is mercilessly mocked for something as inconsequential as a hat — even by goody-two-shoes Betty. “She’s supposed to be understanding,” Ms. Silberkleit said. “We expect a thumbs-up from her, but she takes the hat and throws it in the garbage can, showing that actions can be just as hurtful as words.”

“This is the 21st century,” she went on, “and there are many new ways we have to be responsible. Like with cyberbullying. You have to think about what you say. Is your information real? Is it kind? Is it supportive? Socially, with the internet, it’s really been a challenge, we’ve had to up our game. So we try to be out there and high-spirited and friendly.”

And thus the theme of her Comic Book Extravaganza. Its hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.

Other attendees include Marty Grabstein, a voice-over artist who worked on the animated “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” a cult favorite that aired on Cartoon Network, and Captain Kaos (Matt Rohde), a Shelter Islander who takes striking photos of “Star Wars” figurines set up in the outdoors around the East End. For collectors, Atomic Comics of Shirley will have a booth.

“It’s a day for families to come out and maybe dress up in costumes,” Ms. Silberkleit said. “A day to meet artists and see how comics are made.”