Scriptor Corruptus sits down with Jerry Shafer. He has much to tell you about an awesome organization, Baytown’s Promise Center, and the con he organizes in the same area, The Eastern Rim Funny Book and Vintage Con. Check him out below, put these events on your calendar, and contact Jerry at the links listed at the bottom!
SC: Who are you, and what do you do?
JS: My name is Jerry Jacob Shafer, I am a 10th through 12th grade English teacher here in Baytown, Texas, I am an avid comic book collector (I have over 18,000), I also collect original comic book art, I am a nerd/geek, writer, super-minimal artist, occasional band member, Promise Center Board member, and con organize, as of late.
SC: Tell us a little bit about the Promise Center, what it does and who it serves.
The Promise Center is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization. We are a local community center that serves the community of West Baytown as well as the broader Community of Baytown proper. We have services for a myriad folks. We also offer English for Spanish speakers, we offer conversational Spanish for English speakers, we have computer literacy classes for the elderly, we have exercise classes for all groups, in particular a walking club, we have relaxation, meditation, and stress relieving technique forums where experts come in and guide us through stress relieving activities, we will soon open a small donation coffee bar which will have open access for the Internet such that the community can come and take care of homework as well as do research, we have food and necessary item giveaways during Christmas time for needy families. We have health and information fairs every year in order to get needed knowledge to as many people as we possibly can, we have a Halloween festival full of games and prizes for kids and adults on Halloween night every year, we host public forums from our city government in order to inform people of the community what is to come, and we have our annual awards dinner where we give members or groups recognition in the form of a plaques to celebrate the hard work and assistance that they have given us and the community at large, throughout the year. We also serve our community by offering different cultural events for example: poetry night, long form band showcases that have multiple genres of music from hip-hop to rock to punk to folk music (a couple of times a year), indie film festivals, art showcases, collector showcases, comic book symposiums, and of course The Eastern Rim Funny Book and Vintage Con this April 13th and 14th.
SC: Talk about helping out with education.
JS: Every Tuesday and Thursday we hold after school tutorials from 4 to 6 PM where we serve kids from kindergarten all the way up to fifth grade. We have a large bevy of volunteers, from the different high schools to assist our kids with their homework as well as studying for tests and other school related matters. We also visit different college campuses around the state in order for them to have a better understanding of what it is like to matriculate from high school institutes of higher learning. Every summer we offer and leadership camp for high school kids and we also offer a science camp for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. In the leadership camp we take our kids to different field trips where they become more broadly aware of art and cultural happenstances through their interactions at locals such as The Museum of Fine Art and The Holocaust Museum. We also bring in leaders from the community such that our kids may learn from them as well as understand how to network with different groups in the city. We bring people such as our superintendent, our assistant superintendent, our mayor, our police chief, members from our college board of regents, as well as School board members. In our science camp, the kids perform dozens of experiments in real time and grow an appreciation for scientific investigation, study, and the natural world. with the help of State Senator Sylvia Garcia, we give away 500 free backpacks and supplies every year to boys and girls in need. We also give out multiple scholarships to students from area high schools, such that they may better afford their college tuition.
SC: What kind of impact do you feel the Center has had on the community?
JS: From the feedback that we constantly seek and get from our kids that we serve as well as our parents and community members at large, we know that our work has had positive impacts in their lives. Our aim is arm future generations of leaders with knowledge and confidence, so that they may be able to help our community in the years to come. Everything that we do is basically for free. If we make any money at all, it is only used to keep our doors open as well as to make more programs for everybody to benefit from and enjoy. Kids who we served in the past come back and volunteer for us, complete strangers from out of the blue come in and donate their time and money to help us with the different programs we offer. We have had some great success [helping kids with school] because we look at the progress reports as well as the report cards of our kids, and we have seen great improvement.
SC: When did you start the Eastern Rim con?
JS: The Easter Rim Funny Book and Vintage Con began its life as the Dirty Bay Funny Book and Vintage Con, which was originally just a collector’s showcase and which was initially named after the nom de plume of Baytown’s gritty reputation which rose to prominence in the nineties. We used to have a drinking establishment by the same name in our town. People would conflate us with them and actually waited at their doors to enter our show. Of course we are two different entities and the folks who waited outside of the Dirty Bay Beer Company almost missed out on our con because they were at the wrong location. The name change was necessary, and we were able to come up with a nomenclature that truly represented our position in regards to Houston as well as it allowed us to fully blossom into the con that we are constantly becoming.
SC: What made you want to run your own con?
JS: I honestly do not look at this as my con as much as it is our con. In this particular endeavor, when Voltron forms, I just happen to be the head. Honestly, my role in this con came out of necessity. We came up with the idea and we needed somebody to run it, hence me. Hi everybody.
SC: Tell us a little about what Eastern Rim Funny Book and Vintage Con has to offer and the changes that are being made for this year.
JS: The Eastern Rim Funny Book and Vintage Con will now be a two day event with free admission and free parking, happening on Saturday and Sunday, April 13th and 14th of 2019. We have moved away from the Promise Center because of the dramatic increase in size we experienced with the last con. We will now be housed at Lee College’s original basketball complex. We will have three times the size and we will absolutely use it appropriately. We will have the full array of con activities, such as multiple panels per day, a cosplay contest for cash prizes (we will actually have a place for our cosplayers to get dressed and prepared for their presentation throughout the two days), vendors galore, special Con guests, not to mention the world-famous air guitar presentation by our tremendous and amazing friend Randy “El Airiachi” Garza!
SC: Tell us about the event scheduled for this month.
JS: It’s called The Comic Book Symposium and will be Saturday October 20th from 4 to 8, we will have four guest speakers come to The Promise Center at 2609 #A Market Street Baytown, Tx 77520 and talk about the importance, history and scholarship of comics. We will have Lauro Guerra be our first guest presenting a live art demo. Next will be Norris Coleman, the proprietor of Emerald Dragon Comics and Games, presenting on an array of artists. He will be drawing on his background as an art student for this presentation. Chris Chomiak [will be there] who is an expert grader of comic books and an avid participator in the comic book industry, presenting on collecting comic books as well as their importance to collectors and non-collectors alike. Finally we will have Richard Evans, the owner of Bedrock City Comic Company, presenting on the broader history and specific importance of comic books in pop culture and the greater culture in general. This event is free to the public along with free parking. We will be serving hors d’oeuvres and drinks provided by the Lee College HEACC and we will be having raffle prizes throughout the event. We are very lucky and honored to have these amazing guests come and present at The Promise Center. My intent with The Comic Book Symposium and The Eastern Rim Funny Book And Vintage Con is to provide a space for comic books to be looked upon as not just a pass time, rather also as a significant and culturally important phenomenon that has far-reaching implications into the broader world. Neal Adams said it best, “You take the best writer in the world and the best artist in the world and you mix them together and what do you get, you get a comic book.”
Where to find more information on the Promise Center and upcoming events:
The Promise Center at 2609 #A Market Street Baytown, Tx 77520 281-837-5243