University City's Locust Moon Comics is becoming something of an institution. Occupying two storefronts on a dejected stretch between the northern edge of the Penn campus and the 40th Street Market-Frankford subway stop, the shop is invariably filled with neighborhood characters and the arty detritus of their latest publication.

Since moving to this location, Locust Moon has begun holding an annual comics festival at the Rotunda (two blocks from the shop). Last year it took up almost the entire space with artists' booths and sales tables. The crowd churned through the nooks and crannies, easily consorting with both their fellow Philadelphians and famous (in the comics world) outsiders.

This year's festival marks the release of Locust Moon's latest publication, Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, a tribute to the Winsor McCay classic. It is an enormous book, 21 inches tall and 16 inches wide, featuring contributions from 130 artists. The festival is the official release of the book, with 30 of its contributors expected to attend.

But Little Nemo is just one part of the festival. There will be more than 100 creators milling around and hawking their wares. They range from Bill Sienkiewicz, who illustrated groundbreaking and surreal X-Men comics in the 1980s, to local artists such as Kelly Phillips, of the Dirty Diamonds female comics collective based in West Philly. Others include Box Brown, author of Andre the Giant: Life and Legend; Israeli comics artist Karen Katz; and indie comics publisher Dennis Kitchen, who published much of Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman's early works.

"There are no barriers between superstars and self-published or between artists and fans," says Josh O'Neill, who, with Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens, organizes the festival. "It's a good introduction to the Philadelphia comics scene and to the medium itself. A lot of people who don't usually do such intimate conventions will be there."

There will be panels on hip-hop and comics and establishing a career in the genre, as well as a workshop for kids.

Jawnts: COMICS FESTIVAL

At the Rotunda,

4014 Walnut St., 10 a.m.

to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Suggested donation: $10

"Little Nemo" release party

is 7 p.m. Saturday

at Locust Moon Comics,

34 S. 40th St.EndText