Sunday, August 29, 2010

Read Comics Day: Alaska - Follow-up Post


 This was such a great idea: Thanks again to Morean & Heater at the Daily Cross-Hatch for the concept! Looks like lots of places from Boston to Brisbane took part in the event: up here in the Interior of Alaska we jumped on-board and took up an angle that they suggested on their website by using it as a way to tap into your local library. Like I mentioned before, ours (the Noel Wien Public Library) has almost two thousand comic titles, and folks that showed up shared their favorites and found out about new books from others.
Nice way to promote a community resource, a bonus opportunity for encouraging literacy too, and yet another excuse to sit and read some comics! (More below the fold) 





Overall maybe a couple dozen young folks accompanied by parental units, plus a dozen or so adult people, dropped by  the library where I was camped out out during the day. Not to mention the random dozens who were checking out comics and probably unaware of the event: as many fellow cartoonists and friends have commented since this undertaking “What’s the big deal? I do this anyways!”
Bunch of folks via the Facebook page did their own thing in their own way wherever they were. One friend wrote with some snapshots of what was on his list: a bunch of little, inch+ thick pocket-sized (approx. 3 1/2 X 4 1/2”) comics from the 1940's, by the Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin. Earlier this summer while helping out at an antique book show in Western New York, I noticed several tables of collectors selling this unique sub-genre. Seems nomatter where you turn there's always something new (and especially old) to (re)discover in comics.



In this pictured area of the library, you can see the the carts at the end of all the stacks; these all held comics! There's also another big section down one of the rows, plus the library had set up a display area featuring staff picks right by the entrance. A very big special thanks to all the folks working there that day, as they were really supportive and accommodating - several made comments to me how appreciative they were to host this gig. Thanks again to everyone who helped out and participated, or just hung out to say hi.

Sporting my spiffy new Literacy Council of Alaska t-shirt I managed to intermittently work up a demo - taking frequent breaks to read some comics of course.. I’ll post the panel and point up on some process later on, but I will mention now how I think it was good for the youngsters to not just see some materials and technique, plus it was a particularly good example of how much a drawing can shift on-the-fly. Meaning I kept screwing up. Did get to give away a bunch of posters, and just had a wonderful time chatting with all kinds of folks. My personal roster included these titles:

Against the Grain: MAD Artists Wally Wood” ed. Bhob Stewart (2003 Two Morrows) 
The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History” Robert Harvey (1994 University Press of Mississippi)
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969”  Dan Nader (2005 Abrams)


One of the most interesting things to come up in conversation was from the mother of some cool adopted kids. They were into the Marvel/DC superhero genres, and she pointed out an amazing fact of trivia that I had never realized: in their origins, many characters in comics aren’t raised by their own parents. Think about it: the top three, Superman, Batman and Spiderman, were all effectively fostered, plus others like Daredevil and many an X-Man. How cool is that? This is a fascinating observation, worth following up on after some more research – back to the library over the winter! There's no shortage of academic deconstruction on the psychological identification many fans have with their respective hero, and the archetypal dimensions that many assume. Probably why during my deformative years I instinctively gravitated towards underground titles like Mr. Natural, Zippy the Pinhead, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Weirdo, Slow Death and Bizarre Sex. Even given the diverse range of backgrounds inhabiting the world of comics there's no accounting for taste... 
 



Super nice article in Friday's paper by reporter Suzanna Caldwell:
"Georgine Olson, outreach services manager for the library, said the library has a collection of about 1,900 graphic novels and comics. Olson said interest in comics surged in the mid-1990s as Japanese Manga began to take hold. “It added a different way of looking at comics,” she said.
She said that the library’s collection is popular, with about one-third of the collection checked out at any given time. The only other collection that popular is the audio books collection.
Comic books and graphic novels are an important part of the “Guys Read” literacy program. Hannah Hill, store manager for Forget-Me-Not books, noted that studies show that many boys stop reading after third grade. The program uses the more visual graphic novels and comics to get boys interested in reading. “It makes reading cool,” Hill said. 
Forget-Me-Not books is one of a few businesses participating in the day. The shop will have free comics available and others available for purchase. Other businesses include Gulliver’s Books and The Comic Shop. 
But for some people, reading comics in public isn’t just one day, it’s every day. But Smith said the event is really just a way to get people excited about comic books and reading in general. “It’s turning people on to a really cool thing,” he said."


 *PS: I was late a half an hour to the gig since, coincidentally enough, I had to pick up a case of new comics from the post office (look for an upcoming post/quick review).
Even had to leave a bit early I was so tired, plus traffic seemed to die out at the end of the gig. So tired, in fact, that while pulling out from the library parking lot and swinging onto the main road I heard something slide across the top of the truck cab and impact the street. Simultaneous with looking in the rear-view mirror I remembered my tool-box of drawing supplies left out after loading up. Needless to say, after fearing the worst-case scenario of Sharpies, pencils, busted ink-bottles etc. strewn all about the road – I can now unequivocally endorse Plano brand tackle-boxes 100% as it didn’t even pop open. Probably not their target demographic, but if they knew what the potential market was they’d design a line tailored to artists. Including the custom cartoonist model with special features like, maybe rubber shock-bumpers?

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