Over the last decade, colleges and universities have been exploring a deeper appreciation and understanding of comic books than ever before. This kind of attention in educational circles is a crucial and valuable element in a higher level of acceptance of sequential art (comics, graphic novels, manga, etc.) as a rich form of communication and entertainment beyond just “Yeah I guess comics are cool ’cause I liked that Avengers movie”. Just as college students take film appreciation, art history, and literature classes, so to should they be able to take equally in depth classes on the value of the comics form. That is happening more and more, and one art and design school is taking it to the next level with a three-day comics symposium.
The Columbus College of Art and Design will hold their inaugural Mix 2012 comics symposium October 4-6, 2012. Robert Loss, programming chair for Mix and adjunct instructor for CCAD’s English Department, has sent out a call for proposals, papers, roundtables, and workshops with
a June 4 deadline an extended July 6th deadline. According to Loss:
“By bringing together artists, academics and other professionals and students interested in the comics art form, we hope to encourage substantial and lively discussion in a way uncommon to most academic and comics conferences. Panels and roundtables will feature a diversity of participants, and will be presented for an audience that is equally diverse and will include a sizable student population. We’re looking for people interested in reaching across boundaries and engaging in interdisciplinary conversations.”
Renowned cartoonist Chris Ware, who is best known for the award-winning graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth and his comic book series Acme Novelty Library, will be the event’s keynote speaker. And what’s particularly refreshing is that the symposium’s theme of epic narrative sounds like it’s going to be all about superheroes. But from the programming information released so far, while that genre won’t be ignored, they seem to realize there’s much more to comics than that.
An official website for the Mix 2012 symposium will soon follow. In the meantime, click through for more details:
My post on Monday about innovative experiments with digital comics doesn’t mean I don’t love me some dead tree comics. Print still has a lot to offer but digital means that the physical version has to step it up and offer more. Fortunately there are some good examples out there.
As a counter-point to the Johnny Cash digital graphic novel with soundtrack, there is BB Wolf and the Three L.P.’s by JD Arnold and Richard Koslowski from Top Shelf Productions. It can be purchased with a 7-song CD, BB Wolf and the Howlers: The Lost Recordings. The graphic novel spins 1920s race tension with the Three Little Pigs fairy tale. The CD brings the music of the titular blues singing main character to life, which is a very cool way to eliminate the guess work of what the music of a fictional character from a silent medium sounds like. You can also get the limited edition BB Wolf Box Set, which includes the graphic novel, the CD and a wooden box with laser engraved art on the cover and 2 shot glasses for that authentic hard-drinking blues effect.
Creating such an experience that goes beyond the pages is a compelling way to make it still matter to have print and physical product. But it doesn’t have to be about creating ancillary material. Savvy creators and publishers can find ways to have their published material be an aesthetic extension of the world they have created.
Fantagraphics Books has always excelled at this. C. Tyler‘s You’ll Never Know, both Book I: A Good and Decent Man and the new release Book II: Collateral Damage, are designed to look like scrap books or photo albums, inside and out. A visually powerful choice that is incredibly appropriate since the story centers on a woman trying to piece together her reticent father’s wartime past.
Last year, DC Comics published Wednesday Comics, an anthology of superhero and adventure stories printed on large broadsheet newsprint that folded out to 14″ x 20″ pages, approximately double the size of modern comic book pages. Reminiscent of the old Sunday comics pages from the first half of the 1900′s, it was a kick to see Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman and other characters in this retro format that pre-dated nearly all of them.
There are a lot of other good examples. Some publishers, like Archaia Entertainment and Drawn & Quarterly, just have consistently great design sense in their print publications. Tumor, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon, started its life as a digital graphic novel on the Amazon Kindle, but has ended up being a great looking physical product. Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library books (and really any of his books) are always intricately stunning.
So sure, digital comics are the future. But that doesn’t automatically mean print comics have to be relegated to the past. There are still new and creative ways to make an appealing print comic book or graphic novel. As the ratio of print to digital finds its level ground, it will be up to creators and publishers to make products in both realms that are compelling and worth a reader’s investment.