More than just kids’ stuff
by Jamie Witham
While the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, affectionately known as “comic con,” is just around the corner, the popularity of the comic world transcends this annual event.
Mount Royal has a few of its own comic book experts who have weighed in about what appeals to comic book fans.
Just Googling “comic books” yields over 21 million hits – everything from collectors’ websites to community forums to the history of comic books.
“Comic books and graphic novels are a really interesting development in storytelling,” said Lee Easton, head of the English department. “They have really been underrated because of their historical link to popular culture.”
If one is looking to explore the world of sequential art. Mount Royal offers English 3394, which takes an in-depth look at the world of graphic novels and comic books from a literary point of view.
Teaching Mount Royal’s graphic novels course is long-time graphic novel researcher Richard Harrison. When asked what his favourite comic was, he made an important distinction: his favourite wasn’t necessarily the best comic out there, rather the one that made the greatest impact on him. That comic was The Avengers Special No. 2 from September of 1968: a story of good and bad guys fighting with sincere motivation that was presented with an understated and old-school feel.
So what sets comic books apart from many other forms of literature? According to Harrison, it’s persistence. Although comic books nearly became extinct in North America during the 1950s, they have since persevered. Harrison was keen to point out that, “[Comics] were certainly limited, but they persisted.
Artists like Art Spiegelman and Will Eisner, along with many other underground artists, paved the way for the comic book to make a comeback.
Harrison and Easton are also nearly finished their upcoming book, Secret Identity Reader: Essays on Sex, Death, and the Superhero, which is set to be released in October. In total, the collaboration to create the book has taken seven or eight years, said Harrison.
Determination and dedication to the art of comics are not limited to the creators and artists behind the books.
Another appeal of comics is that, “It’s a combination,” Harrison explained. “A picture is a thing in the world, while a word is a thing in your head.” This means, in essence, that comics appeal not only to our imaginations, but on a visual level as well.
Todd Miyagishima, an avid comic reader, has also said that while there aren’t a lot of costumed shoppers roaming the local bookstores, one of the best things he has seen was a guy trying to drink his pop through a Darth Vader mask, which proved to be a challenge.
Comic Con will be in town April 24 and 25, and will feature such guests as Brent Spiner (Commander Data from Star Trek), Peter Facinelli, who plays Carlisle Cullen, and members of the “wolf pack” from the The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
Last, but certainly not least, Leonard Nimoy himself (that’s Spock of Star Trek fame for those of you not in the know) will be the guest of honour at this year’s convention. Also in attendance will be the faces behind the superheroes — the authors and illustrators, so check it out and be prepared to enter a world unlike any other.