As the convention slowly came to a close on this unexpectedly brilliant, warm day, what stood out to me were the little things that are easily overlooked in such a loud, crowded space. The creators who didn’t have long lines of people waiting to get autographs, like penciller Kevin Maguire (right). In the late 1980s, Maguire drew a wildly popular comedic version of the (a.k.a. Super Friends). He has a unique capacity for using facial expression to capture the width and humor of our humanity. You can learn (and laugh) a lot, reading his stuff.
And then there are the many people at the convention writing very small, personal stories, like Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton. Ladowne is an illustrator who met homeless man Anthony Horton on a subway in New York City and wrote and drew a story with him about their interaction. It’s a lovely, atmospheric piece drawn in black and white which Ladowne laid out in a longer format, almost like a movie screen, to try and recreate that sense of the point of view of a subway car. Or Meredith Gran, a web cartoonist who writes a daily cartoon called octopus pie, about life in Brooklyn.
And there are the small presses trying to become something more, like Nemo Publishing in Portland, Maine, which was at the convention pitching its line of children’s cartoon books about the undersea adventures of a kid called "Cap’n Eli" and a time traveler called "Commander X". The cartoons look like animation, and they hearken back to an earlier, non-self conscious, non-post modern cartoon era.
And then above all there are the dreamers like Will Clark, who produces a daily web comic called laughingboycomics.com, and aspires to produce even better material. I asked him if there was money to be made on the web; he told me he almost broke even, almost, but it wasn’t about that. The characters he had created had a sort of life of their own now, and he had to respect that. He wanted to respect that. When he didn’t produce new material, he felt guilty.
On the one hand, some of what I’ve seen this weekend fits the basic socially-awkward stereotype of comic book/sci fi/fantasy convention attendees. On the other, I’ve witnessed a very male, chummy business appealing to a largely male audience, with the big companies trying to drown out the rest.
And yet, in the center of all that are these gifted storytellers, who whether they work for for the Big 2 or self-publish put themselves out there every day. There’s a fragile beauty to them that makes the whole landscape much more humane.
Jim McDermott, SJ