I have just returned from The Rocky Mountain Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels where I presented my paper, “When designers ask, ‘What if?'” A fascinating experience underscored the incredible variety and scope of what we consider sequential art. Unfortunately, as there were more presenters than there were hours available for the conference, there were overlapping presentations during various time-slots in the day. Hence, I was not able to listen to everyone and had to make some tough decisions on which presentation to attend. Nevertheless, I lucked into some great insights from some very learned colleagues.
Here are some the highlights for me: Theresa Fine, presented a paper on the “The Face of Evil: The Stereotype of the Comic Book Villain” which buttressed my thinking that while characters, specifically villains, might be too “arch” for the movies, there may be no such thing in the realm of comics or graphic novels. I prefer this idea. As some of you know, my script for the graphic novel began as a screenplay, but with every intention of converting it to a comic format. In the screenplay, the original characterization for the antagonist was toned-down at the urging of my instructor at the time, “Too arch for the movies,” he advised. Because of the conference, I am seriously considering an integration of some of the more villainous deeds that were written out of the early draft.
In the same panel was a presentation from Celeste Lempke, “Saving Young Girls from Ourselves: The Importance of Super heroine Fantasy”. I immediately some early comments from those close to the project who thought my visual characterization of the females in my book might be “offensive.” Celeste demonstrated that strong female characters capable of making their own decisions could overshadow and legitimatize their visual appearance. My key female lead does have, what some would consider, an ideal female form, tall and thin but equally curvaceous. However, she is also portrayed as a strong, leader in a position of command, and a competent single mom. She is also portrayed in charge of the investigation that is at he center of the action. While she is not autonomous, and must rely on the contributions of the team, she nevertheless is portrayed as both strong, and human.
There were many highlights, another was a panel discussion, ““Reading Comics: A Simple or a Complex Task?” that included an all-star list of comic scholars: Charles Hatfield, William Kuskin, Maureen Bakis and James Bucky Carter. None other than RC Harvey moderated it.
The conference wrapped with the keynote presentation by comics, arguably most famous evangelist, Scott McCloud. His content was rich and thought provoking, as usual, but, as a designer, I was particularly impressed with his command of the Apple app, Keynote. He really took the presentation to the next level. Edward Tufte could have found little fault in the flawlessly executed preso.
There was really, so much more to the conference that I won’t relay here, but and ev I can easily say that every conversation was nothing short of enlightening. I hope to get invited back some time in the future.