The thing that got me intrigued by this Comic Con in the first place–and the thing that got me to pull my head out of my ass and realize that the project is revolutionary, and it just happens to be coming alive in this relatively small, conservative town in which I live–was when John Shableski (the guy who’s in charge of WCC, and who has boundless drive, energy, and knows everybody who’s somehow touching the comics industry) sent me the preliminary schedule for the con when we were first discussing my involvement.
I expected a smallish program full of mostly local people talking about how much they love comics and wish Stan Lee was coming to Williamsport.
That assumption kind of touches on my prior ignorance of all things Comic, and in some ways, I feel I got a new brain through all of this: one with a better understanding of what comics have become, and why they’re important. Yes, important. Like canonical literature important, my literary friends.
But the program in one of its earliest iterations was equal parts comics and scholarship. There was everything from people talking about comics they wrote or drew to panels discussing social concerns, circulation, and very few local people.
And the thing that continues to impress me about the scope of Shableski’s vision is that he is drawing attention to connections between comics and text, comics and film, and comics and video games that are not blatant.
As someone who has only lived in Williamsport a short time, I can say this, probably not without some backlash (steels self against comments):
There’s a general antagonism toward outsiders here. Williamsport is a town that would rather celebrate local talent than acknowledge that–while we do have a disproportionate amount of it here–it could be complemented and edified by the big, bad, outside world.
This has made bringing the WCC to fruition a tricky task, and has required all of us who will take part to become proselytizers.
And the folks who are coming are as varied as the stories they tell, but they have two common characteristics: enthusiasm and vision.
I talked to two of the presenters this week, and I’m sharing tidbits from my conversations with them because they represent two very distinct pieces of this comics-as-new-media world.
Frank Beddor is author of a series of novels called Looking Glass Wars that became a series of graphic novels called Hatter M. These are an alternative version of Lewis Carroll’s Victorian classic, Alice in Wonderland. And though I’ve only read Hatter M of the graphic novel series, I can tell you with certitude that the stories are dark and engaging and thoroughly imagined.
Here’s a clip from our phone interview:
Michael Mendheim is a video game producer who has been working in the video games industry since the 80s.
He says his favorite ever was this one:
And here is a tiny excerpt of our interview:
Me: Has doing a graphic novel always been your dream? If it has, how did you wind up finally doing one.
Michael Mendheim: Yes, I’ve always loved comics and thought the Four Horsemen concept would be perfect for a graphic novel. The Four Horsemen video game was in development with a small team at the 3DO Company. We were developing the game and a comicbook series (which Simon Bisley was illustrating).
3DO endured financial hardship when the tech bubble burst and they filed for bankruptcy. Rather than let the property die, I purchased it out of bankruptcy – it took about 18 months for the property to clear but once it did, I owned it free and clear and immediately called Simon Bisley and told him we were getting the band back together.
Once Again, you really shouldn’t miss this thing, even if you have only a cursory interest in comics, or if you’re a teacher, or if you like books, or if you just like to listen to cool and/or smart people talk about stuff they’re into.