Monday, October 20, 2008

When is a vacation not a vacation?

When you spend most of it working, of course.

(That was me doing my best Riddler impression).

But seriously, I'm about to take off for a few days on a mission to sell comic books--and I don't mean "sell" in the "thank you, sir, that will be $5.98, are you sure I can't interest you in a copy of the latest issue of AG Super Erotic Anthology?" way, but sell in the "please, for the love of God, accept these as viable literature" way--although I will be doing a bit of the first one, and hopefully the second one will lead to the first one, but anyway...

One of our customers at the shop is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois (my alma mater) and she teaches in the library sciences graduate school. This semester she has a class on children's literature, and she has devoted a day of that class to graphic novels. Since she's super-cool, she's asked me to come down and address the class for about the first half of it (that's about an hour and a half... yikes!). So for the first (but hopefully not last) time in my adult life I get to play the role of teacher and graphic novel sage. Tomorrow I'm going to sit down with the class's reading and take notes, then add that to my own background knowledge that I want to share on the topic. I will be addressing a roomful of prospective librarians, some of whom possibly have never read a comic until (unless?) they did the homework for this week. As libraries are one of the most important places for comics to establish a foothold in our culture, I take this to be a fairly serious and exciting task. And I will do anything I can to elevate the comics discourse in libraries above that of the idiotic head children's librarian in Lake County, Indiana, who after telling me that she "didn't really get comics" asked me if I'd "ever read the one with the animals" (she was referring to Maus!) and said that she thought it was silly (yeah, that Holocaust sure is hilarious).

So that's what I'm doing with the next few days of my life. It doesn't feel a ton like a vacation, but it's definitely something I want to do. If anyone has anything they feel I ought to mention in my talk, please post it in the comments section, and hopefully later in the week I'll have a report on how things went.

As bonus trivia for you comic-lovers, here's my professor/customer's reading list for Wednesday's class session:

  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Superman for All Seasons
  • Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi, Houdini the Handcuff King
  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics chapter 3: "Blood in the Gutters"
  • Sara Varon, Robot Dreams
I've read all of these books before, and I like them all (Robot Dreams was a hell of a surprise... some of you more comic-saavy folks may want to check that one out). I think that I may try to convince the prof to swith Superman for All Seasons out for All-Star Superman if she does the class again next year... it may be a little heavy conceptually, and it's a little longer, but I think it shows more of what the comics medium can do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pack!

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