LectureHop: Holy Smokes, Batman!

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Quick! Somebody call generic-superhero-man!

Holy nostalgia, Batman! Give us a minute while we try to contain our childhood nostalgia. If you ever attempted to shoot webs from your fingers, wore a cape everyday, or jumped off a jungle gym thinking you could fly, you would have found kindred spirits at Monday’s “Picture This: The Art of Comics Adaptations” Lecture. Bwog’s Arbiter of Intergalactic Justice, Josh Dillon, reports on the surprisingly complex world of comic books.

At approximately 5:58 pm Monday night, I sauntered into 523 Butler for “Picture This: the Art of Comics Adaptations.” My sauntering was on the account that I consider myself well acquainted with comics and comic books. I have dozens at home, I Wikipedia the abilities of different comic book heroes instead of sleeping, and I have attended the New York Comic Con.

Needless to say, I was completely under qualified for this event.

I was expecting to see undergraduate students wearing sitting excited in their chairs. Not nerds (hey this is Columbia), but rather, casual students who like to forsake going out once in awhile to read a new comic book. Instead, I was greeted by so many well-dressed (so many scarves!), eloquent socialites. I took to a seat in the middle and pulled out a small moleskin to take notes in.


Almost every person in the small gathering had some sort of leather bound, tiny notebook. But rather than fitting in with my name-brand, I stuck out. These notebooks were filled with fantastic drawings and, to my amazement, audience members sketched the presenters throughout the next two hours. One girl to my left was able to accurately capture a presenter mid-word, making me wonder, “WHAT AM I DOING HERE?”

The event itself was a conversation between two prominent comic book creators, Ron Wimberly, the author of “Prince of Cats,” and Alex Alice, creator of “Siegfried.” The conversation was moderated by Tucker Stone of Bergen Street Comics.

It began with a modest request by Columbia staff to eat the free food (see delicious cakes, brownies, and desserts that made me sad to leave) at the back of the room. Then Mr. Stone asked some questions of Wimberly and Alice, and the presentation was on.

What is interesting about Mr. Wimberly’s “Prince of Cats” and Mr. Alice’s “Siegfried” is that they are actually adaptations of literature or plays, the former being a modern, hip-hop ninja version of Romeo and Juliet, the latter based on Der Ring des Nibelungen, The Ring Cycle.

The night was filled with quotable quotations, from “Shakespeare, in its day, was gutter trash” to “American films are written with baby language. It has to be mashed up, like baby food, or we don’t understand it.”

Some of most interesting ideas were brought up by the audience during the question and answer portion. One confident, (and dare I say accusing) man asked about the relationship between the economy and comic books. Ron Wimberly explained how during poor economic times, there is a trend to create comics adaptations of classical literature. The resulting work is deemed less risky to sell than original material, since the work is already known and hopefully liked by the public.

Of course, Alex and Ron assured the crowd that their work, their adaptations, were not created for this reason.

Littered throughout the conversation were interesting facts about the process of creating comic books. We heard of the amount of power an editor has in changing the direction of a work, from its title to its content, to even the positions of faces on a page. We also learned about the “romantic” method of scanning colors into a computer for a page, instead of “cheating” by selecting color generated colors.

This panel was foreign and familiar, strange and welcome, friendly and friendly, all at the same time. Basically it was every encounter with your sweet grandmother who bakes you cookies, but also hugs you a little too long. I recommend anyone interested in comic books, their inner workings, and their place in society to stay on the lookout for more “Picture This!” events to come from the French embassy.

 How do superheroes ever wear shorts sleeves via Shutterstock


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