Monday, April 8, 2013

Confessions of a Comic Book Nerd

With The Intergalactic Nemesis opening this weekend, I have to make an admission: I’ve never read a single comic book. As a filmmaker and sound designer, I love the use of Foley in the show and also appreciate the references to classic science fiction in B-movies. But to gain a better appreciation of comic books – and get a few tips on where a novice like myself should begin – I turned to Katie Diamond, one of the Graphic Designers for The New Victory who is not only a comic book enthusiast, but also an illustrator.

B: I have to ask a basic question. What is the difference between comic books and graphic novels?
Cover Art by Katie Diamond for
Roving Pack by Sassafrass Lowrey

K: Personally, I don’t think there is a difference between comic books and graphic novels. I think the differentiation is an attempt to separate things for academic or marketplace purposes. I draw comics and I draw graphic novels. They’re the same thing, just different words.

B: When and why did you start reading comic books?

K: I started reading comic books when I was 9 years old. I had gotten into watching the X-Men cartoon series on Saturday mornings, and then a friend of mine revealed to me that the series started as a comic book. I convinced my mom to take me to the comic book kiosk at the mall. All the guys that worked there were very nice to me (I think they were excited to see a young girl who was into comics!), and ultimately they got me interested in things beyond Marvel.

B: What attracted you to comic books as a kid?

K: The visual storytelling - I loved being able to fixate on the pictures, and see a story being told. I love drawing, so I often emulated my favorite comics as a young artist.

Illustration by Katie Diamond for
Backwards Day by S. Bear Bergman
B: What do you love about comic books or graphic novels now?

K: As an adult, I love that they can be so universal. The interplay of words and pictures is a cross-cultural experience. I’m still incredibly enamored by narrative, and visual narrative has essentially become my job!

B: What do you think people (and kids) have to learn from comic books?

K: Comics can change the world! No, really – stories that are harder to understand, or scarier to comprehend, are more accessible because of comics. The combination of words and pictures make complex ideas simple. Think about instruction manuals! Now comics are being used to talk about political issues, educational problems, life in times of war and a whole array of contemporary, challenging themes.

B: In your opinion, what do illustrations add to a story?   

K: I think that illustrations add another dimension to a story. Illustration is a way to explain things that words cannot. They can be used to emphasize a point, show something that can’t be explained or even add a sense of depth or quirk. Illustrations, icons and graphics are all tools that can elevate a narrative to another level.

B: What are your favorite characters or stories?                 

K: It is so hard to choose! To make it easier on myself, let me break it down by genre:
  • My favorite Marvel comic character is Rogue from the Uncanny X-men. She’s a bombshell who can’t physically touch anyone. Oh, the irony of it all! Close second to her is Storm, but specifically Storm of the 1980s, when she lost her weather-controlling powers and had an awesome mohawk. Even without her mutant powers, she was so cool.
  • My favorite story, or one of them, is Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore. Realistically drawn characters with ridiculous soap opera storylines. I also adore The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, a total classic. Gaiman has taken the concepts of Death, Dream, Desire, Destruction, Destiny, Delirium and Despair and turned them into a cast of Immortals (or Gods, really) that have their own adventures throughout human history.
  • When it comes to authors, I love anything by Joe Sacco, Marjane Satrapi, Alison Bechdel or Scott McCloud. 
B: As someone who has never read a comic book or graphic novel, where would you suggest I start? What should I read?

K: Here’s my advice: just go to a local bookstore or comic store. Nerds like me love converting the non-believers, and if you know what you like to read genre-wise, there is certainly something out there for you. Interested in something historical and serious? I recommend Maus by Art Speigleman, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Prefer a fantasy adventure? Fables might be for you, or the epic Bone. Macabre mystery? Try Chew. Now that comics have had their coming-of-age in the mainstream, there really is something for everyone! 

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