New York Comic Con (NYCC) is not for the faint of heart. Those who are familiar with the crowds at the American Library Association’s annual summer conferences and at BookExpo America (BEA) would likely be overwhelmed by the more than 130,000 costume-clad attendees who jammed the Jacob Javits Convention Center on October 10–13, 2013, transporting one into an exotic world of creatures and characters through so much visual and audio stimulation.
Fans of all ages crowded the aisles throughout the weekend, as they played video games and purchased toys, costumes, accessories, and books.
At the center of it all—among the kids, super heroes, and cartoon characters roaming the exhibit halls—were librarians. They were in attendance to help spread the word about the availability of comics and graphic novels in libraries, to source the latest titles for their own collections, and to speak about the importance of comics and graphic novels to kids’ learning.
Three such librarians—Amie Wright of the New York Public Library, Stephanie Gableman of the Boonton Holmes (NJ) Library, and Emily Weisenstein of the Madison (NJ) Public Library—presented a session entitled “Comics and the Common Core: The Case to Include Comics in the Curriculum.”
During the presentation, they cited a study from the University of Oklahoma showing that students retain more information from graphic literature than from traditional texts. Comics can also offer students increased motivation to read and explore more subjects, which correlates with the standards (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL6.2: Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats.)
The presenters went on to draw more correlations to the Common Core State Standards, including visual and cultural literacy, and offered examples of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) titles. Slides of the presentation are now available online.
Women were well represented at this year’s New York Comic Con; nearly 40 percent of this year’s attendees were female. The session “Women in Comics” also helped to illustrate the point. The panel was comprised of librarians and comic creators, including Claudia McGivney and Laura Pope Robinson, librarians at Dowling College. The panel agreed that a good female comic book character is one who is represented realistically with emotion, and who is able to fail.
Another interesting panel session involved They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust, a collection of motion comics on DVD that addresses America’s response to genocide. It was presented by Neal Adams, legendary Batman and Green Lantern comic book artist, and holocaust historian Dr. Rafael Medoff. The two spoke about how comics can tackle sensitive subjects; the series uses film, cartoons, and photos to explore these issues.
Mixed among the stars of television and movies and the numerous comic artists in attendance were many names and faces familiar to children’s and young adult librarians—kid lit authors.
Jennifer and Matt Holm, creators of Baby Mouse, together with Eric Wright and others, discussed raising a reader at a panel session that benefited the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
In another panel, popular kid lit authors discussed their processes in crafting humorous stories for young readers that are filled with adventure and mystery. It featured Mathew Cody, author of Will in Scarlet (Knopf, 2013); Lemony Snicket, author of When Did You See Her Last? (Little Brown, 2013); David Lubar, author of the “Weenies” series; Shannon Hale, author of Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends (Little Brown, 2013); George O’Connor, author of the “Olympians” series (First Second); and Scott Campbell, author of If Dogs Run Free (Atheneum, 2013).
Mixed in the crowd was J.T. Rosen from Scarsdale Middle School, who was at NYCC with a group of his friends to celebrate his 12th birthday. His mother, Amy Rosen, told School Library Journal that she was glad to bring the group to the event because she finds that it encourages the boys to read.
Comic Con attendees were able to meet Gugor on the exhibit floor, one of the characters from the book The Creature Department (Razorbill) by Robert Paul Weston and Zack Lydon, which debuts November 5, 2013. Gugor appeared on a video screen and had conversations with all those who stopped to ask questions. The book will feature a transmedia element, with readers able to interact with the characters via a website and vlogs.
Bullying was also addressed at the event. Actress Chase Masterson, who appeared on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for five years, was promoting her new group, the Anti-Bullying Coalition, which she created with Carrie Goldman, the author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear ( HarperOne, 2012). The coalition aims to help address bullying in pop culture.
Masterson told SLJ that many of the people who are attracted to comic conventions are often bullied by their peers. Attendees stopped at the booth to post notes of encouragement and to receive hugs.
Check out our slideshow of the librarians, authors, and characters that we saw at NYCC, and our quick video clip of The Creature Department‘s Gugor speaking to attendees: