Hi! I’m an aspiring librarian taking a course about comics!
About me: My name is Hal. I’m 21. I majored in History at the University of Washington in Seattle. I am now at Queens College in Queens, NY. I am working as an outreach assistant with Queens Library. I like hanging out with dogs and babies and roasting vegetables. I like to draw. I also am publishing my first YA novel, which is about a zombie and a werewolf in Salem, Oregon. I figure I won’t talk too much about that one until I actually have a book on shelves (Spring 2019, fingers crossed).
I want to be a school librarian because I think that children are capable of having complex and meaningful ideas about the world and should be encouraged in their interests, whether these interests have to do with literature, art, skateboards, dinosaurs, pigs, Pokemon, DIY crafts, wrestling, religion, dogs, horses, case law, unicorns, video games, magic tricks, or mycology. I think that learning to assess information from a variety of different sources at a young age prepares kids to learn how to articulate themselves and their ideas and participate actively in the world around them.
As a little kid, I was a classic bookworm and a classic book snob. I was proud that I had above-average reading comprehension and never failed to brag about it. I liked fantasy and science fiction written for kids older than me, but I read enough “classic literature” to be able to pretend I was much smarter than the other kids in my class. I read a lot of books and looked down on video-game-players, popular cartoons and most comic books (though I made exceptions for Calvin and Hobbes, which still informs my personality to this day, and for The Far Side, which I thought of as smart, and for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, because at that time it was still online and a novelty for everyone). Then I met a cool fifth-grader who loved manga and pop punk and didn’t care about getting good grades, and a major change took place. From ages 10-14, comics were the main written medium I consumed regularly, and I continue to read them. Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics was a game-changer for me when I read it at 11. Suddenly I was nerdy in a whole different dimension–and I had a whole new way of understanding art and literature and the utility of comics and graphic novels to tell important stories.
I still prided myself on my good taste (who doesn’t?) and tried to get as high-brow as I could so I could lord over people who engaged with comics more casually and mark myself as a real expert– but I developed more of an open mind as I met other people who loved comics and who used different kinds of storytelling to get across to their reader. I loved finding new web-comics by artists whose skill was still developing. One thing that I loved about comics was that even in translation, and even when translations failed to be accurate or convey original meaning, certain facial expressions or images were universal. I felt like comics were a way to get to know the concerns of people in Japan, Iran, France, Serbia, Korea, China, Nigeria, et cetera. I also noticed that in Japanese manga (and in comics like Persepolis or The Tale Of One Bad Rat), the concerns of adolescent girls and young gay or transgender people were addressed in a way that was often more complex than the way girls’ questions were handled in YA literature I was familiar with at the time. When I found Alison Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For in a public library at 14, it was a scintillating delight. I had just come out as transgender but had barely met anyone else in the LGBT community. Bechdel’s work felt like I was managing to touch something outside myself. I remember glancing around myself as I read further, wondering if there was some kind of mistake, or else if the book had been planted just before I found it specifically for me.
And besides all that, comics just looked really cool.
In high school, I tried to write my own webcomics, with varying degrees of technical competency, but the limits of my own experience and interest stopped me from creating anything with popular appeal. A gay adaptation of The Little Mermaid, a webcomic about being 14 and transgender, and a page-by-page illustrated reproduction of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited just weren’t the wave in 2011-12, and I finally accepted this and abandoned my projects. I still draw comics, even for publication, but not as prolifically as I did then. My hope is that my art continues to develop and I get better at understanding the context of my own work.
I think that comics as a medium haven’t decreased in relevance, and the number of English translations from around the world has only grown since I was 14. It seems like the boom of manga translations that defined the early 2000s in the U.S is settling down into a more definite and limited market as time goes on, but in part this is because manga and the comics boom of my high school years is inspiring all kinds of amazing new art. Some of my favorite comics from the last five or so years include Nimona, Witchy, Anya’s Ghost, Beautiful Darkness, Mimi and the Wolves, Aya: Life In Yop City, and Meg and Mogg: One More Year. I still try to keep up with the indie comic artists I started following when they were in art school, but I have also missed out on many new debuts. I’m looking forward to learning during this semester.