This last month I had the opportunity to attend my first comic convention (Keystone Comic Con) with fellow JKX Comics co-founder, Jaye Gardiner. This provided us an opportunity to spread the JKX mission, visit artists and creators that we admire as well as meet new and upcoming artists. Attending the comic convention was a mixture of both business and pleasure as we wanted to get feedback on JKX Comics as well as find new inspiration and ideas -- and we got a good helping of both.
An interesting aspect of Keystone Comic Con was the number of people from varying professions sitting on or leading the panels. For example, there were multiple panels and programs revolving around comics in libraries and the classroom. We were particularly interested in connecting with both librarians and educators so that our comics can reach as many people as possible. While the networking panel we attended was geared towards librarians, it was interesting to hear that there is still a large stigma of comics being for younger audience and only for comedic or recreational purposes. Because of this perspective, it was difficult for librarians to acquire funding to expand on their comic collection. Though this is a prevalent issue among the librarians we spoke to, there is also an increase in the number of individuals checking out comics; suggesting that comics are becoming more appealing to a variety of audiences once made available (Whoop! Whoop!). Speaking to the librarians about JKX comics, they were very enthused with what we are trying to accomplish. They provided great insight into how to get our comics into libraries, specifically suggesting to get our comics reviewed as this would make it more appealing for libraries to purchase. We’ll most definitely need to integrate these ideas for our upcoming project, Gaining STEAM!
Outside of libraries, we always hoped to have our comics in the classroom, where teachers can use our work to teach about research actively being done and hopefully inspire the next generation of scientists. Luckily, there were also multiple panels that focused on how to teach with comics like “Power of Comics in the Classroom” and “With our powers combined”, a panel that integrated the perspectives of comic shows, teachers, librarians, and publishers. Not only did we learn a great deal on how comics can be effectively used in the classroom, we also had the chance to speak with educators who are actively implementing comics in their curriculum. For example, Tim Smyth is a social studies teacher and a strong advocate for comics in the classroom. Hearing him speak about how he uses comics in the classroom, my mind was blown by how he is able to teach different facets of world history. He commented on how comics were a good snapshot of the world in the era when the comic is created as writers often incorporate social and political issues into their stories. Tim also noted that comics can draw out students that are uninterested in a topic and get them excited about what they’re learning. We had a chance to speak to Tim and he was thrilled about our work and gave us helpful suggestions to implement our work into the classroom.
While we enjoy combining science and comics, I am often curious about how science influences comics; and I had the great opportunity to hear comic artists and writers speak on this subject. Many comic creators wanted to hold true to the actual science (like, the maximum acceleration of a falling object) but were not so attached to the science that it would take away from the story they were trying to create. However, what I found to be the most fascinating was that a good number of artists and writers are greatly inspired by science which influenced aspects of their comics. Walking by the artist booths, I was captivated by a comic titled “Gravity Matters” and I spoke with one of the creators, Jeff Rider, about the work and how science is portrayed in the comic. Though there are limited elements of science within the comic itself, it was interesting to hear about how science influenced its creation. In particular, Jeff was fascinated by the work with the Large Hadron Collider conducted at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. In his comic, the ruined world was his imagination of what the world might look like after a catastrophic experiment occurred at CERN. It was an amazing learning experience interacting with comic creators and learning how science has impacted their work - maybe our comics will be a part of that someday!
All in all, the most exciting part about attending Keystone Comic Con was the enthusiasm for JKX comics we received when talking to artists, librarians, educators, and comic enthusiasts alike. We’re onto something amazing here and hopefully you’ll see us at a booth at your local comic convention!