Friday, 20 March 2009

Comics in Libraries? What Sorcery is This?

Nic and I went along to help Insomnia out at the Essex Book Festival last Saturday and we were pretty impressed by what we saw there. We kicked off the day at the Shenfield Library, along with Insomnia co-founder Alasdair Duncan and C2D4's Tony Wicks. For a couple of hours, we explained ourselves and the medium to a procession of very interested visitors, with ages ranging from eight to about sixty. The six-foot standee of Crosshair from Cancertown drew a lot of attention, and was the focus of one of the exercises Alasdair had devised. The task was to suggest a line of dialogue for the character to introduce himself, and some of the entries were priceless. Personal favourites from the day included:

"What do you think I'm going to do with this finger?"

"My turn on the X-Box 360!"

"Now I'm going to eat you - Ha Ha Ha!"

I was particularly surprised by one kid of around ten who came at me with a long string of questions about Cancertown - a book that is, as we explained to the adults accompanying him, completely unsuitable for someone that age. Thankfully, Nic and I had spent the morning with Sharpies, blanking out the more colourful language in the sample chapters we'd brought along. Anyway, I was able to assure him that the Corpsegrinder could indeed beat Crosshair in a fight (a fact that he'd somehow deduced from their relative positions on Paul Cartwright's incredible cover) and that Crosshair's arm would in fact grow back if the Corpsegrinder pulled it off (which actually does happen in the comic!). That's a kid with a future in the business right there.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Harlow for the second leg of the exhibition. This time we were served Jaffa Cakes and sandwiches, which was an unexpected bonus for me. Again, visitors were invited to write lines of dialogue for Crosshair, draw monsters and devise a simple plot structure involving two characters in a cage - and again the results were terrific and diverse.

Special mention has to go to nine-year-old James, who brought with him a short Doctor Who comic he'd created from scratch. From a structural standpoint, this little gem displayed a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of layout, pacing and dialogue. He really seemed to have an instinct for leading the reader's eye around the page. In a stroke of genius, the event's organiser was somehow able to conjure up an award for James in the form of an official Doctor Who sonic screwdriver. It was well deserved, and he seemed pleased. Seriously, if you'd seen the way he'd put this comic together you'd have been impressed too.

Anyway, it was a fun day, and Nic was even able to do some potentially very useful talent scouting for future Insomnia artists. We'll have to look into more of these events in future.


  1. Sounds like it was a lot more fun (and use) than you might have expected. It's good to hear there are kids with imagination using it to create stories.

  2. Yeah, going into this thing, I really didn't know what was going to be expected of me. It turned out to be a blast, and we've already had a couple of other places express an interest in hosting similar events.

  3. Ohhhh big Crosshair looks creepy.

    Glad you had fun :)


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