Maggie’s World 042: Comic-Con College Or … Campus You Want, Campus You Got
The Comic-Con 2016 Toucan Tip of the Day #8 is titled “The Comic-Con Campus,” because Comic-Con is so big, it is engulfing San Diego to the point at which there are six different spots downtown that are officially part of the con. And there are actual educational events in town that are part of the con. The San Diego Central Library, for example, offers a focus on “education and librarian programs.”
Mind you, Comic-Con has offered educational programming for quite some time. In fact, it occurred to me recently that I have learned a variety of incredible lessons at each and every San Diego convention I’ve ever attended. And that made me realize that, just as liberal arts colleges around the country have a number of educational departments, Comic-Con provides a number of its own lessons (aside from the more formal instructional events on the program).
Well, hey. We’re talking about the vast variety of storytelling we’ve all enjoyed over the years. Some of what we’ve loved the most follows the basic narrative structure we learned about in introductory courses: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.
Whether the story starred The Spirit, Batman, Donald Duck, Dick Tracy, or countless others in decades past, you could find that structure in almost every tale. Now, many of our stories are serialized, but you can still find that structure and learn story-telling basics in countless works of comics art.
And, for that matter, you can find examples of how that structure is sometimes deliberately abandoned—and determine whether that works for you.
Comics Foreign Language
Not everyone explores the comics in other languages, but such comics are there at Comic-Con. And the comics format can be handy when it comes to reinforcing familiarity in a language, thanks to the picture clues. You might not know what a “chaudron” is, but, when the cover of Astérix et le chaudron shows Astérix chasing a bucket of coins, you might guess that it’s a cauldron. And when, in the story, he turns it upside down and shouts, “Le chaudron est vide!!!” you may (correctly) guess that he’s saying, “The cauldron is empty!!!” Such comics can provide entertaining “laboratory” sessions in other languages.
And, of course, it was the possibility of enjoying manga that led many comics fans to explore Japanese as a second language.
Convention attendees have included many from outside America, and I have to say that Moebius spoke much better English than I ever spoke French—which is to say that there are also opportunities to meet and learn from a variety of fans and professionals from a variety of countries and backgrounds.
Well, seriously. I learn more about the history of comics every time I attend Comic-Con. Maybe it’s a conversation with a legend, maybe it’s seeing some incredibly rare key issue, maybe it’s discovering a reprint volume finally making a long-gone work available, maybe it’s talking with today’s creators about how they work on projects.
But there’s history there—and history being made—throughout the show.
Many years ago, I noticed that among the longest lines at Comic-Con were those at the ATMs located near the show. You might save time by bringing more cash. Just saying.
It’s a challenge. How much do I have left to spend after figuring in my costs? And there’s geometry: I really want this gorgeous cel from one of my favorite sorta-animated shows, Roger Ramjet! And it’s clear that its height and width will easily fit my checked baggage.
But there are many other stunning items available that may provide more of a problem for geometry-challenged purchasers. How big is that poster? How long is my suitcase? (You might want to include a small measuring tape in your gear.)
Oh, and speaking of the math of dimensions: There are a few spots that let you ship home your purchases—and, yes, your laundry (should you choose, as do I, to pack such a box so’s to leave more room in your luggage for last-minute purchases). There’s a FedEx office at the Convention Center and there are UPS Stores at the Marriott Marquis and the Hilton Bayfront, just to name a few.
Start with basic biology lessons: Begin the day with a good breakfast, so your nutritional needs are met. (It wasn’t at Comic-Con, but I’ll note that my brother did faint at a convention long ago—and, when he came to, realized he had forgotten to eat for a couple of days.)
Figure out how much you can carry comfortably—and how best to carry it. (A huge bag with a heavy load in the bottom can offer challenges simply from the physics involved in its swinging back and forth as you walk.) A many-pocketed vest can distribute the weight of a cell phone, notepad, business cards, and the like (maybe that measuring tape I mentioned earlier) evenly, leaving your hands free as a bonus.
What better way to figure out what is most important to you than to figure out which events should take priority each day? Do you want to learn from the pros? Understand the business? Unearth treasures you won’t find elsewhere? Take photos to reinforce your memories? Get that one question answered from someone whose work you admire? Relax to enjoy whatever fun strikes you at the moment? Are you a student? Or an audience? Or a party-goer? Or a wanna-be? Or a smart consumer? This exercise can take you deep into self-realization.
You can learn from some of the best business pros in the field. Some are buying and selling back issues. Some are preparing rarities for auction. Some are publishing a variety of material: books, magazines, software programs, art supplies. Some are producing collectibles. If you want to know more about a certain kind of comics business, you can get the proverbial “up close and personal” information right here.
Well, hey. Study the working methods of the pros at the tables of Artists Alley. (I’m not going to say that Artists Alley provides some of the same entertainment value as a zoo, where you can watch the animals in their natural habitat. Because actually, many of the finest artists ordinarily work in solitude, since they’d otherwise never get their work done. Nevertheless …)
And there are, of course, other creative media that interact with comics, including voice artistry, caricature, translation into other formats, and more. Here’s a place to learn from all of them.
Comics Physical Education
We were told that gym classes—whether in high school or college—were about being physically fit. These days, many folks wear monitors, many of which count steps.
This is an event for which the Exhibit Hall alone covers 12 acres. True, there are several escalators at strategic points. And there are shuttle buses. But it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of half a mile or more from the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Which is to say: Fitness, here we come! (Wear comfortable shoes. And consider that entry on physics.)
Hey, one thing most colleges do not offer is … a break!
But, if you’re so inclined, let me suggest that you might decide to regard every moment of Comic-Con simply as Recess!
See you there!
Maggie’s World by Maggie Thompson appears the first Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!