In addition to the Cosplay contest and the dealers’ room, LumaCon offered three panels during the day. I attended one, “Comics as Literature.” I attended largely because the Eisner-award-winning author (and my friend) Brian Fies was on it, and also because it’s my topic. I think the comics form can deliver literature. We already know it can deliver compelling, nuanced, complex characters, and address serious social issues. Books like Art Spiegelman’s Maus (Nazi concentration camps) March by John Lewis andAndrew Aydin (The American Civil Rights movement) and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast, about giving care to aging parents, demonstrate that the graphic technique can cover issues as well as pure text. And even in the more traditional comic-book field, writers like Frank Miller adopt noir, writing complicated, layered stories of corruption and redemption.
The Comics as Literature panel was slated to have three presenters. Two were ready to go at 1:00, when the panel started; Brian Fies and Alexis E Fajardo, who writes Kid Beowulf.
When asked about their influences, Brian mentioned Classics Illustrated, which he said he felt taught him how to read. Lex Fajardo said that he was probably the only kid in high school who enjoyed reading Beowulf. “It’s got monsters, mead, wenches,” he said. “What’s not to like?” He said that comics seem like a great way to sneak in literature.
Brian and Lex both agreed that what helped them develop as cartoonists is that they “were the kids who continued to draw.”
The moderator asked what stories made them readers. Brian talked again about Classics Illustrated (a series that does not get enough credit). He then continued with science fiction — good and bad, he didn’t care — Shakespeare and science works. He says he still reads Richard the Third regularly. Brian said one of his most powerful influences was Pogo, written and drawn by Walt Kelly.
Lex read Greek and Norse mythology, but the eye-opener for him was Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Miller’s work showed him how to introduce cinematic storytelling into a comic.
There was a third panelist, named Tom, who showed up thirty minutes late for a forty-five minute panel, and then blamed a young fan for the delay. I don’t remember Tom’s last name. He did have a couple of interesting points to make, though. He is the one who said his mother gave him the book of Treasure Island with the words, “You’ll like it; it’s the extended version.” He also said that most of his work (he draws in the Marvel Comic Universe) focuses on the “glue that hold relationships together.”
Brian said he likes stories about hard choices to make. Lex said that while he doesn’t personally believe in destiny, all his work is about it.
Lex’s independently published Kid Beowulf will be coming out from a traditional publisher, Andrews McMeel in August, 2016