Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2009-02-08

NY Comic Con Talk Follow-Up

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel with Fuse #8's Betsy Bird & Matt Bird (her lovely & knowledgeable husband) on Graphic Novels: A New Literacy for Libraries, School, and Home. Betsy recorded the talk and I'll post a link here to the podcast when she makes it available for download.

I made 40 copies of my handout, and we ran out, which is both good & bad -- good to have 45 folks snapping up our materials, good that they thought enough of them to leave with them, rather than crumple them up into a ball, to be deposited on the floor. (Better still that we had so many attendees after our room assignment was changed!) Still, 40 handouts and 45 audience members meant that several of those delightful audience members went without. So, for them, and for those of you who couldn't attend but are interested in the materials we provided, here you go! Betsy is planning to post her handouts at Fuse #8; I'll link to the post once it goes live.

UPDATE: I vanquished my FTP issues and the link for my handout, above, now works. Huzzah! Thank you, alert reader Inkwell Bookstore, for noting the problem.

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2009-02-03

NYC Comic Con Talk!

So, I lucked out, big-time, by being paired up with uber-blogger Betsy Bird and her husband, graphic novels expert Matt Bird for a workshop on graphic novels called Graphic Novels: A New Literacy for the Library, Classroom and Home.

Betsy's posted the program description at her blog, A Fuse #8 Production, which makes my life oh, so easy:

Elizabeth Bird, Sophie Brookover, Matt Bird

SUNDAY 2:45-3:45 ROOM 1A23

The explosive growth of graphic novels continues in the public library world and is now being felt in the classroom. Is it a legitimate reading format? What is it about these books that make them worthwhile reading? How can graphic novels help you meet your state’s core curriculum content standards? Graphic novels present a new opportunity to engage readers and these three talented presenters will show you why these books work for the teacher, the librarian and the parent.

Elizabeth Bird: is a children's librarian at New York Public Library's main children's room at the 42nd Street location. She has served on the Newbery committee, written for Horn Book, reviews for Kirkus, and currently publishes the blog A Fuse #8 Production on the School Library Journal website.

Sophie Brookover: is the Library Media Specialist at Eastern Regional Senior High School in Voorhees, NJ. She is an avid reader of graphic novels (forced to pick just one recent favorite, she offers two: Sidescrollers and Y: The Last Man), and is the co-author of Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Whole Community (InfoToday, 2008).

Matt Bird: Matt Bird is a writer and lifelong comics enthusiast. He will receive an MFA from Columbia University in May. His new graphic novel project is The Gentleman with artist David Baldeon (Blue Beetle) and inker Steve Bird (Robin).

If you're going to be at NYCCC, please drop in! This is such an exciting time for graphic novels, particularly for those educators scooping GNs up in their warm, brilliant embrace.

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2008-07-29

Librarians Invade Comic-Con!

Kudos to NPR for covering this angle -- I was one of the librarians attending Comic-Con this year -- and I'm delighted that the reporter chose to interview David Serchay & Eva Volin for this piece! Anyone know how many of us were in attendance? More on CC later!

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2008-07-20

The Real Life League of Real Superhero Stories

It took 70 years, but it seems that pop culture has finally finished digesting the Superhero and begun to regurgitate the idea in the form of stories about how weird the idea is. With this past week's progressive sample release of Dr. Horrible, the Whedon's Supervillian Mad Scientist Musical Laundromat Love Story, the release of Hancock featuring Will Smith as a drunk, disillusioned superhero, and the momentous unveiling of the first trailer for the hotly anticipated film version of breakthrough graphic novel Watchmen, stories that essentially ask "what if superheroes were, like REAL or something?" are bigger than ever.

Watchmen, which follows cataclysmic events in the life of a second generation of superheroes, some of whom inherited their characters from their parents, is very heavy stuff; in addition to giving graphic novels a much needed shot of legitimacy that has yet to wear off, it singlehandedly broke open the world of superheroes by actually exploring how the world might react if people actually dressed up in spandex and fought crime. Now, some people actually do dress up in spandex and fight crime, but we'll get to that later. The idea of Superheroes in a real world, or at least acting something like regular people without all the stilted superfriends-speak and unironic catchprases, keeps coming up again and again, from my favorite show Venture Brothers (which owes much to Ben Edlund's Tick) about the weak, self-absorbed but super-scientist grown son of a seemingly superhuman titan of achievement, to Disney's surprisingly unawful tween-targeted Sky High, about the freshman year (at a floating superhero high school that might as well be called 'Superwarts') of the son of the world's mightiest superheroes, who also happen to be high-powered real estate agents; and of course, The Incredibles, which could somewhat fairly be described as Watchmen recast as a sitcom. All these projects break one of the cardinal laws of Superheroes: no attachments other than a single love interest, and for darn sure NO OFFSPRING. Just crossing the family dynamic with the superhero tropes provides so much wonderful friction that it's certain there are superhero family dramas (and superhero family sitcoms) in development. Seriously, how long can it be before someone decides to remake The Greatest American Hero?

However, as the Incredibles explored a bit, there is enormous potential in the ridiculousness in the world of Superheroes, or, as Warren Ellis and boingboing have redubbed them as a result of DC and Marvel attempting to enforce their recently-renewed 1979 'Superhero' trademark, Underwear Perverts. One of the most inspiring films in this area is the underappreciated Mystery Men, based loosely on a spinoff of misunderstood genius Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics. There's a scene in Mystery Men where the main characters are auditioning potential new members of the team; and the parade of goofballs and their elevator pitches about their superpowers (The Waffler carries Truth Syrup, which is Low Fat) looks to me like a really fun idea for a library program. Have a panel of superhero judges to see superhero auditions, or give kids time to make their own costumes and form their own super squad and shoot a commercial for their services, with awards for awesomeness, ridiculousness, and outlandishness. With the right group, that could be an absolute blast. Maybe you could even get a real costumed hero to come inspire the audience.

Because there are real-life superheroes, of course. You may well have heard of Angle Grinder Man, who freed the booted cars of London, or heard Terrifica on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, a woman who protects the drunk girls of the bars of NYC (and has an arch-nemesis, Fantastico). Mexico has Superbarrio, protector of the weak and organizer of labor rallies, and here in Michigan we have FoxFire (not a web browser), who helps those in need as part of a shadowy organization known only as the "Nameless Few". Some of these people are bringing attention to their cause, others are tongue-in-cheek but not entirely kidding, some are sweetly earnest, and others are downright serious. If you can stand a bit of a web time warp (and a well-intentioned but not very comprehensive resource), you may wish to check out the World Superhero Registry to see if a caped crusader is available in your area.

Regardless of intent, the superhero is here to stay, and these ideas have left their Marvel & DC cradles and made the leap into the real world. They're even spilling out of their rightful place on the Graphic Novel shelf and storming Dewey's fortress of Solitude. In addition to numerous scholarly works about superheroes, a new book coming this october explores the plausibility of Becoming Batman and what it would realistically take to reach Batman's level of martial arts and technological prowess. Next up is a book about parenting twins, and how to activate their wonder twin powers.

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2008-02-10

Webcomics in Print?

Hello, I'm Eli. Sophie has kindly asked me to become a contributor to Pop Goes the Library, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity! I think she got the idea when I wouldn't shut up about webcomics at the Midwinter Blog Salon, and I think I got on the topic because I was so excited to see The Trial of Colonel Sweeto at the Dark Horse booth. Sweeto is the work of Nicholas Gurewitch, whose comic the Perry Bible Fellowship (which has nothing to do with Perry, Bibles, or Fellowship) is an irresistable syrupy-sweet base with brilliantly hilarious and frequently offensive splashes of darkness, violence, or obscenity. PBF runs in some altweeklies and has a staggering web archive that covers a wide spectrum of style and content.

This is Dark Horse's first webcomic edition, and when I totally geeked out at the booth, the vendors asked me what other webcomics I might like to see in print (the venerable goats came first to mind), so with the awesome package of this edition, which includes red ribbon bookmark, beautifully bound, with some new content not found in the archives, I'm hoping we see a lot more great webcomics getting this Dark Horse treatment, especially since The Trial of Colonel Sweeto did $300,000 worth of preorders and has already gone to a third printing after only 4 months on the market.

Of course, if you want to start buying webcomics in print to add some cool depth to your graphic novel collection, there are a ton of great webcomics with self-published or small press paperbound stuff out there. A wide swath of webcomics are unabashedly geekly, and one of my absolute favorites (and no exception) is the daily comic space opera Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler, who quit his job as the product manager for Novell Groupwise, and now supports his family of five with revenue from his webcomic. Tayler's art is not the star attraction, although he has come a very, very long way and the style grows on the dedicated reader; it's his storylines that are irresistable: tightly plotted, audacious and gripping, yet plodding as only a daily strip can get away with, but a punchline in every one. 1000 strips in, he relaunched the comic, organizing it into large story arcs optimized for print, with tidy volume endings and just enough exposition at the beginning of the next book. Start with Under New Management.

Another webcomic that's great in print ended a year ago this week. Bruno, by Chris Baldwin, started in 1996 as an offshoot from a college paper, and follows the life of a young woman, one panel at a time, for 10 garfield-sized volumes. ( I'm sure no author wants to have their work described that way, but if you're of a certain range of ages, and you see a paperback book of certain dimensions, that's what it is!) Again, while most people read Bruno online, the author was always aware of how the strips would fit together when printed resulting in some wonderful books that supplement the web archive with bonus material.

Now, treat these links with caution; webcomic archives are addictive, and PBF and Bruno are not for everyone and may not even be worksafe in your community. Then there's the issue of how the heck you can let those webheads know that you've got hard copies of their favorite webcomics in the collection... and if I figure that out, I'll be sure to let you know. Stay tuned!

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2008-01-08

Commentary on Graphic Novels & Reluctant Readers

From John Shableski, who works for Diamond Comics Distributors. John & I have struck up an e-mail friendship over the past few months, and we've got something interesting cooking for the Fall. In the meantime, here's his excellent guest-entry at Buzz, Balls & Hype!

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