Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Pop and Paper

The college and the library are both open during half term holidays, but it is much, much quieter. In the last  holidays, I managed to to get some of collection finally out and available for lending and it's been really heartening to see the gradual increase of interest from the students (and staff, who seem to have taken to it with even greater enthusiasm!). 

The re-organisation of the quick reads and easy reader resources has meant the freeing up of space near the comics area, so I'm trying to make a push to get the smaller press and interdependently published work out ready for when the students return next week. Display and storage is still a bit of a question mark for anything that's not books, so I'm looking at different kinds of small self-standing racks and so on which can hold newspaper comics, small zines and generally a variety of floppier and fiddlier formats.

Today I'm prepping and cataloguing two fantastic British anthologies: Solipsistic Pop and ink + Paper, edited and curated by Tom Humberstone and David O'Connell respectively. The first edition of Pop was released in November 2009: a bi-annual, themed ('broken, 'wonder' 'maps' ) publication which, along with Nobrow, is the finest British comics anthology we have. ink + Paper is fairly newer, with 3 issues under its belt, but shaping up to be equally significant: the first volume in particular is a stonker. Anthologies are a great way to get introduced to people's work and these are a veritable who's who of British art talent- not only people who draw comics, but illustrators and designers and all manner of creatives. Pop has some fab newsprint comic inserts too.

*Many thanks to Tom and David for donating copies to the collection.

Euan Cook for ink + Paper

Friday, 19 April 2013

Coming along... evolution of a spiffy sexy comic collection

Some quick pictures of the collection, things coming along slowly but well:

And this is the opposite facing side. I've tried creating a little space, a special area of sorts, but as you can see from the pillar, it's a tricky space to work with. Bought in the large board to go behind the table (covered it in comics form last years Free Comic Book Day) to prevent books falling off and to section it, make it a bit more cosy. Thinking of maybe covering the pillar with something...

Not greatly fond of these old wire racks, but you work with what you've got and they allow people to see covers and are good for easy access.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Comics Glossary: the people who make a comic

One of the features of the LCC website will be a comics glossary page, collating various terms specific to comics with definitions that will hopefully make them clearer. What is a gutter, and what does it mean when a  page bleeds? I thought it would be easier to divide these terms into categories so here's a few examples from the first category, which lists all the people/jobs involved in putting together a comic book and what their role entails:

Colourer/Colourist: Once the pencils and inking has been completed, it is the colourist's job to provide the book with an appropriate colour scheme, one that fits the tone and atmosphere of the story. This can sometimes be a collaborative approach, with artists and writers providing input as to the effect they'd like to achieve, but is generally left solely to the colourist to as their area of expertise. 

Writer: This is probably the most straightforward of jobs: the writer of a comic is the person who writes the story. Comics are inherently collaborative, so there can be more than one writer on a comic book at the same time, with people coming up with ideas and stories together. In mainstream, superhero comics, writing can be like a relay, with one writer telling a particular story, and once that story 'arc' has been wrapped up, another writer will take up the baton and tell a different story, but with the same characters. So perhaps not so straightforward after all!

Letterer: The letterer is the person who writes all the dialogue and narrative contained within, and sometimes outside of caption boxes, word balloons etc. Traditionally, this has all been done by hand and largely still is, but the use of digital lettering and creating specialised purpose-built fonts is on the increase, particularly in web-comics.

Comic by Jon Morris

Edward Ross comics: film theory, science and parenthood

Got a fantastic bundle of comics from the talented and generous cartoonist, Edward Ross last week. Ross is a great Edinburgh based artist who works largely in creating non-fiction texts. Included here are:
  • all 3 volumes of Filmish, an excellent ongoing series of essays on film theory
  • Malaria: the battle against a microscopic killer, looking into one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in the world, and what efforts are being made by scientists to overcome it
  • Hope Beyond Hype - exploring the truth about stem cells,
  • and Grow, Ross' most recent, biographical work on parenthood and the experience of becoming a father.
All these will be available to borrow soon after the Easter holidays, but feel free to come down to the library anyway if you want to take a look. In the meantime, both Malaria and Hope Beyond Hype can be accessed digitally and for free, here.

I'm particularly excited to have the Filmish books, which Ross is best known for, and I really like the usage of some of the pages in this A-level display I came across on his website:
'Recently I heard from Peter Redrup, a teacher in an English secondary school, who wanted permission to use Filmish to teach his A-level students about Laura Mulvey and point of view theory.  I thought this was a lovely idea, so with my permission he printed out the whole essay and put it up for his students to read.'

A huge thank you to Edward for his kind donation. You can find out more about his work at his site- here.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Preaching comics

'The graphic novel is a form suited to the contemporary age. I contend that the graphic novel will continue to displace (if never completely replace) purely textual writing and that it will eventually become the most popular form of reading.’ 

-Stephen E Tabachnick, A Comic Book World, 2007

Web-comic resources

I'm working on creating the LCC comics website and have been thinking a fair bit over the structure, layout, content. Currently the online resources- mainly the website- are taking the lion's share of time and effort, but hopefully at the end we'll have something that's fun and informative and useful for all.One of the things I'm really keen to include are web-comics. As well as making a linked sidebar to various ongoing web-comics, such as Bad Machinery, Eat More Bikes, My Cardboard Life, Study Group etc. that update regularly, I want to highlight comics posted online as one-offs, or to share a comic that was a contributed to an anthology and is now make available for everyone, and so on.

Artists like Emily Carroll or Zac Gorman, who make amazing interactive motion comics, where it would be much better (and effective) to show bits of their work, instead of having another long list of links. There's a wealth of stuff out there, so the best way to do this might be to make it a rolling weekly feature: either a 'web-comic of the week' that would stay at the top of the page, or perhaps just as a blog post entry on the main site. Again, one of the things I'd really like to emphasize and showcase is the breadth of art styles, approaches and subject matter on display, with the Internet providing comic artists with a great platform to do exactly that.

Here are some examples:

By Tom Gauld, whose editorial/political cartoons feature in the Guardian amongst other places 

By Zac Gorman

By Zac Gorman, who combines gaming, comics and a hint of animation perfectly

By Kate Beaton, whose comics feature a fabulous mixture of history, literature and lulz

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Best of British: 2000AD!

I thought I'd share some of the books we're being sent for the collection, here's a selection of some fantastic 2000AD collections, provided by the lovely Mike Molcher- thanks Mike! Really pleased to have these in the library.

2000AD -for the uninitiated- is a weekly British comics anthology, focusing largely on stories from the sci-fi genre. It began inception in 1977 and is perhaps most famous for its longest running character, Judge Dredd, a helmeted law enforcer in a dystopian futuristic society, created by John Wagner, Carlos Esquerra and Pat Mills. The anthology has been the launchpad of many a comics career and has featured within its pages the work of Brian Bolland, Alan Grant, Alan Moore, David Hine, Jamie Hewlett, Neil Gaiman, Richard Starkings, Nick Abadzis, Bryan Talbot, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar and Arthur Ranson, to name a few. The comic, referred to as a 'prog,' went digital last year, to great reception.


Here are some pictures of the current library layout. Our library is definitely not a quiet one! (These pictures were taken at about 7 in the evening when its usually a lot quieter). We get hundreds of students visiting each day and we like to facilitate an environment that's both friendly, welcoming and not overly restrictive. The library has 2 meeting rooms, 2 silent study areas, group work computer room and a tutor computer room. In addition to that the main area has 100+ PCs and houses the whole of the fiction, non-fiction and journal catalogue. Which does present the conundrum of exactly where the comics collection will be located, as I'm not putting it amongst the fiction, general or art sections, but giving it its own little area. 

I'll get back to you on that one...

Friday, 22 February 2013

We're building a super comics collection!

Hello and welcome to the Leeds City College Comics Collection blog. That's a mouthful right? Let's go with LCC Comics Collection :)

My name is Zainab Akhtar and I work as a library facilitator at the Park Lane Campus library/LRC, which is the largest of the college's libraries. I'm also studying full-time for my Masters in librarianship and when I can squeeze the time, I write for two excellent comic sites, Forbidden Planet International and The Beat, as well as being a committee member for the British Comic Awards. Above all that though, I simply love comics in all forms, shapes and sizes (more of which below), and with this in mind, I'm banging rocks together to put together a strong comics collection here at the college. Luckily, both the English and Art departments (subject areas most closely associated with the medium) are located at this campus, making it easier to work with the faculties to which the collection will perhaps be most pertinent. The aim of this blog is to chart the development of a comics collection and everything that entails, such as:

  • building a diverse comics collection in terms of both content and form
  • developing a collection policy
  • building and setting up an accompanying website with resources, news etc
  • engaging and liaising with faculty about the collection and the ways in which it can be utilised
  • involving students in the development of collection and its space- a proposed 'Art Wall' and newsletter
  • setting up social media accounts for the collection
  • identifying a space in the library where the collection will be housed and making best use of that space
  • storage/display solutions for small press publications which won't shelve with books
  • training other staff who may not be as familiar with the material
  • reaching out to and establishing contacts with pertinent organisations to see what we can offer one another
  • events
These are just some of the long and short term plans I've identified in order for the collection to be used as significant resource, for learning and for pleasure. The main thing to work around (in building the collection), and an obstacle many libraries in the UK will no doubt recognise, is the lack of money. Like many institutions, the college is feeling the effects of cost-cutting measures and budget tightening, so in the first instance, I've been allocated a teeny-tiny budget with which to buy a core essential of 10/12 comic books. I don't see this as a deterrent to my plans, however.

The aim of the collection at this point is to introduce comics to a student body who are largely unfamiliar with the medium and show them the capabilities and possibilities of what it has, and can, achieve- something that I believe can be done with even a limited but strong selection of material. In that spirit, I've kicked of proceedings by donating a portion of my ever-expanding personal hoard- most of my books I buy, but I also get sent quite a few review copies, which I'm going to start including here once I've finished with them. My hope is that the success of this initiative will lead to an increase in the resources available, but it makes sense at this point in time to not invest money that is much needed elsewhere into something which is as yet, unproven in worth (be looking to change that!).

I've been working at the college for over a year now, so I suppose a legitimate question you could ask is- why now? The answer is fairly straightforward. Here in the UK, we're experiencing a particular rich period in which to be involved in the medium, particularly as a reader and fan. Superb British publishers such as Nobrow, Blank Slate Books, Self Made Hero, Jonathan Cape have done an outstanding and relentless job over the years in curating talent, producing comics and championing these publications. Recently the fruits of all this labour has been falling off the tree in rapid conjunction: the inaugural British Comics Awards took place last year, the nominations and win of Joff Winterhart and Bryan and Mary Talbot's excellent books in the Costas, wins for Jon McNaught and Glyn Dillon at the most prestigious comics event of them all- Angouleme-, a particularly resurgent 2000AD, the excellent Phoneix children's comic- have gone some way in cementing the validation of the medium in a manner previously unseen.

It's a huge shame, then, that in the midst of all these positive steps, happenings and progress, still only a small proportion of people are aware of what is being achieved, the breadths being explored and the vast dimensions of the medium. It's a shame that people still fell the need to question the legitimacy of comics as literature. To focus on the good, though, apart from harbouring a passion and attempting to share that, what this means is that it's the perfect time to bring some much needed recognition to an artform that's diverse, entertaining, informative and innovative. Hopefully, this collection will convince more people of all these things that comics are, and can be.

In the meantime, I'd like to put a call out for any donations of comic books in good condition, so if you're a librarian or publisher, or just wanting to maybe downsize your own collection, please get in touch and spread the word. For that and any other queries, you can contact me at zainab.akhtar@leedscitycollege.ac.uk

You can also follow us on twitter at LCC Comics, for the easiest way to keep up with happenings.

By Michael Kupperman