This evening, I sat in a small auditorium with a crowd of artists and intellectuals. On the stage sat three men: Dez Skinn, the British comics editor who founded Warrior magazine and helped launch the careers of Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, Alan Moore, and Grant Morrison. Charles Kochman, an American graphic novel editor who championed Diary of a Wimpy Kid into print. And Qais Sedki, Emirati founder of Pageflip Publishing and author of the Arabic-language, manga-style comic Gold Ring, winner of the 2010 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Children’s Literature. We were at a symposium on Middle Eastern comics. I had out my notebook, ready to scribble ideas if any occurred. Instead, I wrote pages and pages of notes, desperately scratching out quotes in shorthand and trying not to miss a word, making comparisons and side comments in the margins. The audience carried the symposium overtime with questions, including a fascinating back-and-forth about comics and libraries between the panelists and my own wife that had the panelists themselves leaning forward in their seats, nodding and asking questions of their own and celebrating librarians and comics and the engaging discourse of the whole evening. Afterward, we mingled in the lobby and chatted over fruit and cakes with a pair of Belgians, discussing the differences between American and European comics and sharing titles we should read.
Oh, how I love academia.