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Benjamin Russell

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Monday, October 15, 2007


October: Graphic Pop!

October's theme for the library was designed to tie in to the 2007 version of the traditional 24-Hour Comic Day festival of marathon creativity. For those of you who don't know, 24 Hour Comics Day is a project devised by Understanding Comics scribe Scott McCloud, who came up with the idea that since a commercial comic book is approximately twenty-four pages, and since a day is approximately twenty-four hours long, it would be an interesting experiment to see if people could write, pencil, letter, and ink a full twenty-four page comic in a marathon twnety-four hour session.

Many people have taken him up on this challenge, and the BHS Library is going to be participating in the event as well this year, albeit to a reduced degree. While commercial comics are typically 22 or 24 pages in length these days, the eight-page comic is also a staple of the industry. Short stories in comics were often a dense, pithy eight pages, and the length of the business day is eight hours. Which seems like a much more manageble span of time for me to be responsible for a group of students who might want to try making their own mini-comics as an artistic and creative experiment.

FLICKR: Roy Lichtenstein - 'Okay Hot-Shot' (1963)In addition to a display of comics and graphic novels — all sent to the librarian for review by School Library Journal — and a small collection of how-to texts about composing comic, the library is also displaying as decoration two reproductions of works by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein did a lengthy series of lithographs based upon panels from war and romance comics, enlarged to show a representation of the four-color printing process, specifically large circles of color instead of a solid wash within the stark black outlines. Lichtenstein's mission was to make "high" art out of "low" art, specifically to change the context of the comic panel from a piece of a pulp storyline into a single, larger-than-life representative image that could be viewed on a scale that might allow it to be seen as elevated instead of either mundane or depraved.

FLICKR: Roy Lichtenstein - 'Drowning Girl' (1963)Students who have listened to the refrain about proper citation, bibliographies, and the perils of plagiarism may be interested to learn that Lichtenstein actually reproduced these panels from existing artwork. He redrew them, re-colored them, and moved things around for a particular emphasis, but the work is clearly a specific recreation of someone else's efforts. A high school teacher, David Barsalou, is attempting to similarly recontextualize Roy Lichtenstein's work as simple theft, and not elevated or "high" art at all, but something that should, perhaps, be removed from the canon of respectable work as viewed in museums and studied in classrooms. Lichtenstein may have recreated the works and provided a certain context for them, but he certainly does leave a lagacy of a mixed message: if the "low" art of comics really was art all along, as his enlarged recreations suggest, then why did he not give credit to the original comic book artists? This is the open question the library hopes to add to the common discourse as students work in the library on their research.

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