Tagged: Lisa Carr

Ed Catto: Inspiring Creativity – 100 years later

This is a little story of a little town that shifted from stoking fear to promoting creativity.

A few days before Christmas 1949, one of the Catholic elementary schools in Auburn, a small town nestled in Central New York state, encouraged children to bring their comic books from home and burn them in a school bonfire. The fear was that reading comics promoting juvenile delinquency. In fact, the school’s principal would even write a positive letter about the burning that was published in the local paper, The Auburn Citizen. This was before those misguided efforts really gained steam, culminating in the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency, focusing on comic books.

But a lot has happened since then. The region gave birth to one of the first-generation comic shops. Several more would follow, and recently the town just enjoyed its first comic convention.

And to celebrate the annual Will Eisner Week, Auburn hosted two events. Will Eisner week is a worldwide annual event that celebrates the birth of Will Eisner, called by many the father of Graphic Novels. And to make it special, 2017 marked the centennial celebration.

“Comic books are truly international. Will Eisner Week is celebrated in Angouleme, France to Sofia, Bulgaria, in Amherst, Massachusetts to Winter Park, Florida, in libraries, museums, bookstores, comic book shops, and online. Will Eisner was born in Brooklyn, New York 100 years ago during the Great Depression of first-generation immigrant parents, but even at an early age, he knew that comic books could be literature and would eventually hang on museum walls,” said Carl and Nancy Gropper of the Will & Ann Family Eisner Foundation. “We therefore celebrate sequential art, graphic novels, free speech, and his enduring legacy.”

On Eisner’s actual birthday, I presented an overview of the Will’s career and showed part of the 2008 movie, The Spirit, at The Seymour Memorial Library. This small town library embraces creativity and has a fantastic graphic novel collection. This library was actually designed by the same team who created the iconic New York Public Library, so there’s an impressive majesty to it all. The Library’s Director, Lisa Carr, is an enthusiastic proponent of graphic novels and has worked with Seymour’s Community Services Coordinator Jaclyn Kolb to create this unique event.

The following night, the Auburn Public Theater screened the documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist, followed by a Q & A session. Angela Daddabbo, one of Auburn’s most passionate and creative voices, works hard to ensure that this venue provides a variety of enriching events to the local population.

Geek Culture at large got behind these events too. Paul Levitz donated an autographed copy of his recent book: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel. Dynamite Entertainment donated comics of Will Eisner’s The Spirit (by Matt Wagner, Dan Schkade and Brennan Wagner) and Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpsemakers #1 (by Francesco Francavilla) as well a hardcover of the recent Will Eisner’s The Spirit collection. Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con awarded three pairs of tickets to lucky attendees for their upcoming June comic convention.

“We’re thrilled by all the events for Will Eisner Week, especially in this Centennial year., in which we have over 100 events worldwide! I’m especially encouraged when new cities, like Auburn, New York, join the celebration,” said author/editor Danny Fingeroth, Chair of Will Eisner Week.

It was an invigorating experience for all involved. And Auburn’s pretty much stopped burning comics.

 

Ed Catto: No More Shh-ing in the Library

Seymour LIbraryIf you’re passionate about Geek Culture, you probably should (1) promote it by bringing new people into the fold, and (2) prune your collection to keep it robust and manageable. I’m typically pretty good at the first and pretty bad at the second. But last weekend I tried something new and I had an experience that was better than expected.

First, a little background. I grew up in Auburn, a small town in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. I was surrounded by about a million Italian relatives, a downtown that could have been the basis for Smallville, and an outstanding library. It was called the Seymour Library and was built around the turn of century by the firm of Carrere and Hastings. You may know them from another one of their works – the New York Public Library.

My mom led us on weekly excursions to return and borrow books. She’d choose a bunch from the new fiction/mystery section, read the best one or two, and then repeat the process the following week. Likewise, my brother and I would do the same in the children’s section. I’d shift my focus from time to time. I’d be interested in Hardy Boys books for a while, then Robin Hood books (he was big back then), then sports books (Matt Christopher was a favorite) and then dinosaur books. Always dinosaur books, in fact.

After I had checked out every dinosaur book in the children’s section at least once, I got a little pushy. I boldly told our beloved librarian, Mrs. Pine, that she needed to get more dinosaur books. I was a bit of a brat, eh?

Library Lisa Carr Books DonatedBut my real passion was comics. Back then, there were only a few books about comics. To me that universe was confined to Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes, Batman from the 30’s to the 70’s (and the Superman companion book) and Les Daniels’ Comix: A History of Comic Books in America. One other one, All In Color for a Dime by Don Thompson and Dick Lupoff, was like Bigfoot/ I just knew it was out there but never saw it.

So, flash forward to 2015. I’m a guy with overgrown collections of comics and books about comics. It’s time to prune those collections. And I thought my hometown library might be good pass along some of these books.

My Aunt Marcia, a well-read and supportive relative, introduced me to Lisa Carr, who is now the Library’s Director. She’s the energetic type that makes you realize how far libraries have come. I can’t imagine her ever shh-ing anyone in Seymour Library.

She’s all about creating excitement and addressing the ever-changing needs of her community. I explained that I’d like to make a donation of comic related books and graphic novels. She was both excited and gracious.

Lisa, and her staff, welcomed me with open arms (literally) as I brought my donation into the library. We chatted about Batman and Raina Telgemeier and how things had changed over the years. She then showed me the graphic novel section that they had built and I was so impressed. I checked out IDW’s The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke for my dad, in fact.

One of the other librarians explained that the character Nightwing was her favorite. My eight year-old self would never have believed that one day I’d be talking about Nightwing, essentially a grown-up Robin, to an authority figure in the library. It’s amazing how far Geek Culture has come.

So, a nice little chunk of my collection now resides in the Seymour Library Graphic Novel section. It was a great experience for me and I’d encourage any fellow hoarders collectors out there to consider the benefits of donating. Mrs. Pine, that wonderful librarian who fanned the flames of my passion for reading all those years ago, would be pleased to know that each of my donated books will have a special bookplate with a dedication to her.

And I think they have plenty of dinosaur books now too. I can’t really help with that.