Julia Hanson SPX Review

Upon entering SPX, I was immediately struck by the wide range of artists and writers present in the convention. What also struck me was that distinction in general: the difference between artist and writer. Some people I talked to defined themselves as artists and some as writers, and some as both. As a newcomer to the graphic novel/comic narrative world, I thought this difference was really interesting. The idea that these people express their thoughts and experiences, or those they have fictionalized, through graphic design is fascinating to me because, as an English major and creative writing minor, I would not think to use images to convey thoughts or expressions.


One man I talked to wrote a few different comics about his time living in New York City in the 1970s. The way he wrote the text on the images was very sparse/almost messy compared to the details of the images, which dealt with sexuality, race, drug use, and the chaos of the city at the time in general. The images depicted the issues he went through, and the people he experienced the times with. I found myself much more engrossed in the images than the text, although the stories were engrossing and the dialogue was well written. Perhaps it is just because I am not yet used to the medium, but I sometimes find it distracting to have the juxtaposition of detailed images and scene-heavy text because I feel one takes away from the other.


Another artist I talked to had written a comic about her first year living alone in Philadelphia. It was called “One Year” and was a really interesting juxtaposition of change of seasons, relationships, emotions, etc. about moving and growing up. I thought it was a great story and talked to the artist about her work, and she told me about how she considers herself an artist instead of a writer. She attended art school and talked about how she became interested in comics then, instead of before. I thought that was interesting because she had such an effective narrative in the book.


Chris Ware’s panel was also interesting to me. Our class had already talked about his self-deprecating personality, which definitely came off in his interview. It was really interesting to me that although he has had such success, he was reluctant to talk about his plans for the future or his regard in the community. I think, though, that many of the artists I met or spoke to shared this demeanor and overall, I think it really helps the work. Many of the themes I noticed in the work were depression, loneliness, rejection, feeling out of place, etc. It makes sense that confident writers or artists wouldn’t be very good at conveying these feelings, so while it was strange to see someone as successful as Chris Ware, for example, putting down himself and his own work, it personifies the work as a whole and ultimately has the right effect in conveying the themes and the personal experience of the comics.