Graphic novels and the illustrative style of comic making have seen a resurgence over the past decade. While DC and Marvel have been pumping out comic-based movies at an excessive pace, often with amazing box-office success despite how often these extremely hyped movies lack substance, a subculture of comic art is on the rise.
Because mainstream media has been reaping the financial benefits of the genre for quite some time now, comic connoisseurs and graphic novel enthusiasts continue to engage in a subculture without the majority of us recognizing it. Zine culture and comic publishing powerhouses like Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal and Fantacomics in New York have been the pounding hearts of this subculture, which thrives on the artistic style and narrative potential of comics.
Sackville is the ideal setting for a drastically different but comparably successful comic culture to exist and potentially thrive. “The Sensual World,” an exhibit at the Owens curated by gallery intern and Mt. A alumni Patrick Allaby, the Sappyfest and CHMA zine fairs and the Argosy humour section all play a role in supporting comic culture here in Sackville.
Artists have been exploring the literary and visual potential of the comic in Sackville for quite some time. This form of art fits nicely into Sackville’s artistic and cultural niche, particularly in its emphasis on handmade production.
“The Sappy[fest] zine fair is one of the more important zine fairs in New Brunswick, and that’s in Sackville. There are a lot of fine arts students who make zines. We have one prof, Jerry Ropson, who’s been getting a lot of the students into zine culture. We also have quite a few local artists who make zines,” fourth-year fine arts student Jeff Mann said.
Last week at the Owens, Canadian author and illustrator Meags Fitzgerald discussed her graphic memoir Long Red Hair, the follow-up to her hugely celebrated Photobooth: A Biography. Fitzgerald is a graphic novelist with sharp wit and an infectious aura. Despite her bright personality, she had a message of caution for those intrigued by this particular art practice.
“I think everyone should draw comics, but at the same time I would also tell everyone and anyone to never start drawing comics,” Fitzgerald said. She explained that she suffered from physical ailments during the creation of her first novel, a consequence she did not anticipate.
She also reflected on the relatable struggle to balance work with emotional and mental health. “While taking a shower, I felt guilty I wasn’t working on the novel,” she said.
On the appeal of the graphic novel and comic as literary forms, Fitzgerald referred to the advantage that images “[register] faster than words.”
“You can read a graphic novel faster than a book,” she said. “[Images] really resonate with me, it hits deeper in that feeling place.”
For Mann, the term “comic” is “a slippery term,” since he believes that “just because [something is] a comic does not mean that it’s not a work of art … comics can be way more powerful that a work of art in a gallery. I would be a comic book artist if comics weren’t so daunting. I think that there are a few successful artists out there that are failed comic book artists.”
As the comic, graphic novel and zine continue to gain recognition in popular culture, it will be interesting to watch and, for some, participate in the evolution of comic culture in Sackville.