The S.O. and I just got back from a week-long vacation in Ithaca, NY -- hanging out with a bunch of new friends and generally having a great time. (Fairly cheaply, too, considering we were gone for a whole week and had some excellent accommodations.) But, relevant to you -- the comics aficionado -- I also partook of some comic-related events that I thought I'd share here.
Before going, one of our friends pointed out to me that Ithaca has had a comic book club for many years, and one of their meetings happened to fall on the day we were rolling into town. The Comic Book Club of Ithaca was founded back in the 1970s and has continued through to this day. They've even gotten substantial enough to host Ithacon on a regular basis. They meet twice a month at the local library in one of the meeting rooms, and chat about comics. There's generally a theme to each meeting, and the discussion is in a round-table format. People are encouraged to bring examples relevant to the discussion, and the atmosphere is decidedly casual and friendly.
The meeting I attended was focused on "media comics" -- comics which are based on licenses and properties initially developed for another medium, everything from Tarzan to Mickey Mouse to Jerry Lewis to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was cordially met by one of organizers upon entering the library and he provided a robust accounting of the organization while we waited for the other members to arrive. Once everyone who was expected to be there was present, we began by looking at some TPB collections one of the members brought in showing off some stories about Animaniacs, Star Wars, Donald Duck and others. Lots of interesting tidbits were brought up, like citing how many "mainstream" comic creators that are well-known today got their start working on comparatively "obscure" books like Dr. Who and noting the single instance of Carl "The Good 'Duck' Artist" Barks drawing a Porky Pig story!
The overall discussion also tackled specific questions relating to media comics such as "What was the earliest media comic?" and "What media comics grew to be more popular than their source material?" These particulars were left somewhat open-ended as we were discussing things in more general terms, rather than doing actual research. We didn't have a lot of hard information in front of us and obviously didn't have much time to do anything comprehensive. But the range of backgrounds and experiences everyone provided made for a very well-rounded discussion.
Most of the time these days, I have my comic conversations like this. Online, over the course of days and weeks. The organic nature of an in-person panel discussion -- one that's a little more directed than random conversations started in your Local Comic Shop on any given Wednesday -- can be really invigorating with a good group of people. If I were better at organizing things like that, I'd seriously look into starting such a group in my area.
It was really a great start to my time in Ithaca. The discussion was smart and engaging, the guys (none of the female members made it to that particular meeting) were all friendly and inviting, and the whole atmosphere was very comfortable -- even for an introverted outsider like myself. It really struck me as a great group, and I'd definitely enjoy dropping in on future meetings the next time I'm in the Ithaca area. Thanks to Alec, Bill, Jeff and Will for helping to kick off a really enjoyable vacation!