Denver Comic Con 2016 Day 1
As someone who is brand new to the Denver Comic Con, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect for the first day. As a fan of graphic novels and their use with audiences both young and old, I was very impressed with the comic book related panel offerings for the first day of DCC. The partnership with Pop Culture Classroom has created an atmosphere for the con that focuses on a love of learning and diversity that I immediately fell in love with. While it’s great to have celebrity guests, I adore that DCC and Pop Culture Classroom are making an effort to help all ages learn about comic books, game design and cosplay among others.
I had the opportunity to attend a panel on comic book storytelling which had Jim Shooter (former Marvel Editor in Chief) as speaker. This was an incredible panel that I think was a must-see for anyone who’s even remotely interested in comic books. Shooter presented a Fantastic Four comic created by the dynamic duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and explained many of the artistic choices which made Kirby one of the most talented comic book illustrators ever. I’ve been reading comic books for close to ten years now and this panel was honestly an eye opening experience.
Shooter showed how Kirby used body language and the framing of shots to tell the story. He pointed out a series of panels in the Fantastic Four comic in which the construction of Kirby’s panels actually made it so that a reader could look at the panels without dialogue and still know what’s going on in the story. When Kirby used distant shots, he used exaggerated gestures by the figures in the panel to make the events in the panel very clear. He used simple, comfortable eye-level shots to introduce action without making it confusing for the reader and full body shots to focus on important figures like Johnny Storm and Captain America. All of these artistic choices made Kirby an incredible artist who could create story all on his own and make simple stories both exciting and accessible for all types of readers.
This panel was meant for both readers and potential creators of comic books and it provided a lot of valuable information for both without being boring to one or the other. Along with understanding the construction of the panels in terms of the art, Shooter also gave a lot of advice on how to use simple layouts when you’re first becoming involved with the industry so that you can get to know what works and what doesn’t. He spoke about his experience with one of the most famous comic book author/illustrators, Frank Miller, when Miller was just 19. Miller was just getting started in the industry and while working on a short job for Shooter, finally had a break through where he started to understand that while exciting and different layouts can be fun, the role of a layout first and foremost is to tell a story. You can’t just immediately be like Will Eisner and invent new forms without first learning the art.
Shooter’s experience in the technical aspects of comic books made the panel on comic book storytelling both informative and highly entertaining. It was clear that he had high standards for both the art and writing of books in the genre and genuinely wanted comic books to reach as great a readership as possible. The panel fit Pop Culture Classroom’s mission of promoting love of learning and all things nerdy and was truly a wonderful experience. He will be speaking at a panel about comic book writing on Day 3 (Sunday) that I would highly recommend attending if you can! Tomorrow I’m hoping to catch some celebrity appearances and find out what some of the major comic book publishers are up to this year so keep an eye out for that update!