Sometimes it’s nice to have a visual aid.
For some it’s a sentiment that fades away some time after early childhood, replaced by a nagging but unmistakable sensation that words should only be accompanied by illustrations that resemble bar graphs or pie charts.
It’s a mark of maturity, a rite of passage to leave the picture books behind and brave entire pages of print where the font is small and the paragraphs flow endlessly one into the other.
And yet …
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Up on the second floor of Schlow Centre Region Library, an entire comics shop worth of graphic novels sits spread out across several shelves.
Spider-Man. The Fantastic Four. Watchmen. All are colorful representatives of one of the library’s highest-circulating collections — and positioned nowhere near the children’s section.
On July 11, graphic novels will take center stage at this year’s BookFest PA.
Visitors will have the opportunity to attend panels focusing on the history and technique that drive visual storytelling and meet with professional writers and artists working in the medium
“I don’t think we’re aware of the whole process it takes to manufacture a comic,” Maria Burchill, head of adult services at Schlow Library, said.
This is the first time that the event has centered on a specific theme, an attempt to use a narrower focus to attract a broader audience.
Fortunately as luck — or some very shrewd strategizing — would have it, comics also happens to dovetail perfectly with this summer’s library-wide reading motif of escaping the ordinary.
It’s an appetizing prospect and one that graphic novels are uniquely suited toward, even if they ultimately end up taking a back seat to more traditional fare.
“They don’t have the same prestige in many ways as straight up literary fiction,” Burchill said.
Correcting that perception is one of the aims of this year’s BookFest, a six-hour acknowledgement of graphic novels and their legitimate place in literature.
And what would legitimate literature be without copious amounts of over-analysis?
Collin Colsher, a comic book historian and Penn State alumnus, will kick off the festival with a look back at the almost 75 years of history surrounding DC Comic’s own Dark Knight.
Colsher is the creator of The Real Batman Chronology project, a website that attempts to put every Batman story ever told into chronological order — an endeavor complicated by the fact that the Caped Crusader has endured several reboots, retellings and alternate timelines, complexities that are not totally uncommon in the world of comics.
Another panel will focus on the industry itself. A panel of artists and writers such as Dave DeVries and Alitha Martinez will discuss all of the work that goes into creating a comic.
While all of this sounds pretty serious, don’t worry — there will be costumes involved.
Visitors are invited to dress as their favorite graphic novel characters. Prizes will be awarded for best overall costume, most accurate representation and best children’s costume.
“I’m just hoping that people have fun and that they enjoy themselves,” Burchill said.