Comic book shop owner discusses 'graphic novels'
He has a right to be - Superman just ripped a hole in the Batmobile, and is ruining the caped crusader's plans for crime fighting.
A battle must ensue, and it does, in what Pat Callanan calls "the first real graphic novel," and one of the best - "The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller.
This book, along with many others, is part of the Ridgefield Library's collection of graphic novels, and a big part of this year's summer reading program, "Another Super Summer."
As part of the program, Callanan, owner of Cave Comics in Newtown, was brought in as a guest speaker.
Callanan talked about comics, the industry, and history - much of which is intertwined with the modern history of Connecticut.
With original art and a keen knowledge of comics, he kept a middle-school age audience interested.
Not that the audience was at a loss for comic knowledge.
Several of the audience members contributed - comics interest them greatly, and that, in turn, has caught the interest of teachers and librarians nationwide.
Graphic novels are "the new big thing in libraries," said Callanan, "because it's cool stuff."
Callanan, who drives an SUV with a license plate that says "BATMAN," is happy about this trend. It is, he said, an important help to kids, letting them "just get into the habit of reading."
"That's how I started," he added. Callanan, who started reading comics 45 years ago, is now, he said, an avid reader.
The trend started about two years ago, when the American Library Association made "Get Graphic" the theme of its annual teen read week, said Geri Diorio, the teen services librarian at the Ridgefield Library.
Graphic novels and comics "will likely draw in reluctant readers," said Diorio. "A novel can be intimidating ... all of those words staring at you," she said. A graphic novel is more accessible to those who may not yet be accustomed to regular reading.
Diorio, who "got hooked" on comics during college and was proudly sporting her "Superman" t-shirt during the presentation, said that concerns about the quality of the material in graphic novels are unfounded.
"Don't let anybody tell you that comics aren't good to read," she told the group. "There's some good writing in comics."
Callanan agrees, pointing to the people who are writing graphic novels. "There are a lot of big-time authors doing comics these days," he said.
All of this, he said, comes as part of a "greater expansion" and acceptance of the comic book genre. The rise in comic-based movies (Marvel Comics' X-Men and Spiderman movies come to mind, along with DC's upcoming Superman and Batman movies) is another way this is being shown he said.
In Connecticut, comics are coming back in a big way. The Connecticut Historical Society Museum is showing "Heroes, Heart-throbs and Horrors" this summer, an exhibit all about comics and how, right in Connecticut, they got started.
With all this it is no surprise to Diorio that "graphic novels seem to be catching on in the public eye."
For now, said Diorio, graphic novels are serving an important role in the library - getting kids to read. "As long as they're reading," she said, "I'm happy."