WAC Fest Schedule

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It’s A Kind of Magic: Jess Smart Smiley

There’s this page in Craig Thompson’s graphic novel, Blankets, where Craig hops into a van with his friend and turns around to wave goodbye to his mom. The panels where Craig opens the van door, sits down, turns, and waves to his mom are quick and wordless. Forgettable. At the bottom of the page (where this part of the story ends), Craig’s mom is left in a snowy parking lot. The tracks of the van lead away from mom, toward the van in the distance. What we, the reader, are left with is the distance between Craig and his mom. We can actually see it! The panel has no border, so the moment after saying goodbye reaches up and out of the page, floating through the rest of the book–a moment that permeates all other moments.


I grew up reading superhero comics: X-Men, Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, etc. The idea of people with superhuman abilities was really exciting to me, and I loved it when two different powers butted heads: Jubliee’s colorful plasmoids against Juggernaut’s brute strength, Batman’s resourcefulness countering Joker’s influential mania, the versatile Fantastic Four battling a variety of supernatural creatures and forces.


I must have been 12 when I found Maus at my local library. It was at the same time that I was introduced to Jeff Smith’s Bone series. These two stories showed me a side of comics that I hadn’t experienced in superhero comics or the Sunday “funnies”–they felt more “real” to me than most of the superhero stories I had read, and the characters and ideas stayed with me much longer. Because of these two books, I was able to find all sorts of great stories told as comics: biographies of cartoonists traveling the world, fantastical creatures living in impossible worlds, moments and figures from history, doctorate-level research on genetics, mathematics, and philosophy–even meandering stories with no apparent narrative!


More people are reading more comics than at any other time or any other place in history. Amazing! Because comics are so accessible to so many people, more and more individuals are finding a voice within comics. They are making their own comics, and the ways we use comics are changing, adapting to our ever-changing technologies. The stories we tell through comics are changing, which makes this an incredibly exciting time for us readers. Comics are happening right now, and I think that is a kind of magic.

-Jess Smart Smiley

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To see more of Jess’s work:




Between the Panels: Brantz

I know that people see me as someone that fits in, but I don’t always feel that way. I feel like the awkward taxidermy squirrel at parties. People stop to look for a bit and think it’s interesting, but then quickly move on.

…but comics make me come alive. When I am in a group of people who enjoy comics, I feel like I belong. Those who consume and create comics understand my rhythm and beat because they have experienced the panel progressions, the beautiful ink strokes, the compelling dialogue, and the expressiveness of the medium. The power. They can express things that other literature can’t and tell you a story that works of “fine art” only dream of doing. Comics are amazing


Comics have been the friend I needed when I moved on to Jr. High, moved to college, got home from 2 years in Brasil, got engaged (and then disengaged), graduated from college and started trying to be an adult, etc. Through thick and thin comics have been there to help me feel and express what I am feeling so that I could get through it.

There is something magical that happens between the actions of the panels that draws me in, that heals me and helps me to feel better about things. That is why I love comics.

You can check out some of my work, my life and things that inspire me at brantzwoolsey.tumblr.comtumblr_static_bgiyyyg5nb40cso0c84gw0g4k

Putting It All Together: Cord

There are so many reasons I love comics as an art form, but something that stands out is their deceptive complexity. Comics are enormous puzzles, with so many visual, emotional, and intellectual pieces interlocking to form the whole.

The visual language of comics is a puzzle on its own. The sheer volume of requirements to make a single page read fluidly, clearly, and still be visually interesting is daunting. Designing words and pictures in an appealing composition which leads the eye through a single panel, on through the next, and the next, and so on until you’ve filled a page, which also requires it’s own appealing compostion, balance and flow when viewed as a whole. And what about that page when viewed next to its neighbor? And each of these elements must contribute clearly to the story, action, and emotional tone or the whole lot is moot!

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There are a lot of pieces in that puzzle box. So, when you’re done making the mental reminder to go read some Scott McCloud, we can look into another puzzle box. One not so straight-forward.

I’ve always found myself speculating on the inner lives of others. What makes this guy tick? What drives this girl to behave the way she does? What life experiences have shaped the person in front of me, and how do these experiences affect their actions, thoughts, and mannerisms?

Creator-owned comics are a playground to me for this reason. A creator pulls you into his or her world and shows you around. What does Bone tell us about Jeff Smith? What mix of experiences led him to use these three soft, essentially blank characters to tell an increasingly deep and serious fantasy magnum opus? And what gave him the grit to stick it out for 1300 pages? What does Hellboy say about Mignola? Friends with Boys about Faith Erin Hicks? How about Brandon Graham’s work? Comics has allowed these artists to pour their thoughts and motives onto paper, hidden (perhaps even from the artists themselves) in a fun, thrilling, or moving story. The pieces of the puzzle are there for us to put together, some simple and some complex.

I’m not entirely sure what drives me to put such thought into the inner lives of others. Hopefully one day someone can look back on a pile of comics I’ve made and help me put my own puzzle together.

Anyway, go read a comic today, folks. You never know what you might pick up from it.

More from me at cordnielson.tumblr.com

Frozen in Time: Spencer

There are many things I love about comics. But only a few of those things are unique to comics. Probably my favorite of those unique-to-comics things is the way comics melds words and pictures. The drawings in comics can crash, flap, whoosh and talk. The sounds are written and drawn, the characters interact more than just visually with their world.


Now, you might think “A film does all of this!” but in film can you see the sounds? Can you see the voices of the characters? (I’ll admit, there are a few) ‘Silent film!” you’ll say, but in silent film you take breaks from the pictures to see the words, like captions at the bottom of a book illustration, which brings me to my next favorite unique-to-comics thing, which is Time. In comics, neither the artist nor the writer can force you to keep reading, to slow down, or to speed up (Although they try, and many are quite good at it!) Unlike in radio, film and theater, in comics you can stop and stare as long as you want! You can skip to the double page spread because when flipping through it in the shop it caught your eye and you just couldn’t wait till page 16 to find out what that big monster was doing on that space station. You can freeze time and examine the art, and the words, and the art again, or you can skip the words all together and just look! (and many of us do. I own many more comics in languages I can’t read than I probably should) For me, comics are immersive, completely engrossing, but fascinating because the curtains and makeup and special effects are all plain to see! The action happens in boxes (or it doesn’t) the words in balloons (sometimes) there are advertisements (but hopefully not) the characters don’t move yet they seem to leap somehow.
If you’re curious about comics, read some! Maybe the stories, the characters, the art or the dialogue will keep you coming back, or maybe it will be those few things that can only be found in comics.
To see more work by Spencer:

Girlz and Comics: Normandie

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For a long time I imagined that the comic world was mostly a boy’s club, where teenage boys could go geek out over gross monsters and superheroes in various tight costumes. I was never into the idea, and I guess that’s still not my jam. But becoming friends with some cool comic people, like most of the people who are helping to make WACfest, helped me to see that there’s a whole world of comics that can reach all sorts of interests and genres.

It probably took me a while to get into comics because I never saw myself in them. That all changed with Graphic Novels and great writers and illustrators like Jillian Tamaki and Lilli Carre. I’m all for people sharing their stories and I love that Graphic Novels can explore a breadth of emotion. They can show everything in the small moments as well as the big action scenes with the WACK! BAM! POW!

My dream comic would probably consist of Mindy Kaling and Lorelei Gilmore having a blast talking about their drama and making it look oh so good. And like Ghandi said, be the change you wish to see in the world: FairyGodFeminist.tumblr.com