While New Yorkers are generally unfazed by unusual fashion choices, a man in a mask and cape might draw stares. But not at GallaCon, Gallatin School of Individualized Study’s first comic convention on Tuesday night at the Jerry H. Labowitz Theater for the Performing Arts.
Even though the event lacked some of the flamboyant costumes usually present at New York City’s annual Comic-Con, the event was nonetheless brimming with students and alumni eager to learn about professional comic book illustrators and editors.
GallaCon featured three panels who focused on the way in which comic books intersect with contemporary culture.
Daniel Ketchum, the first speaker who graduated from Gallatin in 2006 and now works as an associate editor at Marvel Comics, discussed the impact of gay and female characters on the comic book world.
“Marvel’s first openly gay character was Northstar in 1992, but I didn’t come across him much,” Ketchum said.
“Specifically, the character of Storm was my favorite [as a child] because … she was this powerful black woman,” he said. “What’s great about her was that she was the first female leader of the X-Men. Before that, it was all about the valiant blonde, white guys, and I liked that she added a different narrative to the world.”
Following Ketchum, the audience was treated to the perspective of two women doing prominent work in their respective fields — comic book artist Amy Reeder, a prominent cartoonist known for her work on Batwoman and Madame Xanadu, and Heidi MacDonald, editor of “The Beat,” a news blog devoted to comic culture. MacDonald emphasized the need for a change of perspective regarding women in comics.
“There are more women doing comics than ever before,” MacDonald said. “But there have been amazingly successful women doing comics for more than 100 years, and to me its just super important to point out that it’s a tapestry and a pathway and a long heritage, not just a sudden burst on the scene.”
“There’s all different types of females in comics, I think, and they all have different philosophies on how they want to be treated. I have friends who wouldn’t want to be on a women in comics panel,” Reeder said.
Gallatin sophomore Peter Sailer, who is interested in the way comics intersect with society, attended the event. He appreciated the professional importance placed on the comic industry.
“[I] like to look at comic books, but [I] also like to get real world experience [by] trying to intern at places like Marvel or Japanese comics publishers,” Sailer said.
Helen Holmes is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]