At four in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 2, the campus of UMass in Amherst will be the site of a panel discussionabout comics and graphic novels featuring two relics—I mean, veterans—of the underground comix movement of the 1970s, plus a member of today’s emerging generation of adventurous comics creators.
One of the aforementioned veterans will be Gary Hallgren of Air Pirates fame; the other one will be me. Sharing the stage with Gary and me will be Sophia Weideman, who will have to wait a few years before attaining the relic/veteran status that Gary and I enjoy but who appears to be making good use of her talents in the meantime.
Gary and I are longtime friends and I’m looking forward to meeting Sophia. Furthermore, if you’re near enough to Amherst to come and be part of our audience in Room 227 of Herter Hall, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you, too!
Moderating our panel, by the way, will be another old friend: N. C. Christopher Couch, co-author with Stephen Weiner of The Will Eisner Companion.
Above: Gary Hallgren’s character Tom Turkey, as seen in the Marvel/underground hybrid Comix Bookin the mid-seventies, is flanked by a photo of Gary taken at the 1976 Berkeley Con and a snapshot I took of him a year or so ago.
At left: A photo of yours truly, also taken at the same 1976 convention, garnished with one of my own drawings from that era.
Both 1976 photos were taken by Clay Geerdes, the legendary chronicler of and cheerleader for the underground comix movement.
At right: I couldn’t find a current photo of our third panelist, Sophia Weideman, and I certainly couldn’t find one from 1976, since it’s highly unlikely that this 2008 graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York had even commenced to exist by then.
I can, however, show you the cover of her new book The Deformatory, which she self-published with funding provided by the Xeric Foundation.
Our UMass panel is named “Will Eisner’s Ideals,”and as the title suggests we’ll be discussing how our own work has been affected by today’s expanding recognition of comics as a medium for serious artistic expression. Many cartoonists of my generation who cut our teeth in underground comix have been And while a lot of pioneering went on in the pages of underground comix, those who pay attention to comics history know that a trailblazing comics creator named Will Eisner had begun leading the way well before underground comix made the scene.
Amazingly, Will Eisner continued to show what comics are capable of in the parade of acclaimed graphic novels he contined to draw tirelessly until his death in 2005 at the age of 87. In honor of his achievements a host of events will soon be taking place as part of a national celebration called Will Eisner Week. It’s cool that our March 2 panel will be among them.

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