ROMOCOCO 2013 Wrapup

I hope none of you were waiting for my Day 1 ROMOCOCO wrap up with bated breath, I’d hate to think that I disappointed/asphyxiated too many people. I had a blast at the conference this week and I’m really disappointed that I won’t be staying through the Denver Comic Con, but I’m not made of money. That madness is expensive!

ROMOCOCO 2013, the scholarly segment of the two-year old Denver ComicCon was really a fun experience. Held in the SpringHill Suites in downtown Denver, the accommodations were great, we had some fun panels, great food, and many a rousing conversation. How could we not get into healthy debates with such an awesome theme like “Violence and Healing in Comics and Graphic Novels”? That being said, I think this was the last academic conference I’ll be attending for a while, maybe forever. That’s not a reflection on ROMOCOCO at all, just something that I’ve been dealing with personally. More on that later, likely in another post.

Flew in on Tuesday, a day before the panels began to get my bearings and I was lucky enough to ride with Hannah Menzies, comics journalist for The Beat and Bleeding Cool as well as Medieval scholar among other righteous distinctions, on the shuttle to the hotel. She was wearing a Marvel villains tee-shirt, I asked her if she was going to the conference, and rest is history. After we checked in we wandered downtown in search of the things that we inevitably forgot. Me, I forgot deodorant and multiple pairs of socks. Bad news for everyone around me until I got that sorted, which I did. Though it took us forever to find somewhere that suited our needs.

Denver is a pretty place though. Rocky’s provide gorgeous backdrop amidst the skyscrapers. The air felt fresh despite us being in a downtown metropolis. My lungs struggled to pull in enough oxygen from the high altitude atmosphere. We got some grub, noted that there were quite a lot of homeless people wandering the streets (I was told, “Denver is a good place to be homeless”) and we finally made our way back to the hotel for the conference’s inaugural reception.

If I can say anything about the SpringHill Suites it’s that they know how to put out a decent spread. Cheese plate, chicken kabobs, spring rolls, grapes, pigs in a blanket, I consumed much. I met Jason Traynor, he refers to himself as Doctor Comics, and talked about lots of fun comicy goodness. I met a host of other people throughout the evening as well, and then headed to bed for the bright and early first panel at 8 a.m.

I’m not going to bore you with in-depth detail of every single panel that I went to, but I would like to highlight some of the presentations that stood out to me personally. First up was  Dr. Christopher Bell’s “The Ghosts That Haunt Us: The Metaphysics of IDW’s TMNT.” If you guys have read anything on I Speak Comics before you’ll know how huge a fan of the ninja turtles I am. Bell talked about the clear connections between eastern reincarnation in the new series. Great stuff, though he had a typo in there, it was originally “TNMT.” I couldn’t let that stand.

Next was Jonathan Alexandratos’ talk “And the Plague Played On: Commonalities in Zombie and AIDS Narratives” which was much more enlightening than I thought it would be. He made some unique links between the two, in that oftentimes nature is the best place to combat these two horrible threats, and that the hospital is often seen as a place of death. I’m totally not doing it justice, but trust me, it was a great talk. Plus, he didn’t read a paper at us. Hallelujah.

Christie Wilson’s talk on Calvin’s sublime snowman creations, from Bill Watterson’s timeless classic Calvin and Hobbes, “Calvin’s Creations: A Study of Disemboweled Snowmen and Parental Reachions in Calvin and Hobbes,” was a pleasure to sit in on. It reminded me of the days I spent glued to the couch, thick, heavy Calvin and Hobbes collections always within arm’s reach.

My own personal presentation, I think it went well. As I said above, the theme of the conference was Violence and Healing, and I think that Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta presented a very unique look at brutality and its potential for change, liberation, and redemption. Too often I think we see violence in binaries, either good  or bad, or that the consequences end after the trigger is pulled. V defies those black and white distinctions and gives us a more complex look at violence and the ways in which it can be helpful. Tricky stuff, but I think it went ok. I got some questions, debated whether or not V was a messiah (I say thee nay!), and really enjoyed giving my presentation.

Unfortunately I had to duck out before Chris Ware made an appearance, though I’m sure he did a wonderful job. Had to catch a flight back to the mitten ya know? Overall, again, I had a great time. It was fun engaging with real comics scholars but intellectually exhausting and something I don’t plan on doing again for some time. Keep an eye out for those details soon and stay classy!

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