This past week I attended the Billy Ireland Library and Museum Cartoon Festival in Columbus, Ohio. The event marked the opening of a brand new facility that provides excellent research facilities, display space, and auditoriums. The Festival featured many greats like Jeff Smith, Paul Pope, Stephan Pastis, Matt Bors, and the Brothers Hernandez. The first two days of the Festival consisted of an academic conference. All together it was a gathering of the Comics Nation. In July I attended a comics conference in Glasgow. At that meeting a young scholar unselfconsciously called comics studies a field. At that moment I realized comics studies had indeed become a field. But last week I saw a major part of that field in action and recognizing itself as having reached a point of maturity. Not all papers were to my taste, but that is the way it goes at this things. Others were unexpectedly excellent. The over all joy people were having just being at the gathering was palpable. The day after the event ended Facebook is lighting up with folks commenting what an amazing event it was and their pleasure at putting faces to names they have long known. I had that experience too. I had many other fabulous moments in the week, and those will be stories I tell for years, but I think this may have been the moment when comics scholars found themselves as a field. To be sure there are already disputes between scholars, and these will only increase, but in this magical moment everyone was just so happy to be there and see the existence of the field. Lucy Shelton Caswell, Jared Gardner, Jenny Robb, and Caitlin McGurk all should be aglow at what they have accomplished. And Lucy who over 30 years patiently built a collection that required a building you are amazing.
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