Comics Lowdown: ECCC volunteer suit settled

Plus: the ALA, Jillian Tamaki and more.

The former owners of Emerald City Comic Con will pay $493,227.84 to former volunteers and the attorneys who represented them under a settlement that will keep the matter from going to court. Jerry Michael Brooks, a former volunteer at the con, filed a class action suit on behalf of all volunteers who worked at ECCC in 2014 and 2015, claiming that they were treated like employees and therefore should have been paid for their work. (Seattlish posted the details of the suit when it was first filed.) Under the settlement, Eitane Emerald Corp. and the Demonakos family will pay almost $500,000 to the volunteers, with the lawyers scooping up $123,300 for their troubles, Brooks getting $5,000, and the 250 or so other “volunteers” will divvy up the rest according to how many hours they worked. Although the defendants admit to no wrongdoing, the payments to the volunteers are to be regarded as part wages, part settlement for nonpayment of wages. ReedPOP, which purchased the con in 2015 and ran the 2016 and 2017 events, does not use unpaid volunteers.

As the Crow Flies

Greg Baldino reports in on the graphic novel scene at the American Library Association’s midsummer meeting, where librarians cited the diversity of graphic novels as a major reason to include them in collections. Publisher and creator Spike Trotman commented on the popularity of Melanie Gillis’s As the Crow Flies, a story about a queer black girl at an otherwise all-white Christian summer camp. The story was originally published as a webcomic and Trotman is publishing a print version via Kickstarter:

“The response from librarians has been fantastic,” Trotman said from her booth on the show floor. “They just snatch up the preview pamphlets and promise to order it through Baker and Taylor.”

“I think a lot of this is because very recently libraries have been called out about a lack of diversity on the shelves,” Trotman said, citing the social media influence of the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

“It’s just about people wanting to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. I think librarians are more aware than they used to be now that their patrons are interested not just in graphic novels but in graphic novels by and about people of color, queer people, and other marginalized people.”

Also at ALA: Amy Carlton reports on the forum on comics in the classroom, which featured former high school teacher Gene Luen Yang and a host of other creators talking about the appeal of comics:

In one of his algebra II classes, he started drawing his lectures as comics and noticed that “students preferred me in cartoon form over my flesh-and-blood self.” They also liked the comics better than the video lectures he made. Yang surmised that because comics are a visual medium we have to read, they allow the reader control over the flow of information. Other visual media, like videos, are fleeting, and the rate of information flow is in the control of the creator.

Reviews, Roundups, and Commentary

A page from The Adventure Zone

Fans and Creators: Chris Kindred looks at the controversy surrounding Carey Pietsch’s character designs for the graphic novel The Adventure Zone and the balance between the desires of fans and the freedom of creators to realize their own vision:

Within fandom lies an unspoken agreement between creators and the supporters of their work, where both parties build an experience greater than the sum of its parts. A healthy fandom is a delicate balance in which fans understand that they have limited ownership over a project while giving creators the space to fulfill their vision. It’s built on empathy and mutual respect.

A healthy fandom also realizes the limits to how its feedback will be implemented, if at all. McElroy continues in his interview, “When you have a certain number of people telling you what they want, it’s going to become too much to listen to. We can’t do everything, we can’t appease everyone and we can’t take on every piece of feedback that we get because it’s in conflict with what other feedback is and what we think is important. I’ll be honest, it causes a lot of anxiety, a whole lot.”

The need for fans to feel representation is valid, especially in a media landscape in which marginal cultures aren’t equally reflected. That doesn’t mean fans can demand that small projects and independent creators pick up the slack left by a larger systemic issue. Doing so puts creators under a pressure that paralyzes them from making work according to their vision, or at all.

In Real Life: Michael Cavna reviews Jillian Tamaki’s short story collection Boundless.

Summer Reading: For those who like their comics in a literary vein, Cassandra Neace rounds up 11 graphic novel adaptations of prose works that are well worth a look.

Conventions and Festivals

The Long Con: With no settlement in view, the lawsuit between Comic-Con International and Salt Lake Comic Con over the rights to the name “comic con” will go to a judge, with a hearing scheduled for September 21—although that may be pushed back, as it’s the first day of SLCC.

What Do You Say, Dear? Danika Worthington offers some comic-con etiquette tips for first-timers (and veterans).

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