By ABBY SHIFLEY
BG Independent Correspondent
BGSU alumnus Marc Sumerak returned to Bowling Green to present a comic book workshop. Sumerak started as a creative writing major at BGSU, then an intern at Marvel and has since written and edited hundreds of comic books. He now works as a freelance writer.
Saturday, he led a comic book workshop in the Wood County District Public Library for the Bowling Green community, specifically targeted at children. The event was in partnership with the Batman in Popular Culture Conference hosted by the BGSU Department of Popular Culture and the Ray and Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies, which took place April 12-13.
“We wanted a component that spoke to a wider audience,” Sumerak said about the workshop. The conference as a whole was for academics; so, having an event for children was a nice contrast.
“I am thrilled to have Marc as an addition to the Batman Conference. He provides a cool perspective for the younger generation,” Matthew Donahue, co-organizer of the conference, said.
“I grew up reading comics,” Sumerak said.
Sumerak took a semester off in his junior year at BGSU to intern at Marvel’s office in New York City. He said his early work on web comics made him stand out from the other candidates for the internship. “Web comics are what got my foot in the door,” Sumerak said. When he was in college, he and one of his friends would create seven web comics a month.
After his internship, Sumerak went on to write his first book for Marvel by his senior year and was offered a job on their editorial staff two months before graduation.
Since then, Sumerak has worked on The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, X-Men, as well as Star Wars, Harry Potter and The Walking Dead. Some of his works were on display at the workshop.
Sumerak stressed that he was not an artist — that’s not what comic book writers do. But they also do more than most people think.
“They do more than just put words in the balloons,” Sumerak said. “What a comic book writer does is craft the story behind the comics.”
A comic book writer has to not only create the dialogue, but also describe the scene of each panel so the artist knows what to draw.
Another large part of creating a comic book is collaboration, which is something Sumerak loves about the profession.
“When I write a book, it’s just me,” he said. “It’s just me behind the computer typing and typing and typing until I’m done. When I’m working on a comic, it is a collaborative art form, and what that means is I work with lots of other talented people.”
Sumerak then went on to describe the different components of a comic book, with lots of interaction between him and his young audience. One young boy was enthusiastic about the “staples” used to connect all the comic book pages together, and Sumerak confirmed this step is very important.
Sumerak closed his talk with advice on how to create comics and get into the business, emphasizing the importance of storytelling and good character development. “You can tell great stories about super heroes fighting each other, but if people don’t connect to those characters, if they don’t care about the characters, they’re not going to come back,” Sumerak said.
Steve Ammidown, an archivist for the popular culture library, was at the workshop with his daughter, June, who is 4 years old.
“She’s a big comic book fan,” Ammidown said. “She’s a Wonder Woman fan, but she loves writing her own stories. So, it seemed like a good opportunity — she enjoyed it.”
Ammidown was also involved in the planning of the Batman in Popular Culture Conference.
“It’s great to bring all this together and bring this into the community and not have it just be a campus event,” Ammidown said.
Phil Beskid, Bowling Green resident, was also at the event with his two young daughters, Sylvia and Lucy. Beskid described himself and his daughters as “mainstays” at the library, which is partly why they attended the event.
“I like Wonder Woman, her sister and her mom,” Sylvia said. “Also, we have some He-man comic books at home.”
“Oh yeah, that’s what got us started,” her father confirmed. “He-man comics from the ‘80s,”