Mix 2012 symposium boasts Chris Ware, <i>In Search of Steve Ditko</i>

Higher education's appreciation and subsequent analysis and teaching of comics continues to grow, and one more example is happening next month in Ohio with a comics symposium.

The Columbus College of Art & Design has announced the schedule for its first-ever comics symposium, Mix 2012. The event is highlighted by a keynote event with Chris Ware, as well as a rare screening, two exhibitions ,and a comics-making marathon for CCAD students.

While the symposium is primarily held Oct. 3-6, there are several events occurring around it, such as a Maus roundtable discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and a three-week gallery exhibit starting Sept. 21 that showcases original artwork from Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

Thursday night features a screening of the acclaimed BBC Four documentary by Jonathan Ross, In Search of Steve Ditko, which has rarely been shown in the United States (outside of YouTube, that is). There's also an open house at Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, where the public will be able to dive into the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility of printed cartoon and comics art. How many opportunities have you had to examine original art from Jeff Smith's Bone, Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes, Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, the work of P. Craig Russell, and more?

Continuing the Ware fest, there's a "Conversation with Chris Ware" Friday night, where the discussion will no doubt include his upcoming Building Stories. He'll appear again Saturday morning as the keynote guest for a panel called "The Epic Ordinary: Contemporary Life and the Epic Narrative of Comics."

Workshops and discussion panels will be held all day Friday and Saturday, with appearances by such comics smartypants as Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean), Craig Fischer (The Comics Journal) and Charles Hatfield (Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby), among others.

Symposium registration is $50, but early-bird registration is $35 until Sept. 11. A full schedule and more information is at Mix 2012: CCAD's Celebration of Comics.

If you've read this far, you're probably sufficiently intrigued, but such events don't always win over your typical comic book reader. A comics symposium may lack the whiz-bang of Comic-Con, but these kinds of events are a fascinating exploration into what makes comics unique. They're also a crucial element of any art form's integration and acceptance into culture. Literature, music and film appreciation classes and events are held at nearly every university in America, but comics are still seen as a peculiar source of entertainment or expression by the general populace. But a continued and ever-increasing exposure to comics on various fronts is helping to erode that opinion away. One of those fronts is higher education, which both legitimizes comics as a form of expression worthy of serious analysis, and also passes on such opinions to the next generation.

CCAD is hoping this will become an annual event, so if you're in the Columbus, Ohio area in early October, do yourself and comics a favor: join in some lively conversations about comics.

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