“It’s reminiscent of the explosion in music, when everyone was afraid of it being a monoculture in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Susan LeVan, an illustration professor at the Art Institute. “Instead there’s more genres than you can think of.”
“Comics can be about anything,” said Lamb.
To wit: Cathy Leamy, a comic artist who will lead a “Comics and Medicine” panel discussion at MICE. Leamy, who works at Massachusetts General Hospital as a Web developer, has been experimenting with education and comics; one of her creations teaches patients about diabetes and erectile dysfunction. “Indie comics go back so far. It’s so rich. I like the personal empowerment behind it,” Leamy said.
Founded in 2006, the roundtable, which has about 150 members, assembles every Thursday evening at Harvard Square’s Democracy Center. Artists and writers discuss group business, talk about issues, and share their work.
“I jokingly like to call it reverse AA meeting,” Mario Bermejo, an Uruguayan artist better known by his pen name “Roho,” wrote in an e-mail. “If you have a ‘Comics Problem’ we help you make it worse.” At a recent meeting, Roho showed the group proofs of a new anthology called “Hellbound III: Darkness,” the third in a series of collaborative horror comics the roundtable has published, which will debut at MICE. “Everything we do as a collective is a step forward into showing local artist and writers that all you need to make comics is to want to make comics.”
The atmosphere at the roundtable is collaborative, not competitive. There’s not a lot of money at stake in the indie comic business, said Mazur. “We’re not fighting over who gets a gallery show.”
In lieu of galleries, local comic book stores are key links to the indie comic scene. “Million Year Picnic is our best friend,” said Lamb of the Harvard Square store. Others indie-friendly shops include Hub Comics in Union Square, Comicopia in Kenmore Square, and Comicazi in Davis Square.
You’d think that given the advent of the Internet, every indie comic artist would publish only on the Web. Rather, Mazur said, fans want to keep the “book” in “comic book.” “[You] walk away with the physical object in your hand, signed by the artist.”
“It’s still mostly analog,” said Lamb. Reading a comic, he said, “It’s a direct personal experience. This came out of my head. Do you like it?”
Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.” He can be reached at www.ethangilsdorf.com and Twitter @ethanfreak.