Excelsior!

Today I’m going to veer away from the usual topics of games and talk a little bit about graphic novels. Comics. Whatever you want to call them.

As I am sure most of you probably know (because lets face it you all know me in real life and I’m sure some of you only read this out of obligation) I am a librarian – yes, I do have a (bit of a) beard, no I don’t have leather patches on my elbows and as part of my duties I am expected to get involved in various book awards.
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The Stan Lee Excelsior Award is no exception.

Background.

The Stan Lee Excelsior Award is the brain child of a (former) school librarian from Sheffield, Paul Register (http://www.blokeofsteel.co.uk/) who decided that it would be a good idea to have a graphic novel book award. The event is now a national book award and schools from all over the country get involved year after year. I’ll let him explain it a little more…

The Stan Lee Excelsior Award is the only nationwide (and now including the Republic of Ireland!) book award for graphic novels and manga where teenagers decide the winner by rating each book as they read it (according to storyartworkcharacters and dialogue). Now in its sixth year, the award attracted over 250 schools from all over the UK in 2015 with students returning a whopping 4400 Rating Forms.

So, the kids read the books and then rate them all and send in these rating slips to Paul. He has the unenviable job of sifting through these and adding up all the scores (an apparently there’s some complicated maths so that if one book has been read more times it doesn’t skew the vote)

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So… What normally happens is I read the books, collect the responses from the schools and act as a bit of a middleman between the schools in Hull and Paul. Providing him with digital versions of the responses rather than having to post all the forms to him and being a contact for the schools. For this I get a day out as one of the schools usually offers me a space on their coach as we head to Sheffield to take part in the celebration day. A day out on a coach full of comics geeks, going to hang out for the day with comics geeks. What’s not to like? (unless you don’t like comics, in which case you are on the wrong coach.)

Anyway, I digress.

The shortlist.

This years shortlist looked something like this. Well, a lot like this actually, because this is it.

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The montage…

This year, because Paul is no longer affiliated with a school in Sheffield it gave him the opportunity to allow a new school from somewhere else in the country to host the event.

This year Paul chose to be nice to those schools who have been involved with the project for a number of years but have been unable to attend the celebration day in Sheffield. This meant, however, that the schools in Hull could not attend as the event in Peebles. That’s in the Scottish Borders area. An 8 hour round trip for Hull students, and the school librarians in Hull asked me if I could organise an alternative event.

With Paul’s blessing I set about arranging an event to take place the day after the official event so the Hull schools could have a day out. Well, it would only be a morning but I’m sure that didn’t matter to them 😉

So.. the plan.

  • Find a graphic artist to be the “Keynote speaker”
  • Sort a bit of a quiz for a bit of fun (Always goes down well when Paul does one)
  • Maybe have some prizes?
  • Presentation and a bit of a talk about the award and the boring bits.
  • Some juice for break.

*Stage whisper* This blog post is starting to get a bit Ocean’s 11 isn’t it.. Queue the funky jazz music and a montage…

Graphic artist. Easy. I know a (relatively) tame graphic artist in the form of one Gareth Sleightholme (https://apopheniainc.wordpress.com/). Gareth is a lecturer at the local college’s school of art and design and also a jolly nice chap. Always willing to help out the library and to promote art as a possible career. A short chat later and he was on board for the event, willing to bring his work and spend some time drawing and chatting to the students as wells standing up and being the “keynote speaker”.

Quiz. One of our library staff, Aimee, is a proper comics geek, even more than me and we regularly discuss goings on in films and TV shows as well as being Doctor Who buddies (She favours Matt Smith over my favoured David Tennant). So, a quick call to the department she was working in received a swift affirmative for a morning of overtime and a quiz.

Can I come in fancy dress?

Of course, I will be.

Prizes next. A quick visit to the grownups upstairs asking for some money to buy some prizes was met with a simple, “Yes. Go for it.” So I did. 10 copies of past shortlisted books and second volumes ordered. It was time to move on to the presentation.

Everything in hand then. As we approach the morning of the event, the prizes arrived. Gareth had a plan. Even I had a plan (I know!).

Schools had confirmed and all was good. Cue me enjoying a nice bag of crisps as a reward.

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The morning.

So, the morning of the event has arrived. Everything is set up, the technology has worked. The presentation works and is on the big screen. Paul has posted a video announcing the winners (thank you *very* much for that by the way Paul.), which is working.

Ah. Problem. We have loads of glasses. We have water. We DO NOT have juice.

Okay. It’s cool. We can sort this.

“Are you expecting some school kids? ‘cos there’s a class outside waiting to come in.” Oh. Okay… Right.

The class choose orange juice and I pop across the road to buy some. Only they don’t have any. Obviously. But they do have those strange little travel bottles that you squirt into your glass or bottle of water or whatever. Brilliant.

  • Orange
  • Lime and Lemon
  • Blackcurrant
  • Strawberry and Watermelon
  • Green Thunder

Yes. You read that right. Green Thunder. It’s a sign. I *HAVE* to buy these (and for those wondering, no it didn’t say what flavour it was supposed to be and yes. it was very green)

By the time I’m back the library is open and Gareth and his friend Dave Eccles have arrived. They get set up with their drawing boards and the other schools arrive.

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The event was over before I knew it and we’d done it. The feedback from the school librarians was excellent, the feedback from Gareth was excellent and Aimee and I got to dress up as Doctor Who and get paid for it. Which is always a bonus.

As part of the info for Paul I used Storify to pull all the tweets for the morning together (see the bottom of the post for a link to this) and *ALL* the students high fived me as they left. I’m taking that as a good thing and not one massive bet that they all had.

So, what won I can hear you all shouting. Well, I’m not going to tell you. I’m going to talk a little bit about the books from my point of view and give you a bit of an insight from the students who visited.

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Ant-man – Second Chance man.

This was an interesting read, but not as much fun as I’d like. While this version of Ant-man was a little cheeky, it was mostly a notch or three down from what I expected in terms of humour and from the characters. I will admit, my limited exposure to the character is from the recent film. But this fell short in my eyes of the high standard set by the film.

It seems the students agreed, with none of them in Hull suggesting this would be the winner.

 

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Star Wars – Darth Vader

Okay, so I’m a sucker for Star Wars. We all know this. I enjoyed this one, with some very impressive artwork and a suitably Star Wars story line. Overall it was solid, if a little generic with new characters not really given the room I felt they needed.

The students however had this placed fairly highly, with a good number thinking it could win.

 

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Rocket Raccoon – A Chasing Tale

This was my second favourite. A funny tale that played with both Science fiction conventions (set up in the Guardians of the Galaxy) and comic book conventions. Panels were fun and the fourth wall is broken regularly. I particularly liked the last section where Groot tells a story. I’m not going to spoil it but I did laugh a lot.

Again, this was a popular choice in the room, possibly the favourite with a slender majority of hands going up.

 

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The Devil is a Part-Timer Vol. 1

Well. Manga. I struggle with manga. The backwards reading, the crazy settings and this was no exception.

Again popular with the voters though. Apparently the inability to read manga comes with age (I’m told it’s like flipping a switch to a different mode).

 

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Lumberjanes – Beware the Kitten Holy

This one was fun to read. It was funny and had likeable characters, everyone knows a group like these girls. Either you are part of it or you know someone who is. My group of friends are very similar (although admittedly not all girls). Crazy, lunatics that pull together when they need to.

This was a mixed bag with the group on the day. Decidedly middling in it support.

 

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Doctor Who – Revolutions of Terror

Well. It’s Doctor Who. What more can I say.

Again a mixed bag with the students. Those who are fans enjoyed it, although if you aren’t a fan of the Doctor’s adventures it seems a comic version isn’t going to do much to change your mind.

 

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Copperhead Vol. 1

This one was my favourite by a country mile. Loved the artwork for the cover and saved it until last. It was not what I expected but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A new Science Fiction universe with new characters and it all felt so real and well created. Interesting art styles combined with mysterious and interesting characters all helped to draw me in.

This  was less popular with the youngsters.

 

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Edward Scissorhands – Parts Unknown

I’m a bit ‘meh’ about this one, but maybe that’s because I never got all the excitement around the original film. In terms of the book, it has a bit of a strange art style and is suitably gothic in story, but  felt there was a clash in the styles.

The young people weren’t massively enamoured about this either.

 

I’ve avoided mentioning the winners because I think it only fair that I leave that to Paul. As the Stan Lee Excelsior Awards are his baby, he should have the honour.

For more information on the books and on the Stan Lee Excelsior Award in general visit http://www.excelsioraward.co.uk/shortlist2016.html and read some more.

See you next year?

 

*link to storify https://storify.com/hull_libraries/excelsior-award-2016

** Feature image: Stan Lee at the Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. Gage Skidmore, 2011.

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