Comic book editor to give presentation

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Patrick Thorpe sees the world slightly differently than the average person. He can't look into the future or see through walls with x-ray vision, but as a comic book editor at Dark Horse Comics, Thorpe has had a lot of experience publishing stories and printing artwork that entertains thousands of readers and reveals some interesting things about entertainment in society.

Thorpe will share some of his insights from his time in the comic book industry, including tips on getting art noticed by professional publishers and how to make a graphic novel, during a 4 p.m. presentation Saturday in the Coffee House in Whitman College's Reid Campus Center.

The presentation, "Where Do Comic Books come from: The Conception and Birth of a Graphic Novel," will be a chance for Whitman students and the general public to learn and ask questions about the comic book business and ways that career-seekers might get a foot in the door.

Thorpe -- who has worked on the "Conan the Cimmerian" and "Solomon Kane" series -- started at Dark Horse Comics as a public relations intern before he made what he calls a "sideways move" into the editorial side of the business. While he is not directly involved in the creation of the art, Thorpe explained how closely editors work with the artists on any given assignment.

"We check every stage for quality, contract the writers, letterers, pencilers," he said, "Comic book editors are (more) like project managers than proofers or copy checkers."

Thorpe, who counts the Green Lantern as one of his favorite comic book characters, also expressed how much respect he had for other parts of the comic book industry -- the artistic division -- and the creators who write and illustrate the graphic novels. He then gave a few suggestions for amateur artists trying to make the jump into the professional world.

"For creators, it's a much different story than what it is to be in the editorial or business side of things. It's a difficult industry to break into. It's all about getting an internship, going to conventions, meeting editors and getting your stuff out on the Internet."

The comic book industry has evolved significantly since the time when weekly issues were sold for a few nickels in nearly every store in town. Graphic novels now have to compete against the world of digital entertainment, including big-budget movies and sophisticated video games. However, Thorpe said comics still have an edge on these technological forms of entertainment.

"Everything's going digital now, (but) graphic novels and comic books can connect to society in a different way from novels, televisions, and movies," Thorpe said.

"It's a different medium (because of) what happens in between the panels. You allow your readers to connect the dots. You can also do things in comic books that you can't in a movie or television show. You can have an unlimited budget; you can do anything you want. If you think it, you can draw it.

"Comics books are still relevant," Thorpe continued, "A lot of the movies you see these days come from comic books. A lot of writers use comic books to pitch their stories to Hollywood."

He admits, however, that there is a significant challenge facing companies like Dark Horse Comics, even when the country is not struggling with the aftermath of a historic recession.

"The print industry in general is kind of pass?© at the moment. Our main readership is between the age of 25 and 45, who read (comic books) back in the '90s. We'd like to attract younger readers, (so) we're looking at more ways to distribute digitally."

Many of those younger readers are introduced to graphic novels in an academic setting. Students at colleges such as Whitman, and many high schools, are being taught with the use of comic books, something Thorpe has advocated.

"Whitman has expanded their bookstores and curriculum to include comic books," he said, "I've been fighting for graphic novels in academics for a long time. These aren't just kid's comics -- these are (written by) phenomenal writers."

Thorpe stressed that people should reevaluate what they know about comics and understand that comics are a legitimate form of literature.

"I hope people become more aware that there's more than just your standard superhero, there's a lot more out there. I really hope to inspire them to pick up a book and really check out what's out there. There's something there for everybody."

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