Comics/Graphic Novels

Comics Everywhere: Public Transit Edition

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

Panelteers, I live in Vancouver, BC, and recently while walking downtown I came across the darnedest thing — comics in the bus shelters! It’s an initiative by Cloudscape Comics, a local coalition of indie comics artists to place one-page comics by local creators in the transit shelters of the city. It’s supported by funds from the city and the province, and each comic depicts an international location in order to foreground Vancouver’s multiculturalism. Cool, right?

Here’s one really cool example:

comics in transit

That piece is by Nina Matsumoto, who told Vancity Buzz:

“I knew from the start I wanted to keep mine short, light on text, and show people sleeping on trains in Japan. I then decided to say ‘otsukarésama’ to hard-working Vancouverites,” explained Matsumoto. “Otsukarésama can be translated a few different ways depending on the context: ‘thanks for your hard work,’ ‘good job’ or even ‘hello.’ I wanted to at least show that the word “tired” is in there, since praising one’s fatigue is the theme of this comic.”

I love that. It’s just such a perfect thing to meet someone waiting for the bus at the end of a long day.

While the comics got me excited, what I noticed was how many people were standing and reading the comics. I like the idea of comics as public art — they’re accessible but engaging, and they give people something to talk about with each other while waiting for the bus. The narrative power of comics means there’s a way in for all viewers, in a way there might not be with more traditional public art like a sculpture. I like to imagine a missed connection ad over a shared experience of reading and chatting about one of these comics.

This sent me on a Google search for other examples of comics being used as public art, but I didn’t come up with much. But I knew if anyone would know about the comics in public spaces in their communities, it would be my fellow Panelteers. So join me in the comments to talk about comics as public art: does your town have some; have you been somewhere where you saw it; or what do you think of the idea?