Graphic Novels: Comic New York symposium: March 2012


In 2012, on the weekend of March 24-25, Columbia University Libraries presented "Comic New York: A Symposium."  It was held in the Faculty Room of Low Library, and was free and open to the public.  Roughly 300 people attended over the two days.

The symposium brought together creators and academics to discuss the intertwined histories of American comics and the town where they were born: New York City.  From the role of New York as a breeding ground for generation of comics talent to the political, periodical, and alternative natures of comics themselves, the best NYC had to offer celebrated this unique medium.

KEYNOTE: on Saturday, March 24, the featured session was a discussion between Chris Claremont and his longtime editor, Louise Simonson, in recognition of Claremont's gift of his complete archives to Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Conference organizers:

  • Jeremy Dauber, Director, Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies (Columbia University)
  • Danny Fingeroth, Senior VP of Education, Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA)
  • Karen Green, Graphic Novels Librarian (Columbia University)

The organizers acknowledge, with gratitude, the invaluable assistance of Michael Ryan, Matt Hampel, Emily Donahue, Talia Jimenez Ramirez, Beth Fleisher, Kate Park, Mark Newton, Amy Genkins, Carrie Walker, Nick Obourn, Robert Branch, Paul Levitz, Vicky Zabriskie, Tara Marsh, Bob Scott, Jeffrey Lancaster, Amanda McGee, Tomas Vu-Daniel, and Chris Jehly.  This would never have happened without you.


The organizers also extend their profound thanks to our sponsors, without whom Comic New York would not have existed:

Saturday March 24


Panel title links lead to video of the event.

  • 10:00 AM: Welcome and Opening Remarks
  • 10:30-11:30 AM: New York, Real and Imagined
    • Kent Worcester
    • Ariel Schrag
    • Molly Crabapple
    • John Romita Sr
    • John Romita Jr
      • Moderator: Chris Irving
  • 12:00-1:30: LUNCH BREAK
  • 1:30-2:30 PM: Political New York
    • Peter Kuper
    • Denis Kitchen
    • Sabrina Jones
    • John Carey
      • Moderator: David Hajdu
  • 3:00-4:00 PM: Alternative New York
    • Bill Griffith
    • R. Sikoryak
    • Charles Brownstein
    • Julia Wertz
      • Moderator: Gene Kannenberg Jr.
  • 4:30-6:30 PM: KEYNOTE
    • Chris Claremont
    • Louise Simonson

Sunday March 25


Panel title links lead to video of the event

  • 10:30-11:30 AM: Periodical New York
    • Ben Katchor
    • Irwin Hasen
    • Emily Flake
    • Lauren Weinstein
      • Moderator: Eddy Portnoy
  • 12:00-1:30 PM: LUNCH BREAK
  • 1:30-2:30 PM: New York as Breeding Ground
    • Al Jaffee
    • Miss Lasko-Gross
    • Tracy White
    • Dean Haspiel
      • Moderator: Danny Fingeroth
      • Dedicated to the memory of JERRY ROBINSON
  • 3:00-4:00 PM: Comic New York and the Academy
    • Jonathan W. Gray (CUNY/John Jay)
    • Paul Levitz (Columbia University; Pace University; Manhattanville College)
    • N.C. Christopher Couch (University of Massachusetts/Amherst; School of Visual Arts)
      • Moderator: Jeremy Dauber
  • Closing remarks



Curator for Comics and Cartoons; Ancient & Medieval History

Profile Photo
Karen Green
6M05 Butler Library (RBML)

Panelist Bios

Charles Brownstein (“Alternative New York”) is the Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization that protects the medium’s First Amendment rights by providing legal representation and education in matters affecting the rights of comic book creators, retailers, librarians, and readers.  In addition to his work at CBLDF, he has written extensively about the medium.  His publications include the award-winning books Eisner/Miller and The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen.

John Carey (“Political New York”) is the editorial cartoonist for Greater Media Newspapers, a group of ten weekly community newspapers in Central New Jersey. He is also a painter and teacher.  An exhibiting artist since 1979, he has had nineteen one-man shows here and abroad (primarily in New York,  San Francisco, and Connecticut), and has participated in numerous group exhibitions.  He has been the recipient of artist grants from the Pollock/Krasner Foundation and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. He has been the editorial cartoonist for Greater Media Newspapers
since 2005.  See more at

Chris Claremont (Keynote) writes both comics and prose. His initial unbroken 17 year run on Marvel Comics’ “The Uncanny X-Men” is the stuff of industry legend. The story arc “Dark Phoenix,” with its radical treatment of the story’s central character, paved the way for the reinterpretation of superhero mythos throughout the comics industry. His work is lauded for its anti-prejudice themes, and ground-breaking inclusion of minorities as heroes. With artist Frank Miller he created the Wolverine graphic novel that serves as the foundation for the forthcoming Wolverine movie starring Hugh Jackman. Although best known for his work on Marvel Comic’s X-Men series, Chris has written other seminal characters such as Batman and Superman, and is the author of nine novels, with more on the way. He is published throughout the world in many different languages. His papers are collected in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library here at Columbia University. Born in London, he lives in Brooklyn, NY with his family.

N.C. Christopher Couch (“Comics and the Academy”) is visiting associate professor in American Studies at Trinity University, Hartford, and also teaches comics as art and literature at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. He holds BA, MA and doctoral degrees in art history from Columbia, and is the author of numerous books and articles on comics and Latin American art, including Jerry Robinson, Ambassador of Comics, The Festival Cycle of the Aztec Codex Borbonicus, and The Will Eisner Companion. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study and Dumbarton Oaks, and served as senior editor at Kitchen Sink Press and editor in chief at CPM Manga.

Molly Crabapple: (“New York, Real and Imagined”) , no stranger to nightlife (or notoriety), collaborates with avant-garde performers and underground theatrical venues across the globe, occupying the enviable post of House Artist for The Box, one of the world’s most infamous nightclubs. Her first graphic novel, the steampunk saga Puppet Makers, was released electronically by DC Comics in 2011, and her forthcomingStraw House will be issued by First Second Books in 2013.  She is also the creative force behind Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, a series of drawing salons-cum-cabarets that are now in over one hundred cities worldwide.

Jeremy Dauber (“Comics and the Academy”) is a professor of Yiddish Studies in Columbia University’s Germanic Languages Department, and is also the director of the university’s Center for Israel and Jewish Studies, which has sponsored a number of campus talks with comics legends such as Al Jaffee, Jules Feiffer, Chris Claremont, Paul Levitz, and Neil Gaiman.

Danny Fingeroth(“New York as Breeding Ground”) was a longtime writer and editor for Marvel. He is currently Senior VP of Education at The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA), and has spoken on comics at venues including The Smithsonian Institution and The Metropolitan Museum. He is the author of Superman on the Couch and Disguised as Clark Kent; and co-editor (with Roy Thomas) of The Stan Lee Universe, a treasury of interviews, articles, and mementos relating to the co-creator of the Marvel Universe.

Emily Flake (“Periodical New York”) is an illustrator and cartoonist. Her cartoons have appeared in the New Yorker, MAD, and Canadian Business (“Canada’s premiere humor magazine”). Her weekly strip, “Lulu Eightball,” has been collected into two volumes. She is the author of a book calledThese Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a small orange cat.  Her work can be seen

Jonathan W. Gray (“Comics and the Academy”) received BAs in English and Philosophy from Howard University, and his Ph.D. in American Literature from The City University of New York’s Graduate School and University Center.  His research interests include post-World War II American literature and culture, African American literature, Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Black masculinity, and Race in Popular Culture. His scholarship has been published by Rutgers University Press and Oxford University Press and his article “Commence the Great Work: the Historical Archive and Unspeakable Violence in Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner” will be featured in the forthcoming Afterimages of Slavery: Essays on Recent Appearances in Recent American Films, Literature, Television and Other Media (McFarland). The University Press of Mississippi will publish Professor Gray’s first book, Innocence by Association: Civil Rights and the White Literary Imagination in the fall.

Karen Green (Opening remarks) is Columbia University’s librarian for Ancient & Medieval History and Religion; she began the libraries’ graphic novels collection six years ago.  She writes a monthly column, “Comic Adventures in Academia,” for ComiXology and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art.

Bill Griffith (“Alternative New York”) is a longtime underground cartoonist and creator of the “Zippy the Pinhead” daily comics.  “Zippy” has been nationally-syndicated, since 1986, by the first and oldest comics syndicate, King Features, which is still in New York City. Fantagraphics has just published a collection of Griffith’s early underground work, Bill Griffith: Lost and Found: Comics 1969-2003.

David Hajdu (“Political New York”) teaches in Columbia University’s School of Journalism.  He serves as the music critic for The New Republic and is the author of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America.

Irwin Hasen (“Periodical New York”) was born in New York in 1918. His first professional work, boxing illustrations, was published in the mid 1930’s in Bang magazine. Irwin started his comics career in Marvel Mystery Comics #4, co-creating the Ferret. He jumped to DC in 1940, drawing the original Green Lantern and creating Wildcat with Bill Finger for Sensation Comics #1. After proudly serving his country in WWII, Irwin worked on the Justice Society and Wonder Woman comics. In 1955, he co-created the classic Dondi newspaper comic, which ran for more than 30 years. Hasen taught at the Joe Kubert School for 25 years. He is the subject of a fascinating documentary, Irwin: A New York Story, and his graphic novel memoir, Loverboy, was released in 2010 by Vanguard Publishing.

Dean Haspiel (“New York as Breeding Ground”) is an Emmy award winning artist, who created the Eisner Award nominated BILLY DOGMA, and illustrated for HBO’s “Bored To Death.” Dino has drawn many superhero and semi-autobiographical comic books and graphic novels for major publishers, including collaborations with Jonathan Lethem (Cousin Corinne’s REMINDER), Harvey Pekar (The Quitter, American Splendor), Jonathan Ames (The Alcoholic), Inverna Lockpez (the Harvey Award winning Cuba: My Revolution), and, recently, with Tim Hall on “The Last Mortician” for He also helped pioneer personal webcomics with the invention of ACT-I-VATE.  For new BILLY DOGMA and other cool multimedia projects and profiles, please visit, a Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon.

Chris Irving (“New York, Real and Imagined”), pop culture historian, wrote and edited the Graphic NYC website, which will come to print life asLeaping Tall Buildings: the Secret Origins of American Comics (powerHouse books) in 2012. Prior to that, his work could be found in Comic Book Artist magazine (as Associate Editor), Comics Buyer’s Guide, and as author of a handful of books on comic book history.  Currently, he is gearing up to launch the first issue of his digital comic book magazine, “The Drawn Word,” in March.

Al Jaffee (“New York as Breeding Ground”)’s story has taken him from Georgia to Lithuania to New York City, where he attended the High School of Music and Art.  His comics career began in Will Eisner’s studio in the 1940s, where he created “Inferior Man.”  He also worked for Stan Lee, producing comics books like ZIGGY PIG/ SILLY SEAL, PATSY WALKER, SUPER RABBIT, etc. In the ‘50s, Jaffee was also involved with Harvey Kurtzman’s two post-Mad magazines, Trump and Humbug, but moved to Mad upon their demise, where he has worked as a freelancer ever since.  He created the Mad fold-in in the 1960s, still drawing it for every issue, and also “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” All told he has written and illustrated about fifty books. Current publications include the collected Tall Tales, The Mad Fold-in Collection: 1964-2010, and his original illustrations for the recent biography, Al Jaffee’s Mad Life, by Mary-Lou Weisman.

Sabrina Jones (“Political New York”) is a long-time editor and contributor to World War 3 Illustrated. Her books include a graphic biography of Isadora Duncan, FDR and the New Deal for Beginners, and contributions to Wobblies!, Studs Terkel’s Working, Yiddishkeit and The Real Cost of Prisons.  She is currently working on a graphic adaptation of Race to Incarcerate.

Gene Kannenberg jr (“Alternative New York”) wrote his dissertation on Form, function, fiction: Text and image in the comics narratives of Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware.  He is the director of, an annotated comics studies bibliography, contributed editorial assistance to the 2-volume set Erotic Comics, and is author of 500 Essential Graphic Novels: the Ultimate Guide.

Ben Katchor (“Periodical New York”): Ben Katchor’s picture-stories appear in Metropolis magazine. His new collection of weekly strips, The Cardboard Valise, was published by Pantheon Books in 2011.. His most recent music-theater collaboration with Mark Mulcahy, “Up From the Stacks,” was commissioned and premiered at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and at Lincoln Center in 2011.  He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, was a fellow at The American Academy in Berlin and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.  He is an Associate Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City. For more information visit

Denis Kitchen (“Political New York”) was a pioneer underground cartoonist whose Kitchen Sink Press from 1969-99 published R. Crumb, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Scott McCloud, Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns and many others. In 1986 Kitchen founded the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization defending the comics industry’s First Amendment rights. More recently,The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen was published  by Dark Horse; in addition, Kitchen co-authored books on Kurtzman and underground comix for Abrams, curates art exhibits, represents talent, and is currently at work on a biography of Al Capp.

Peter Kuper (“Political New York”) is co-founder of World War 3 Illustrated, a long-running journal of political comics, and has drawn “SPY vs SPY” for Mad magazine for the past sixteen years.  His graphic novels include The System, Sticks and Stones, and Stop Forgetting to Remember, and he has also published the sketchbook diaries Diario de Oaxaca and Drawn to New York, as well as graphic adaptations of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.  His cartoons have appeared in The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek. He teaches comics courses at The School of Visual Arts and Harvard.  Learn more at

Miss Lasko-Gross (“New York as Breeding Ground”) is the author and illustrator of Fantagraphics Books’ A Mess Of Everything (named one of Booklist’s  top 10 graphic novels of the year), the follow up to the YALSA-nominated Escape From “Special.”  Currently her work is featured in the show “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women,” at the Yeshiva University Museum (through April 15 2012), and in “Henni,” a serialized adventure for the Comixology  /  House of Twelve  iphone app.

Paul Levitz (“Comics and the Academy”) has been a comic fan (The Comic Reader, winner of two Best Fanzine Comic Art Fan Awards), editor (Batman), writer (Legion of Super-Heroes), and executive (38 years at DC, ending as President & Publisher).   He has received the Inkpot, Clampett Humanitarian and ComicsPro Industry Appreciation Awards, and serves on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. His Eisner-award -winning book, 75 YEARS OF DC COMICS: THE ART OF MODERN MYTHMAKING, was published by Taschen, and his recent comics writing appears in Legion of Super-Heroes and Worlds Finest, as well as collected editions.   His best known work is the NYTImes Best Selling Graphic Book, Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga.

Eddy Portnoy (“Periodical New York”) is a professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, having received his M.A. from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from Jewish Theological Seminary, writing a dissertation on the cartoons of the Yiddish press.  His articles on Jewish popular culture phenomena have appeared in The Drama Review, Polin, and The International Journal of Comic Art.

John Romita Sr (“New York, Real and Imagined”) is a native New Yorker who started in comics in 1949 and–except for two years in the U.S. Army doing recruiting art–has spent 50 years doing a wide range of stories: from war, romance, and westerns in the ‘50s to superheroes in the ‘60s, including Daredevil, Captain America, and the Fantastic Four.  From 1996 to 1972 he worked on Spider-Man, joining with Stan Lee in 1977 to launch the daily Spider-Man newspaper strip.  Romita also served for several years as Marvel Comics’ Executive Art Director.  Since 1996, he has been retired but still works as a consultant and cover artist, as well as continued charity work with the Hero Initiative, which provides a safety net for comics creators in need.

John Romita Jr (“New York, Real and Imagined”), aka JRJR, is a comics artist known for his work on Marvel titles Iron Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Uncanny X-Men, among others.  He has worked with writers such as Frank Miller, J. Michael Straczynski, Neil Gaiman, and Chris Claremont.  He currently draws Avengers and Kick Ass.

Ariel Schrag (“New York, Real and Imagined”) is the author of the graphic novels AWKWARD, DEFINITION, POTENTIAL, and LIKEWISE. She is the editor of the comics anthology STUCK IN THE MIDDLE. She was a writer on the HBO series HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA and the Showtime series THE L WORD. She lives in Brooklyn.

R. Sikoryak (“Alternative New York”) is the author of Masterpiece Comics (Drawn & Quarterly).  His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in The Onion, The New Yorker, SpongeBob Comics, Mad, and many other publications; he’s drawn for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Ugly Americans.”  Sikoryak has taught illustration at Parsons The New School for Design and comics at the Center For Cartoon Studies. Since 1997, he has presented his cartoon slide show series, Carousel, around the United States and Canada.

Louise Simonson (Keynote) is a comics writer and editor who has written titles for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  She created the comic “Power Pack,” winner of the UK’s Eagle Award, and has written for X-Factor, New Mutants, Superman: The Man of Steel, among other titles.  She has written picture books and YA novels, many based on DC Comics’ characters.

Lauren Weinstein (“Periodical New York”) is a cartoonist who is still recovering from having a baby and moving to the suburbs of New Jersey (it’s been two years).  Her comics books include Girl Stories and The Goddess of War, and her work has been published in Kramer’s Ergot, The Ganzfeld, An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, and The Best American Comics of 2007 and 2010.  Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, and Heeb magazines.  She is currently working on a sequel to Girl Stories.  Her work can be seen at .

Julia Wertz (“Alternative New York”) was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1982 and is the author/illustrator of the unfortunately titled Fart Party vol 1 & 2 and the Eisner nominated graphic novel, Drinking at the Movies. She is currently at work on a book for Koyama Press due out in September 2012. She lives in Greenpoint in Brooklyn NY and probably hasn’t left her apartment in weeks. More info at

Tracy White (“New York as Breeding Ground:) writes and draws comics. She is the creator of the Ignatz-nominated autobiographical webcomic “Traced,” an ongoing series started in 1996 which was adapted for the Oxygen TV Network, and syndicated to AOL.  She is the author of How I Made it to Eighteen (Roaring Brook Press), a graphic novel. White is also an adjunct professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunication Program at the Tisch School of the Arts where she teaches interactive comics/storytelling. Find out more about her work at

Kent Worcester (“New York, Real and Imagined”) teaches political theory at Marymount Manhattan College. He is the author or co-editor of six books including, most recently, Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium (2004) and A Comics Studies Reader (2009). In collaboration with Charles Hatfield and Jeet Heer, he is currently putting together a volume titled The Superhero Reader for the University Press of Mississippi, for publication in 2013.