Imagine that you are standing in a room with blood red walls.
Shelves and shelves of glossy comic book covers are summoning you to embark on a fantastical journey starting with the first page. You zero-in on a captivating cover, and you realize that this is the story you are dying to read.
Welcome to Red Sky Comics.
Owner Michael Smid, a comic book collector himself and now a sales gentleman, opened Red Sky Comics in downtown Merced in 2010.
As you walk into Red Sky Comics, you will find a wide variety of newly released comic books, popular comics, creator-owned small indie comics, and much more.
“You’ll be surprised,” says Smid. “There’s a good story out there for everyone.”
In the back there is also Magic: the Gathering merchandise, where Friday Night Magic tournaments are held at the store. Red Sky also participates in comic book conventions, such as Collect-A-Con in October.
When the front door opens, UC Merced student Connor Wong and a friend enter the store. Wong shares, “My dad wrote and collected comics, so comics have always been an interest of mine. When I came to Merced, I wanted to keep with that hobby and I found this store.”
But there is a deeper appreciation that tails the hard work behind a finished product, “Most people don’t understand that in a regular 20-page comic book, there’s probably 300 hours worth of creator’s time that goes into that. It’s amazing how much time and effort goes into books,” Smid explains.
Smid also addresses the changing medium of comics in the face of technology. “There’s people who don’t even do print books anymore.” He explains that Webcomics is an alternative for some. But Smid mentions that once an audience is established through the web, physical copies for readers to own are the next step.
The importance of comics is evident in the classroom, too. UC Merced Writing Professor John Bultena is currently integrating comics into his class curriculum, as he has done before.
“You get students who say, ‘What the hell is this guy doing?’ and that’s fine. I accept that.”
Professor Bultena describes comics as a “launching point” for students towards understanding visual literacies.
Among other texts, Professor Bultena is teaching Understanding Comics – Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, a textbook in comic form. He is also teaching a narrative comic titled Snowpiercer, authored by Jacques Lob and illustrated by Jean-Marc Rochette, which was released this year as a feature film.
Interestingly, Professor Bultena prefers teaching creator-owned comics over big publishing houses such as DC (Detective Comics) or Marvel.
“Creators actually own their characters front-to-back. They do with them as they like, write what they want, and tell the stories they want to tell,” he explains.
Bultena notes that generally only 10% of his class has actually read a comic. Most are familiar with comics through TV shows and movies. As a result, they do not spend enough time to analyze artwork in a published format. Some students ask, “I’m supposed to take time with the pictures?”
“Well, that’s why someone spent the last three months of their life drawing the damn thing!” Bultena has thought to himself. He adds, “Then the students go back and read with conjunction and take time with it to see how things correlate; [they begin to understand] what’s going on. It’s really fascinating how complex comics actually are.”
Last month professor Bultena appeared at StocktonCon, a comic convention, and spoke on a panel titled “Comics in Education,” which engaged teachers to share how they incorporated comics in class curriculum.
So what kind of story would you want to read? Whatever your answer may be, stop by Red Sky Comics and take a look around. You are just one page away from your very own journey.