Cartoonist draws laughs

Photo by Taylor Cox

To a standing-room-only audience, Ariel Schrag shed light on the vicious and hysterical process of growing up.

This graphic artist and comic book author makes the back-stabbing friends and the tortures of being gay at prom something to laugh about instead of a cause for worry and insecurity.

This Berkeley, Calif. native, dressed casually in a cardigan, slouchy jeans and white Chuck Taylors, read three of her comics through a black and white slideshow at the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing Thursday night.

Not a typical comic book series filled with action heroes and bright colors, Schrag’s comics tell her story of growing up.

No memory is safe, because Shrag draws on her personal experience for inspiration.

In one story she read, “Fight at the Gay Prom,” set to a musical soundtrack of punk music and an Aimee Mand ballad, Schrag recounts her evening at the annual gay prom during her freshman year of college at Columbia University.

At Barnard College, Columbia’s sister school, Schrag  got into a fight with another girl.

It really did happen—the fight, the name-calling, the wallet stealing, the being gay.  All of it is true.

She even was banned from Barnard College property, and she has the ban notice to prove it.

Schrag’s unique style of comics combines all mediums in a way that is distinctly her.

Julie Bickel, a senior creative writing major, said she thought Schrag’s work was creative and original.

“I  thought the  combination of audio and visuals was absolutely fantastic,” Bickel said.  “I never considered that coming from a comic.”

Schrag, despite being a solo performer, transforms into the many characters of her stories.

Using different voices and facial expressions, it is as if Schrag takes the back seat in her own comics as the characters shine through.

Photo by Taylor Cox

Thomas Hostetler, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major, had never heard of Schrag before her readings, but he said  he liked it.

“I found it interesting,” Hostetler said.

Over the past 20 to 25 years, graphic novels have begun to take on a new kind of gravity, said Robert Stapleton, an English professor who has introduced some graphic novels into his Freshman Seminar class.

“It was great that we had someone come who was current and vibrant in the field,” Stapleton said.

Schrag finished the three readings and then opened up the floor for questions.

Leaving the ban notice up on the screen for effect, Schrag answered questions with honesty, and it became evident that her work was about more than just drawing pictures and writing dialogue.

Schrag said the biggest challenge of her career was the unpredictable nature of the business.

However, she had a desire to follow her passions.

“There doesn’t seem to be much point in life,” Schrag said, “for not going for what you want.”


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