Illustrating the ethics of comics

July 16, 2018
Hollandsworth at Olympia's The Danger Room

Isaac Hollandsworth ’20 sat next to a window on the third floor of the Evergreen library expressing his love for comics. He has worked at the local comics shop, The Danger Room, for about a year now, after what he called “loitering” in the shop for the year prior to his hiring. Hollandsworth has also taken a leadership role in The Graphic Novel Union, an on-campus club where he promotes ideas of making comics accessible to Evergreen students.

Hunting for a comics community was Hollandsworth’s main goal the first week he spent at Evergreen. Immediately when he got to campus, he looked up Gabi’s Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacey, and The Danger Room in downtown Olympia. He said, “Gabi’s was a longer bus ride, so I went to The Danger Room.” At the same time, Hollandsworth joined an on-campus comics club known as Graphic Novel Union, or GNU for short. He wanted to take it over, change things, and make it more awesome.

Making GNU awesome was what he did this last year, and he has plans to continue the process in the fall. As club coordinator, Hollandsworth built community confidence with round-robin drawing exercises, by printing Stampede Volume 2, GNU’s yearly publication, and reaching out to the Olympia Comics Festival to give GNU members a bigger platform from which to share their art. He believes the club is important because “comics are just such a personal expression, and they’re so cheap and accessible to everyone. People come into the club, and they’re like, ‘Comics are great. I could never make comics. I’m such a bad drawer.’ I just wanted to get. That. Away. That makes it inaccessible. They’ve been pushed into thinking that by a corporate box.” 

“Since I’ve started working [at The Danger Room], I’ve learned there are so many different types of people who like so many different kinds of comics,” Hollandsworth reflected. Comics were something Hollandsworth thought he knew really well, but after a few interactions with diehard comics fans, he learned that might not be completely true. “No matter how much I knew going into that, even if I had read twice as much, there are people who come in who are like, ‘Do you guys have the 30th volume of Girl Genius?’ What is that? I’ve never heard of that!”

Though Hollandsworth has grown comfortable with this type of exchange, he remains aware that he doesn’t know everything. And he doesn’t have to know everything. One of the owners of the store, Frank Hussey, has been a primary influence for opening Hollandsworth’s eyes: “Something Frank showed me that I haven’t read much of is European comics. There’s this whole other world that I didn’t even know about.”

“I came to Evergreen with what I would think of as a very capitalistic drive for professionalism.” But his first year at Evergreen dismantled his need to be the best artist, especially through a class he took titled An Ethics of Generosity: Community In and Through Creative Writing, 2D Design and Visual and Literary Theory, taught by Lynarra Featherly and Alex McCarty ’00, MiT ’02. Hollandsworth said the class made him think about why he wants to make art, and why he wants to be alive. 

Hollandsworth declared that a person doesn’t have to be a perfect artist to make a good comic. “You can take printer paper from anywhere and take a pen from your bank when you’re leaving and make the world’s best comics while sitting on a dumpster, and then find a library and print it, and give it to anyone.” He disclosed one reason why making comics is so important to him: “It’s just an emotional plea for thinking about stuff. It’s humans reaching out in different directions."