The Comic Clinic

Last night I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion with the Comic Clinic at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Though perhaps “participating” isn’t quite the right word. I had been invited by the group’s founders back in October. They stopped by my table at the New York Comic Con, and one particular member was drawn by the Indian-ness of the art for Chadhiyana. They felt I would be a good speaker to bring in, and I was all too happy to agree.

The Comic Clinic was founded by students studying at Mount Sinai who have an interest in comics and, through comics, are looking for new and, in my opinion, quite innovative ways to related to and connect with their patients. They felt my decision to tell a story about a woman (I’m a man) who is Indian-esque (I’m a white American) fit their mission very well, as the students are often put in positions where they have to understand, relate to and communicate with people who, culturally, may be very different from themselves.

Now, despite some very helpful correspondences from its founders, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I got there, but I came prepared. Though maybe I was a little too prepared as I was having flashbacks of art school as I lugged a heavy, oversized portfolio and a bag full of artwork and merchandise through bus and subway from my New Jersey apartment to Mount Sinai. Yet it seemed appropriate as I was about to meet with a group of college students, and it was a good way of reminding me about my own college experiences (sort of mirroring what the group was, in part, set up to do: to find ways of connecting with people by understanding their perspective, as it were).

The night was very enjoyable, and the roundtable setting helped make the experience very relaxed. Perhaps too much so, as I often fell into my habit of rambling and getting far off topic, when someone asked me a question, uncertain, in the end, if I even answered what they asked in the first place. Though everyone seemed very happy I took the time to come and speak with them, and we had some good conversations both during and after the roundtable discussion. What’s more, I had always been under the false impression that scientific minds were interested in math and science and artistic minds were interested in art. These students are just as passionate about fiction and fantasy as they are about cold, hard facts, some of them having artistic outlets themselves. And so, a learned a little something as well (which I always think is important when you’re going to speak or teach about any subject).

It was a great opportunity to connect with people with a genuine interest in the comic medium and give them the chance to ask me questions about things they wanted to know. From career highlights and my approach to my work, to the college experience and especially how I go about researching and representing a culture I wasn’t born into, I was quite interested myself in the scope of their questions and what the Comic Clinic members were most interesting in learning about. Though, most of all, we spoke about Chadhiyana, how she developed and what I have planned for her in the future.

I’d just like to thank the Comic Clinic members and founders Prapti Chatterjee, Ashley Titan, Bunmi Okunlola and David Shore for bringing me in to talk and answer some of their questions. I hope I did a good job and kept it interesting. This is certainly something I’d like to do more of (just in case you who are reading this are thinking I might be a good candidate to invite in to talk about my work).

The Comic Clinic is an interesting and wonderful organisation of young and passionate minds. I hope they have continued success and their numbers continue to grow (oh! and that they all excel in school, as well, of course). After all, it’s people like this who make what creators like myself do most worth it: people who show a genuine interest in what we’re doing and aren’t afraid let us know or ask questions about it. It’s why I enjoy exhibiting at conventions.

Thanks again, Comic Clinic. It was a pleasure.

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