Boston needs more superheroes. Not because our metropolis is gripped by an unprecedented crime spree, but, says Dave Kender, because our comics are perhaps not muscular enough for their own good.
Kender is creator of the Boston Comics Roundtable, a loose collective of Hub cartoonists and graphic novelists that serves as an in-person professional- and social-networking group for artists who usually toil in monastic solitude at their drawing tables.
Most of the work done by the Roundtable's members "has an indie-comics look," Kender concedes. "But I sometimes wonder whether we may be pushing away people who are into mainstream comics, like superheroes. I see people drawing in cafés and I strike up conversations with them and find out they've drawn for Marvel or DC or Image Comics. And they've never heard about our group. I'm trying to bring in as many different genres as I can."
His strategy for growing the Roundtable seems to be working. At its first get-together three years ago, just one other guy came, recalls Kender. But "the next week, a third person showed up, and then the next week, a fourth person showed up."
Including informal posters on the Roundtable's Google group, there are now as many as 120 local scribes and scribblers comparing notes, offering publishing advice, critiquing each other's art, and networking.
"That's why people keep coming back week after week," says Kender. (Members meet every Thursday at 7:30 pm at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square.) "They're meeting people who understand their problems — who share their joy when they phrase the words in a panel just right, or they like the way the ink is laid on the page for a certain character." Whether they use India ink on Bristol board or InDesign and Photoshop, "the social aspect is crucial."
For evidence of what such creative cross-pollination can lead to, check out the Roundtable's semi-regular anthology, Inbound, the third issue of which came out in April. Another title,Outbound, which focuses on sci-fi stories, premiered three weeks ago. They're testaments to the breadth and creativity of the Boston comics scene. (The next Inbound, due in October, is slated to be the biggest yet: a 100-plus-page paperback collection of narratives, arranged in chronological order, about the history of the Hub.)
Meanwhile, plans are afoot to relaunch the group's Web site with "a much different look to it and a much more active blog," says Kender. Take note, caped crusaders: superheroes are certainly welcome.