Cartoonist George O’Connor shows his Past, Present, and Future with BC visit

./Edited by Kaylin Guzman

By Kaylin Guzman

  

   From Monsters to Greek Gods, George O’Connor, author of the New York Times bestselling series “The Olympians,” took his audience through his life and graphic novels on Feb. 20 at Brooklyn College. Through a fun-filled presentation, the audience learned about the author’s roots in drawing and his decision to make illustrations his life’s storyline.

   O’Connor was invited to BC’s Classics Department in collaboration with the Art, Television, Radio, and Emerging Media (TREM) Department, and English departments. Professor of Classics, Liv Yarrow, introduced the author to the audience, recounting her first interaction with his work. Yarrow described her first interaction with the O’Connor’s books to be on a trip to an archeological site in Turkey, accompanied by her children. They had found O’Connor’s books at a nearby store, and her kids were enthralled in the series. 

   “I had drastically underestimated how many books to pack. We were hungry for anything in the bookstore that looked like it might bridge the gap between what we were seeing, the stories we were telling, and the long hot hours in that car,” Yarrow said “We met George O’Connor’s Hades, and some of his other amazing stories of the Greek Gods. We were hooked.”

   Not only was Yarrow hooked, but the present audience fell for O’Connor’s charm throughout his presentation. As he shared his history with drawing and storytelling, echoes of laughter filled the auditorium. Children who were present laughed and spoke up to interact with him, and O’Connor happily engaged with their comments. 

   “I would make these little hand puppets,” O’Connor said, his arm extended upward with his hand holding the position of his creature’s head, reminiscent of the shadows he used to make along his bedroom wall. “The dude with the long bent neck is literally this.” He demonstrated the growth of his creativity, from his initial sketches as a young child to the first submission he made to Marvel Comics. 

   Namor, an anti-hero in the Marvel Comic Universe was O’Connor’s first submission to Marvel Comics early in his career. He showed the development of his drawings from sketches to comic book planes. Although he expressed his disappointment in not getting to work with this beloved character, he outlined the positive outcome of this experience. O’Connor took one of his monsters from this Marvel submission and made it his antagonist for one of his books of The Olympians series. 

   This series has 12 books focusing on the Greek Gods and their stories. Through humor and art, O’Connor aims to educate his readers while keeping them engaged in the history that can be hard to digest if you start reading the original text that has been translated. Professor Yarow was so passionate about sharing his work that she included him on her class syllabus, which eventually led to inviting him to the school as a guest.

  “I have taught with the graphic novels sometimes with Brooklyn College students and that has gone really well and I thought it would be fun to bring him to campus,” Yarrow said.

   When recapping his books, the audience enjoyed a dramatic reading of a spread from the graphic novel. The present audience learned about the Greek Gods Hera, Io, Zeus, and Apollo. O’Connor shared his thoughts on each graphic novel, and the stories encapsulated within them. He even taught the Greek myth of why dogs greet each other the way they do. 

   O’Connor demonstrated he was a fellow New Yorker when proudly representing his favorite baseball team the Mets during his presentation. One photograph from his childhood showed a Mets cap and a drawing table behind him. The only significant change was his age and the location in which he was photographed.

   “I wanted to bring someone that was right here in the community to campus,” Yarrow said. “It helped make that connection not only for the Classics Department but also for the Art Department, but for the Creative Writing Program, TREM, all of it. ”

   Excitement vibrated across the auditorium as O’Connor teased his next project, a graphic novel series about Norse Mythology this year. Norse Mythology comes from the Viking Age (c. 790 – 1100 CE). Much like Greek Mythology, Norse Mythology laid the framework of beliefs for people of this area residing in the Scandinavian areas. O’Connor confirmed the first graphic novel based on Odin, the god of war and of the dead, would be released this upcoming March. The following graphic novel in the series will be released in October.

   Once his presentation was over, people from the audience were able to get signatures from the author. He quickly drew his original characters based on the book handed to him and signed each book with a small message. O’Connor’s pen glided across the page showing his readers that he knew his illustrations like the back of his hand.

   O’Connor let his audience know his love for drawing started early and wished others would too. “I think it is important to follow that muse while you’re young, while you have that chance to screw around,” O’Connor said. “A smarter writer than me once said that there’s no sadder words in the English language than if only.”

 

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