By: Patrick Smith

Neil Hunter is the co-coordinator and professor for Algonquin’s animation program. He feels that the college’s presence at ComicCon is a great way to generate interest in the program.

For most children growing up, comic books appealed to their sense of imagination and their desire for adventure, providing an escape from their boring everyday lives into a life full of superpowers and mythological creatures.

Some were drawn in because of the rich storytelling. Some, because the characters were more powerful than the children could ever hope to be. And some were drawn in because the detailed artwork and vibrant tones spoke to them.

Enter the Algonquin animation program, which will be hosting a booth for the second time at the annual Ottawa ComicCon,  held May 10 to 12 at the Ernst & Young Centre in Ottawa, Ont.

“At the ComicCon, there’s a whole population of people that don’t even know we have an animation program,” said Neil Hunter, co-coordinator and professor for the Algonquin animation program. “We’ve had one for almost 25 years now. So, it was a great opportunity for us to just let people, not just from Ottawa but from all over the world, know that there’s an animation school that’s here.”

Animation is typically seen as a specific form of art: making characters and objects move digitally to tell a story. According to Hunter, though, it goes much further than that.

“I got in animation through comic books,” he said. “It’s a similar type of drawing. You’re making strong poses, you’re doing perspective, you’re learning how to stage things, how to tell a story, design characters, all that sort of stuff. It’s just the medium that’s different.”

To that end, Hunter and the animation program hope to entice some ComicCon attendees to enrol in the animation program. They’ll be putting their students’ skills on display, as well as providing information about the program. The end goal, though, is much simpler.

“I think it’s important to be seen as being an active part of the artistic community,” said Hunter. “I think that’s part of what we should be doing as a college program.”

The annual convention, which celebrates comic books, animation and nerd culture as a whole, already has several celebrity guests booked.

These include Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory actor Wil Wheaton, X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, Batman actors Burt Ward and Adam West, and voice actors Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt.

The event is sure to host plenty of current Algonquin students eager to mingle with fellow enthusiasts.

“It’s become more socially acceptable,” said Chris Mackenzie, a computer systems technician student. Mackenzie noted that the social stigma attached to comic books and sci-fi conventions has nearly vanished, in part due to its more inclusive nature.

“It includes everything,” he said. “It’s more open.”

For Mackenzie, the real draw to attend ComicCon was the specific niche market in which he fit.

“I’m into Star Trek stuff, so that’s my big thing, ” he said, noting that he was looking forward to meeting Wheaton and Jonathan Frakes, who played Wesley Crusher and Captain William Riker, respectively, in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Comic book conventions typically see attendees dress up as a favourite character, often going into minute detail and sparing no expense on their costumes. For Mackenzie, though, the thrill comes from seeing the creativity.

“It’s always neat to see what others are doing,” he said.