The Master Programmer:
This comic, this entire series, really, reminds me of the first successful program I had at my library. It was 2009, and I had been hired by the library to create programming that would appeal to teens and adults. I was still the new guy, and I felt the need to prove myself, especially since my programs throughout the previous year had been abysmal failures.
I decided to try my luck at doing a comic book program, but it took some convincing. For the past year, you see, I engaged to prove the literary merits of comics to my coworkers who all thought that comics were just for kids and not “real” reading. It didn’t matter that the field of librarianship as a whole had embraced comics nearly a decade earlier, with dedicated sections to “graphic novels” (as the haughtier of us prefer to call them) in every Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. It didn’t matter that education professionals and literary scholars promoted the unique and artistic value and the educational benefits that the comic medium had to offer. Nope, my rural little library thought they were mindless products that were only tolerated in the building because they circulated well. So, when I approached the administration about doing a comic book program, I was met with reluctance and told, “it better be good.” I also had no money in the program budget to spend, so it had to be good and free.
I messaged a local comic book writer named Sean McKeever who had written (among other things) the Sentinel series, a short-lived but beautifully crafted X-Men one-off about a boy who befriends a lethal robot. I had met Mr. McKeever previously at a convention or two. Unfortunately, his busy schedule made it seem unlikely we would be able to make arrangements. I then approached my favorite local comic shop, The Laughing Ogre, about doing a program. It turns out, they did that sort of thing all the time as part of an outreach initiative, so score! We had the fliers made, the date set, advertisements ran in the local papers, and we were ready to go!
I then received word that that the Ogre staff would be bringing a local comic book writer with them; Sean McKeever! This little library was about to get more bang for its zero-buck! We quickly modified the fliers and sent out new advertisements to alert the public that we would have a bona fide comic book creator joining us.
The night of the program saw nearly 90 people attend, each coming through those library doors, many of them not folks that typically visit. One of the first ones to take a seat was a decidedly bad and smelly nerd who kept asking Mr. McKeever questions about Marvel and DC characters that he had never worked with, but overall the audience enjoyed themselves. And I walked away that night feeling proud and grateful to the participants for allowing me to have my first successful library program.
After that, having proving the merit of comics in the library, I was put in charge of the graphic novel collection, which is now one of the highest-circulating collections in the building.
Sentinel tells the tale of a young boy who repairs a salvaged Sentinel, a mutant hunting robot, and establishes a friendship with it. This is the first issue of a revival miniseries that was done after the initial series’ cancellation, due to fan demand I presume. It is so different than anything Marvel was putting out at the time or since, and was a clever approach for a spinoff as well as a good book for younger readers. I have the complete original series, the complete miniseries, and the collected digest versions, all of them autographed by the writer at the Columbus Comic Con.
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Udon Comics
Condition of My Copy: Signed and wrapped in plastic for good, since I use the collected editions for reading.