By Matthieu Rodriguez
Pasadena Weekly Associate Editor

DTorn apart by their shared love for manga, graphic novels and comics, South Pasadena librarians Cynthia Mitchem and Olivia Radbill have established a comic book club to bring this literary art form to their visitors.

“It’s a whole world filled with a lot of people,” Radbill said. “I hope the club will be able to introduce people to this world. There is so much different graphic literature.

The club started in April and, with COVID-19 still looming, it began to rally through Zoom. They provide reading material for each meeting through library databases.

“It’s kind of something that we talked about as an adult program that we could do,” Radbill said.

“There are a lot of different elements of the story to discuss: the artwork, the dialogue, the themes, the context, all of that. I love the Graphic Novel Club format and wanted to bring it to the library. “

The club usually attracts four to nine people, which allows the group to have a more lively discussion. The virtual nature of the club allows people outside of the city of places such as Ohio to join in the discussion.

“Our audience is pretty dispersed,” Radbill said. “We have a few people from South Pasadena, but for the most part we have people from Thousand Oaks. We brought in someone from Ohio once.

Mitchem and Radbill organize the books for each month, generally linking them to current events. In the past, the two have led discussions on George Takei’s “They Called Us Enemy” for Asian and Pacific Islander Month and Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” for Pride Month. The club invited Kobabe to talk about his graphic novel via Zoom, which was attended by approximately 70 people from across North America.

“We make all the decisions for the books we’re going to read,” Radbill said. “Sometimes we try to relate to something that’s going on, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a little more informal.

While the two librarians enjoy comics and its various subgenres, their penchant for the literary form stems from two different places.

Radbill began to delve into the world of the graphic novel when she was in college and landed her first library job as a bookshelf. She was captivated by the wide range of subjects covered in graphic novels but fascinated by the horror genre.

“When you look at a graphic novel, it’s not just the words you read,” Radbill said. “You watch people’s expressions, you watch the action and you interpret them, put them in context, and that’s an important skill for developing literacy. “

Radbill also runs his own comic book club outside the Women’s Library, focusing primarily on literature written or illustrated by women.

Mitchem said that while she loved reading Garfield, Peanuts, and Calvin Hobbes, she was in love with manga, comics, or graphic novels that originated in Japan. Mitchem, who is half-Japanese, has used manga to help him connect with his heritage and refine his understanding of the Japanese language.

“It was a way to learn more common phrases and see the language in a more natural setting,” she said. “Your parents aren’t going to teach you to say some slang.”

The Comic Book Club meets every 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month and will continue to meet through Zoom. The next meeting will take place on August 5th and will feature the manga adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” by Gou Tanabe.

“We’re very open to all opinions and all types of people,” Radbill said.