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Chelsy Bloomfield is the founder of the Utah Graphic Novel Book Club that meets monthly at locations in Farmington or Ogden. More information can be found at the group’s Facebook page. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did this book club start?
Chelsy Bloomfield: I used to work at a comic store called Heebeegeebeez. I was always talking with customers about different graphic novels, but I wanted to integrate it into a more formal setting. So I actually started it for work, but then it kind of just kept going, even after I didn’t work there anymore.
What do you wish more people understood about this genre?
CB: Just how intelligent and dynamic graphic novels can be. I think sometimes people have a misconception that a graphic novel is just about superheroes. But there are so many different genres. There was actually an article that came out recently that said it was dumbing down college courses to teach graphic novels, and I 100 percent disagree with that. I’m actually a super big advocate for using graphic novels to teach people because there are some insanely intelligent ones out there. It’s not just children’s hero stories. There's adult stories, there's kid stories, there's sad ones, happy ones. It’s such a dynamic medium.
If you could require everyone in Utah to read one book, what would it be?
CB: I’d have to pick two. I would say “Elephantmen” by Richard Starkings. It’s about a government in Africa that creates these animal super soldiers, and then the U.N. comes and rescues them all and they have to integrate into society. It was a really big play on things like segregation and civil rights in general. I think it’s just one of those things in society where you kind of remove it from reality, and it’s a little bit easier to digest. And the other one is “Maus,” by Art Spiegelman. He wrote this about his dad’s experience during the Holocaust. That one’s really interesting because it’s another animal adaptation where the mice represent Jewish people, and the cats represent the Nazis. It’s such an accurate narrative of the Holocaust, and it affected me even more than “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
What is your least favorite film adaptation of a book?
CB: I was hoping for a better adaptation of (the Marvel series) “Civil War” because in the comics it was so much more political than in the movie, ("Captain America: Civil War"). It was about what the government can or can’t do, whereas in the movie it was more like Captain America wanting to save Bucky. I think it kind of lost a really big essence of what the original story brought.
What book surprised you most?
CB: I think “The Stuff of Legend” probably surprised me most. It’s about a little boy who gets kidnapped into his closet by the Boogeyman, and all of his toys decide to rally and send a search party after him. When I first heard the premise I thought, ‘Oh, this is for little kids.’ But then I read it and it’s a very adult book. It was such a scary book and it had me on edge the whole time. It definitely wasn’t a children’s story. I would recommend “The Stuff of Legend” to everybody because it’s just beautiful cover to cover.
What have you learned or gained from being involved in this book group?
CB: It sounds so cheesy, but I’ve gained such a family. I’ve definitely gained confidence, that something I thought of on a whim has just grown and become so successful. I’ve gotten to do things like be on a panel at Comic Con and meet so many different people. It’s just been such a family and I want people to experience that.
Chelsy Bloomfield of the Utah Graphic Novel Book Club recommends:
"Elephantmen," by Richard Starkings and Joe Kelly, Image Comics, 312 pages (f)
"Maus," by Art Spiegelman, Pantheon, 295 pages (nf)
"Civil War," by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, Marvel Comics, 208 pages (f)
"Locke and Key," by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez, IDW Publishing, 152 pages (f)
"The Stuff of Legend," by Mike Raicht, Brian Smith and Charles Wilson, Villard, 128 pages (f)
"Old Man Logan," by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, Marvel Comics, 128 pages (f)
"The Infinity Gauntlet," by Jim Starlin, George Perez and Ron Lim, Marvel Comics, 256 pages (f)
"World War Hulk," by Greg Pak and John Romita Jr., Marvel, 224 pages (f)
"The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes," by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg, Vertigo, 240 pages (f)