All great art or literature -- especially the avant-garde -- mimics the sensibilities of its era and continues to speak for its time long after the styles have been co-opted, drained, and replaced by the new. Although still denigrated by some high-brow connoisseurs, comic books are no exception. Like film, comics are a bridge between the visual and literary, a combination that enhances both extremes for an audience that enjoys both sight and story.
The modern era of comics (sequential art or graphic novel is preferred) arrived in the Sixties when artists began to use the medium to communicate their nascent rebellion, cynicism, and worldly thoughts. Personal topics were covered -- sometimes humorously, sometimes tragically -- but often without the "life lesson" required to pass muster with the Comics Code Authority. (Golly gee, Batman! Even the superheroes suddenly had faults and problems like any other guy or gal on the street.) The small pressings of alternative comics kept the most thrilling and thought-provoking artists just below the radar and free to explore even the touchiest of adult themes that had killed off many titles in the Fifties. In recent years, though, the underground finally joined the mainstream with former underground favorites receiving the same serious treatment and criticism as other fine artists but still retaining their edge.
Tonight from 5:00 to 8:00 at the Centre Gallery at Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, (300 NE 2nd Ave., Room 1365) a reception opens "The Graphic Novel," an exhibition showcasing original artwork culled from the works of about 40 American graphic novelists including Art Spiegelman (Maus), Alex Ross (DC Comics), Dan Clowes (Ghost World, Eightball), Chris Ware (The ACME Novelty Library), Mark Beyer (Amy & Jordan), Charles Burns (Black Hole, Big Baby), Kim Deitch (Boulevard of Broken Dreams), Ben Katchor (Julius Knipl Real Estate Photographer), Gary Panter (Jimbo), and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis). The show runs through Sunday, November 14. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Thursday from noon to 6:00 p.m. Admission is free. Call 305-237-3696. -- Margaret Griffis
If you go out to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise. No, not a whole lot of picnicking teddy bears, but there'll be a ton of delicious food and all the fixings for a good time at the Florida Fun Family Day Picnic. Hosted by the Center for Positive Connections, this free outdoor cookfest for HIV-infected and affected folks will lift your spirits and get you out mingling and making new friends. The aim is to bring families together and give them solace and strength, along with hot dogs and coleslaw. For the kids, there'll be clowns, magician Lawrence Lemon, DJ Buddy Bear, and karaoke. Come on down and lend a hand; they need volunteers and sponsors to make the dream of face painting and pony riding come alive, and push the family-fun meter ever higher. Feasting begins at 4:00 at the Knights of Columbus/North Miami Jaycee Hall, 12100 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami. Call 305-891-2066 or drop a line to email@example.com to reserve spots for all the folks you're bringing with you. -- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Bond with folks from across the pond
"The British are coming! The British are coming!" Actually they're already here. Been here quite some time, thank you very much. South Florida has long been home to a sizable population of British expatriates. If you'd like to meet some of them, you're in luck. Tonight from 6:00 to 9:00 marks the monthly meeting of the British Network at Sax Music Club (1756 N. Bayshore Dr.). Whether you're homesick for the mother country, a tourist visiting from the U.K., or an American who would like to raise a glass to the Queen, here's your chance to make new friends, collect some business contacts in an informal setting, and celebrate all things British. Enterprising anglophiles can get immigration advice, purchase English tea, groceries, newspapers, and other essentials necessary for maintaining the British way of life here in the colonies. Non-member admission is $10. Call Patricia Kawaja at 305-371-9340 or go to www.britishflorida.com. --Chris Deangelis
That baby blue 1984 Camaro you have sitting in your garage is a classic, or so you're convinced. Nobody makes cars with those snazzy spoilers and cool T-tops anymore. And those flames you just painted on the doors are really the perfect finishing touch. Classy! Everyone should see your baby. Unfortunately, at 20 years old, your baby is too young to qualify for a place in the Cauley Square Summer Car Show, going on rain or shine from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Cauley Square Historic Village (22400 Old Dixie Hwy.). All the street rods, custom models, trucks, and antiques displayed at the event must be from the year 1980 or earlier. Well, looking never hurt anyone, nor did dancing, which you can do to live music from the Fifties and Seventies. And being a patient good sport may pay off in the end; you just might walk away the winner of the door prize. Admission is free. Call 786-344-4228. -- Nina Korman