Cartoonist to speak on comics at Pictures and Words this weekend

Paul Hutchings
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Newfoundland-born cartoonist Joseph Hewitt is in town for Pictures and Words, an event organized by the Page One writers group, which takes place this weekend in Deer Lake. Hewitt currently teaches in South Korea and developed Polar Bear Comics, which is printed in both English and Korean.

DEER LAKE — Judging by how cartoonist Joseph Hewitt feels about South Korea, it’s like he never left Newfoundland.

Hewitt, raised in Cormack and currently living in the Asian country, headed over to South Korea to teach English on the suggestion of a friend after earning a degree in English literature from Grenfell Campus. He’s been there ever since and said, believe it or not, there are similarities between South Korea and Newfoundland.

“It’s very friendly,” he said. “It has 10,000 regional dialects, a drinking culture and there are jokes floating around.  It’s a lot like home.”

Two years ago Hewitt founded Polar Bear Comix, which publishes in English and Korean. He’s in town not just to visit family but to speak at this weekend’s Pictures and Words event, organized by Deer Lake’s Page One writers group.

Hewitt started off teaching children in South Korea when he got there in the late 1990s but is currently teaching at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology. He credits South Korea for spurring the creativity needed to continue his passion for comics, as it has allowed him to see and do things he would have never done in this province.

He said comics are just as relevant as ever these days, and said the Korean model for the industry is much different than in North America.

“The market for comics is very broad in Korea — everyone reads them there, from children to grandparents,” he said. “When I was growing up here you could get comics everywhere, but now I see you can really only get them in comics specialty store and I don’t know how the industry can sustain itself (with that business model).”

Hewitt said in Korea comics are actually rented in various stores and brought back a few days later. In North America, he said, things seem a little different than they were just a few years ago.

”When I was going to university we believed that comics were going to break out and become the new medium. It was a very exciting time for us,” he said. “Now when I come back I get the sense that the market is dwindling, with the two big companies, Marvel and DC, aiming for a very narrow demographic — there are a lot of comic movies and tie-in products, but for someone who loves comics themselves it feels like an empty victory.”

Hewitt will speak at Pictures and Words on Friday night. For more information on the event visit the Town of Deer Lake’s website.

Organizations: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology

Geographic location: South Korea, DEER LAKE, Cormack Newfoundland North America Korea

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