Students from three of AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Programs – Kingsborough Community CollegeCollege of Staten Island, and Hostos Community College participated in the first annual AHRC NYC College Comic Con. The unique event took place at St. Margaret’s House, a housing facility for elderly and disabled New Yorkers run by the historic Trinity Church on Fulton St. in Lower Manhattan.  The day centered on the presentation of KCC and CSI’s summer project, graphic novels that students from both schools created using their own life experiences combined with the endless possibilities found in the medium of comic books. This was the first time that the three college programs were together at the same event.


The day began with an ice-breaking exercise to introduce the students and staff to one another. Each attendee was provided with a name tag and asked to select an alliterative adjective to accompany their name. The results were amusing, with humorous monikers such as “Exotic Esteban” and “Fantastic Fran”. Each student received a laminated puzzle piece and matched the puzzle pieces together to discover which group members they would be working with. The puzzles came together to form covers of famous comic books and strips such as Spider ManArchie, and The Simpsons.

Creating a Skit

AHRC NYC staff members passed out two dialogue-free comic strips to each group and instructed them to craft a short skit based solely on the actions and mannerisms presented in the panels. Mentors and students worked together to create scenes rife with pop culture allusions and hilarious caricatures. In the final performance a group made a spot-on impression of Matthew WeilerFacility Director of KCC and CSI, attempting to make a phone call to his colleagues.

Presenting Graphic Novels

The KCC and CSI groups presented their graphic novels. The initial idea for the project was sparked by Ethan Jones, a student at KCC:

On Friday, April 25th, I was presenting a photo graphic novel I had made with my friends at a self-advocacy conference,” Ethan said. “I was with Matt at the time and I think he was inspired by my graphic novel to make it a summer project for us.”

The first page of both books opened with the following introduction: “This issue was inspired by the lives of distinction [as] part of the Melissa Riggio mission statement. It was decided by students and mentors alike to write a story where the heroes are captured and forced to live a life of conformity where they are prohibited from being their own individual person and realize how being themselves is the most important thing and hero can be.”

Campus Heroes

KCC’s graphic novel was entitled Campus Heroes and used illustration techniques reminiscent of rotoscope animation, featured in films such as A Scanner Darkly and the famous Take on Me video by A-ha.

Young AHRC Heroes Academy

CSI’s creation was called Young AHRC Heroes Academy: Origins. 

Both comics featured their heroes, modeled on the students themselves, overcoming barriers to find happiness and comfort in self-expression. At the end of the presentations, students from HOSTOS judged the two graphic novels and picked which one they liked the most, ultimately deciding on Young Heroes Academy.

Following a brief award ceremony in which all participants were thanked and applauded for their hard work, KCC and CSI presented HOSTOS with an invitation to participate in next year’s Comic Con Competition. Matt expressed that he was extremely satisfied with the event and proud of the students. “They took what was just a simple idea for a graphic novel and grew it into something so much more,” said Matt.