George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason Student Wins National Comic Book Contest

September 26, 2013

By Mark Schwartz, communications and marketing officer, University Libraries

Elizabeth Bass. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bass

Elizabeth Bass. Photo by Evan Cantwell

As any well-read DC Comic fan knows, Barbara Gordon is a librarian by day and Batgirl by night, and when her mobility is challenged, she becomes Oracle, using her library skills to mine all sorts of data to support her fellow female superheroes in the field. Real-life librarians and other library workers are most famous for their secret or double lives as poets (Philip Larkin) and authors (Jorge Luis Borges, David Hume, Lewis Carroll).  Surprisingly, few have created comic book superheroes, only the inspiration for them.

Meanwhile, at George Mason University’s Fenwick Library…

Mason Libraries student assistant Elizabeth Bass entered a “create-your-own-comic-book-character” sponsored by Marvel Comics and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and won an all-expense-paid trip to Comic-Con International: San Diego, often dubbed the largest comic book convention in the world.

Bass’s entry included a photo of herself, to be used for the actual look of the new character, and a concise description as pithy as any annotation in a scholarly bibliography:

Backfire. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Bass submitted the character she created called “Backfire” into a contest sponsored by Marvel Comics and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. Courtesy of Marvel Comics

“Backfire stands at the ready, always prepared to fly into battle on her tricked-out Street Bob at a moment’s notice.  With a custom exhaust system sporting her favorite flame thrower, her baby’s powerful and dangerous backfire has earned her the reputation as an explosive new superhero.”

“I wanted to create a hard-core female character who was empowered on a motorcycle,” says Bass, a history major interested in Greek and Roman classics. “What’s cool about Marvel comics is that many of their female characters are complicated and realistic.”

Marvel and Harley-Davidson are re-launching what they describe as “a mobile security team known as Road Force” to help Iron Man save the world. It was this return of Road Force that created the opportunity for a new team of Harley and Marvel fans to enter the action as Road Force’s Recon and Demolition, aka R.A.D.D.  Inspired by her years of reading comic books, Bass, a senior, found she could quickly create a character as a stand-in for herself.

Marvel has posted the comic at – /issue/31557/wl/1.

Growing up, Bass says her favorite superhero was Spider-Man, arguably the most recognizable of the Marvel creations, and today she is a fan of the latest movie staring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. In accordance with the Spider-Man’s everyman-to-superhero transformation, she understands the appeal of comics is different from person to person and can be paradoxical in nature: “People read comics to escape from reality yet they can feel like they are saving the world; to feel like a hero and to look up to one all at the same time is especially important to those who don’t have any in real life.”

As far as the Harley tie-in to her character, this Mason senior admits, “I don’t ride a motorcycle right now, but I’m a fan of the Cruiser.” Cruiser motorcycles are known to borrow heavily from the design style of the 1930s to 1950s.

On the job at the Mason Libraries, Bass assists with the preservation of books, and if each book contains in its pages a world of knowledge, Bass is, in hyperbole, saving worlds every day. At the library, she also spends time in the PN6700s. “That’s where the graphic novels and bound comic books are.”