From Marvel superheroes to political cartoons, comics have been a large part of American culture from the 19th Century to present day. This year, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures hosted a foreign language graphic novel contest for all Loyola students. First-year Ace Chisholm, whose passion for languages and art pushed her to participate in the contest, took first place for her Latin graphic novel.
The contest was spearheaded for the first time this semester by Paulina Dzieza, the director of the Language Learning Resource Center (LLRC). The contest was open to all Loyola students, no matter what major or whether enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program. Dzieza said the contest is set to happen annually and all the graphic novels are on display at the LLRC until the end of the spring semester.
The award ceremony took place at the LLRC April 11, where the top-three participants were awarded Visa gift cards. The novels were judged using a rubric which covered overall story, originality, creativity and illustrations, Dzieza said. She said they received entries written in Latin, Polish, French and Italian and she hopes that in the future, the contest will grow and reach more students and include more languages.
“I think that the contest was successful,” Dzieza said. “I am hoping that next year more students will participate and we will get entries in all languages taught at Loyola.”
Chisholm’s novel, titled “Dies Maximus,” tells the story of Roman legionaries who stop on an island during their journey and, while hunting for deer, encounter a young harpy — a half-woman, half-bird creature in Roman mythology. The Roman soldiers mistake this bald, feathered creature to be a young barbaric boy and take her back to their camp to talk and share a meal. Throughout the novel, the soldiers fail to see the creature they’ve taken in is a harpy, and Chisholm said she used this as a running joke through the story.
“[The soldiers] don’t realize that she’s a harpy despite the different hints that she drops, such as when she says that she has no father but many fierce mothers,” Chisholm said. “[The mothers] are all the harpies that she’s referring to but they don’t pick up on that or the fact that she has a feminine name.”
The harpy’s name is Alcedinosta, which Chisholm explained is a combination of Latin words she used to create a charming name for her main character.
“It’s mashup of Latin word for kingfisher, which is the bird that I based her design off of, and ‘nosta’ which is ‘our,’” Chisholm said. “So it’s kind of like ‘our kingfisher.’ It’s just like a cute, endearing term that I made up for her name.”
Alcedinosta spends time talking with the soldiers and hearing stories of their travels as they sit gathered around a fire, whose blended red and orange shades light up the darker cool-colored background. She receives a wooden doll as a gift from Gaius, a soldier who enjoys whittling in his free time. Alcedinosta observes the big Roman warrior carefully carve the small, elaborate figure and eagerly reaches her feathered wings out to Gaius when he offers her the doll.
The theme of the contest — “The best day of my life” — is ever-present in the story as Alcedinosta enjoys a day of antics and new experiences.
“[Alcedinosta] says it’s one of the best days she’s ever had, in the sense that its been the most eventful day,” Chisholm said. “I use the word ‘maximus,’ which means ‘greatest,’ in the sense of ‘largest’ or ‘fullest,’ so it’s a little play on words in terms of the English translation. That’s why [the title is] ‘maximus’ instead of ‘optimus.’”
Chisholm, 19, is a Latin major and a member of Loyola’s Honors program. She said she intends to pursue a second major in computer science. Throughout high school, Chisholm said she took Latin classes with a teacher who inspired her to pursue Latin in her undergraduate studies. Although she said she doesn’t quite know what the future holds for her, Chisholm intends to pursue her fervor for linguistics.
Though she has no professional art training, Chisholm said she has been drawing for as long as she can remember.
“I was born with a pencil in my hand,” Chisholm said.
Each page of the graphic novel, which Chisholm illustrated digitally, is filled with bright colors and intricate details. Meticulous characteristics, such as fingernails, facial wrinkles and feathers are featured throughout the novel.
Chisholm said the contest is a great opportunity to practice creating dialogue in another language in a different way, instead of just listening to or reading it. She said she would participate in it again and encouraged anyone who’s learning a new language to take part in it as well.
“Anyone who wants to practice the language they’re studying should participate, anyone at all,” Chisholm said. “It was really fun, great practice and there was a lot of freedom to do what you want [with] just a prompt and a page limit.”