8:55 – Just finished up having coffee and a croissant with Stephanie Piro, Anne Gibbons, Sandra Bell-Lundy, Stacy Curtis, Kim Warp and a bunch of other folks. Lots of talk of people who want you to illustrate their children’s books, people who want cartoons for free, and other cartooning annoyances.
9:00 – Quick look around and other than the sound guy, I think I’m the only one here on a laptop. Weird…
9:07 – OK, here come the graphic novel publishers. Looks like it’s gonna be a fair amount of Q&A. I wonder if I can come up with anything that even sounds semi-intelligent. The Diana Schutz is beginning and is giving a little history of DH. David Saylor from Scholastic is giving a little background on book clubs, book fairs, and the like. Talking about reading a lot of comics when he was a kid and rediscovering them later. Telling about Bone’s recent success. The Babysitter’s Club books are being made into graphic novels/comics now. Talk about full circle considering the books’ author is Henry Martin’s daughter. (Any way I can turn that into an intelligent question?!) Gary Groth from Fantagraphics is speaking now about The Comics Journal, Love and Rockets, Crumb, etc… Lucy asks if “we’re stuck with the term ‘graphic novel?'” Groth answers that he’s not fond of it and sees it as a marketing term, but all agree that we seem to be stuck with it. Lucy asks about the mainstream media’s acceptance of the form. Schutz and Groth agree that there simply needed to be enough material for publishers/retailers to create the ‘graphic novel’ category. Lucy asks about manga’s influence. Groth suggests manga is 80% of the graphic novel market and 20% is everything else, and, largely, the two groups almost never overlap in readership. Lucy asks about finding new talent. Saylor says he gets a lot of recommendations from other artists, and a lot from word of mouth. Groth says he sees a lot via press conventions. Schutz agrees with both and discusses “overnight success” being years of really really hard work. I wonder if I could come up with a coherent question about humor books. A guy asks about web piracy. Saylor says “piracy sucks,” and Groth suggests that it’s difficult to stop isn’t really concerned about it. He comments on the sort of free promotion aspect of it too; promotion they don’t necessarily have to be involved in. I wish I’d asked about longer form humor, but I never go the chance. Oh well…
10:00 – Back up the room for a laptop recharge and some more coffee.
11:00 – Ray Billingsley – Speaking about his family and early inspirations. Telling a story about finding a girl in his brother’s bed, early experiences with vodka/asthma, and hiding scrambled eggs in his brother’s pants. Talking about how cartooning saved him from problems his friends had fallen prey to. Ray’s a really good speaker; he’s got the crowd very much in his hand. I was on a panel with Ray a while back that Mike Lynch put together and he was such a nice guy. Lucy made mention of some recent illness, but Ray seems to be feeling well and having fun. Talking about meeting Mort Walker while sporting a giant afro. Curtis is his second strip. A lot about working hard and rejection. Discussing working Kwanzaa into the strip. On mentor, teacher & friend Eisner, lovingly, “that brother was never moved by anything I did.” Talking about an early play-writing class and his interest in storytelling. I want to ask “where’s the Curtis collections?” Ray just mentioned “if I had a book thing I’d show you, but I don’t” and you can tell… Oop! Someone just asked about books! Regarding himself and other black cartoonists “we don’t get the same sort of respect, we don’t get the same opportunities…” You can tell Ray’s upset by the lack of a book deal. Mentions Boondocks and says “…it reinforced the stereotype of the angry black man.” Mort Walker asks about Ray’s gallbladder attack, Ray says you will see it in the strip; lots of laughs. Class act all the way, really really fun presentation. You can tell that people could keep asking questions and Ray could keep telling stories for a good long time. Discussing designing a character, Derek, via a simple circle with Schulz. Telling a story about his barber grandfather cutting off his afro. Talking about moving from Wake Forest to Harlem as a boy. Lucy asks about controversial strips. Ray explains “The Stinky Middle Finger” story line. Now a story about Curtis meeting a rabbi and the mail that ensued. Story about defending himself against angry people on a radio call-in show. Resounding applause for Ray, and well-deserved.
12:00 – Mike Peters – I’ve been a fan of Peters for a long time. I stole my thick line from him and I just love that look. Begins by discussing showing up at the wrong building, forgetting his slides and notes, trying to get into the cartoon library, driving over to the hotel to give his speech… funny! Exuberant is the word. Talking about being dyslexic before being dyslexic was cool. I’ve never seen Mike speak before, but you can tell he’s really comfortable in front of a crowd. Explaining avoiding nuns over summer break. Telling story about his mother who had a TV show in St. Louis growing up and being “little Mike.” Story about having his hair cut in front of everyone in military school and realizing only later that he was supposed to be embarrassed. Talking about the “bricks” that make you into a cartoonist. Discussing potentially flunking out of art school while dating the dean of students’ daughter and the advice he got. Onto showing cartoons… Tells a story about coming up with cartoon ideas. The space shuttle, its plane, and the Wright Brothers and how he almost missed doing that cartoon while trying to come up with a Kissinger gag. Explaining brainstorming and his spoked wheel approach. Remembering the OJ trial and Ito mentioning one of his cartoons on TV and discussing it with the jury. Wow, Peters is a hoot! I’ve heard people described as a “strong cup of coffee,” and I think that applies to Mike. What fun! Showing his favorite cartoons now. I’m gonna tape this… I’ll try to post it in a day or two.
2:00 – OK I’m back, Nick Anderson is starting now. Mentions he went here to Ohio State; neat! Showing an x-ray of his recently broken thumb. Showing a pic of his Cintiq. Showing a video from his blog showing how he managed to draw with a broken hand. Hey, another cartoonist with a blog! Discussing the evolution of cartoon technology: erasing pencils, a light box, etc… Showing his process technologically. I wonder how many people in the audience think this is space age stuff. The presentation is really nicely done. I’m assuming in Keynote. Talking about hiding his childrens’ names in his cartoons. Says it remind him of what’s important every day. OK, so why use this technology? Nick explains it’s a huge time saver and he’s got a lot to get done. Nick’s responsible for policing his blog’s comments?! Yeesh! Says editorial cartoonists are graphic storytellers, but it takes place over a long period of time little by little. Nice point. Showing some older art. Some really great stuff. Now onto animation; cool! Ahh… they have someone do the animation FOR him. Oop, he’s in powerpoint? On a Mac? OK, after some tech problems, he’s got some animated stuff for us to see now. Showing a sort of Flash video game/cartoon. That’s is freakin’ fantastic! What a great idea! I dunno that you could do that every day, but still… God this SO makes me want to do some Flash! VERY cool stuff. Showing us the process. Now some simpler animations. Man oh man, neat stuff. I wonder how other editorial cartoons feel about these? Showing some 3D animation stuff in Maya. I’m less impressed with the “My Humps” thingy, but, wow, you gotta admire the stretching the boundaries of the medium. Just played a take-off on Feel Good Inc.. I’m not sure these longer animations are as effective, but holy cow, this is really some forward thinking. I wonder if he has to get permissions for all of these songs and photos? Mentions he has to do a lot himself to get this stuff to work. I want to ask a question about permissions, I’ll see if we have time. Showing some Painter stuff live. Hooray, I got to ask my permissions question, and my heart didn’t jump out of my chest. Seemed like Nick thought it was an intelligent question. (Hooray for me!) OK, I gotta check out Nick’s site and get more knowledgeable about his stuff. Perhaps a kindred soul. Harvey asked about the whole Pulitzer thing, Nick gives a good answer. Looks like we’re finishing up questions. Wow, what a GREAT presentation. I would so love to see a whole festival based around this sort of thing!
3:00 – Back in my room for a break and realized I forgot to get a pic at the Nick Anderson thing. Grr! But I did get a chance to talk to Groth outside the room about the potential for longer form humor. Felt like I got sort of a blow-off answer, but I’m sure this guy’s getting deluged with people hassling him. Anyway, he suggested I check out some Peter Bagge, and I really should. See you at 3:45.
3:50 – Alison Bechdel – OK, got a fresh charge on the laptop and I’m ready to go. Alison is starting out with Dykes to Watch Out For. Said part of the appeal for her 25 years was that comics were soothingly obscure and she could void criticism. Asking herself why she does this: she doesn’t want to bore people and this gets her info across quickly and effectively. “It’s easier to read a cartoon than to not read it.” Wanted to see herself and her generation in a comic. Talks about self-syndication in the 80’s. Able to do this full-time by the time she was 30. Explains the very wide nature of her strip. Looking at some really great art. I so love stuff like this in only black and white. I could never command crosshatching and larger black areas this well. Beginning to discuss Fun Home. Wow, some amazing art. A book I really need to make some time to explore. Comments it was interesting to write something with a concrete end, unlike an ongoing strip. On to the technical process. Showing an example of her handwriting font. Writes in Illustrator, drawing empty boxes, and placing text first. Neat idea! Gotta remember this. Prints it out and does pencil sketches. Showing some family photos. Does shading on a separate piece of paper. Curious to hear why later. Neat video of her doing the watercolor shading on a light desk over the line art. Takes a lot of photos for reference. Says she’s become more and more photo dependent. Wow some really neat stuff here, and inspiring too. Again I’m wondering if a graphic novel is something I should consider?! Now a reading from the book. Could I do a book telling an entire story in gag cartoons? Could you do a narrative that way? Wow, a kinda low key, but thoroughly engaging presentation. Questions now. Book took 7 years to finish. Holy ka-moley! Did it off and on while doing her strip. Says her new memoir is going badly and she shouldn’t even be here. Doing a lot of self-psychoanalytic research now. “Sounds like fun, huh?” Says she’s trying work from photos more loosely now. Question about her blog. Says she needs to be in the right mood for such immediate feedback but that its often inspiring and she likes it. Another blogger. Speaking about the bleaker landscape for selling Dykes. Says “Fun Home” isn’t really therapy for herself. Question about issues with her family regarding the book. “They weren’t so keen on it.” Not the “after-school special fantasy” she hoped for. Says her family doesn’t talk about the book. Wow, another really good presentation. Today was chock full of good stuff.
9:00 – Just got back from dinner with everyone and had a great time. I know everyone is meeting in the bar downstairs, but I think I’m just gonna kick back, maybe watch a movie, let my feet breathe, and get ready to fly out at an ungodly hour in the morning. I figure I’ll write sort of a nice wrap-up tomorrow or the next day.