I’m stupid. I learned so much, met so many people and saw so much great artwork that I feel thoroughly exhausted. My head is a jumble of thoughts to parse.
Day Minus One (Chili Eatin’ and Record spinnin’)
I knew that made friends Craig Fischer and Charles Hatfield were getting into town on the Wednesday before the festival and that JT Dockery was already in town. I met the former two at the CCAD Mix Symposium a couple of years ago and JT at this past year’s SPACE. All three have become new old friends and I was really eager to see all three of them, so I threw a little bit of a bash. I cooked up two pots of chili (one beef, one veggie) and spun some of my favorite records. Some great conversations were had, not the least of which added the term “Waffle Headed Fuck” to my vocabulary of phrases. Can you guess which famous comic book character we were talking about?
(Note to dear friends who are now realizing that they didn’t get invited to a party at my house: I’m sorry! It got to a point where if everybody I invited showed up in my tiny apartment there wouldn’t be any room to breathe!)
Craig and Charles gave a presentation on Eddie Campbell’s “Black Diamond Detective Agency” that focused on the conflict of technologies expressed in the graphic novel. They played a weird game of microphone tag with the single source of sound amplification on the stage. I know they were nervous about presenting in front of Eddie Campbell himself, and they were mercifully saved by his absence. (I suspect it would’ve been equally awkward for Campbell and that his absence was an intentional gift as opposed to a lack of interest.) At any rate, they had no reason to be nervous given that they are not only smart as whips, but both also have an engaging manner when presenting papers.
The final paper on adaptations and revisions was given by Qianna on Whitted Comics as Racial Pedagogy: Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story to March Book One. I’ll admit that I wasn’t actually 100% sure what the word pedagogy meant, but it became clear as Qianna presented that it meant reviewing both comic books in terms of their use and efficacy as educational tools. (I’ll scale that ivory tower brick by brick!)
If I was perplexed by the word pedagogy, I was outright angered by the word transmediality. Why can’t they just say ‘Digital comics!?”
The answer to that furious question is of course, that digital medium offers storytelling options that the classic floppy comic doesn’t. The material that is presented in digital form is simply different from the art form I know and love. A comic book adapted properly to digital use is as different from the original as a comic book adapted to movie format. The question that these presenters were addressing was about what those differences mean in terms of new possibilities for storytelling and critique.
The presenters were clearly very excited about those possibilities. I’m afraid that I didn’t find that enthusiasm contagious. If anything, my give-a-fuck about digital media went down and I feel more firmly entrenched as a niche interest and slightly subversive outsider.
Ribbon Cutting and Gallery Exploration:
After a short dinner break, festival attendees gathered in the lobby of the new cartoon library in eager anticipation of finally being able to explore the galleries upstairs. I had been told that the exhibit focused on pieces that would show the breadth of the most immense collection of cartoon and comic art in the world. I was so eager that I didn’t much mind the climbing temperatures in the lobby or the series of speeches that always accompany opening ceremonies.
And I was not let down.
The three galleries featured pieces that ranged in modernity from an original Thomas Nast cartoon to Jeff Smith’s RASL. Special pull drawer cabinets held original obscure and wonderful roots comics including CC Beck’s Captain Marvel and bizzare proto-manga books from WWII era Japan. (The latter featuring the only anti-Ghandi propaganda I’ve ever seen. Think about that. A caricature of an “evil” Ghandi. WHAT?)
I got to swing into action with Terry & The Pirates, the Spirit, and Flash Gordon thanks to Milton Caniff, Will Eisner and Alex Raymond. I had a few laughs with King Kong, Godzilla and Popeye courtesy of Jack Davis and Elzie Segar. I got to revisit some of my favorite spinner rack material from Joe Kubert and Neal Adams. Hell… I even got a little misty when I had to relive poor Farley the dog died heroically saving the little kid in For Better or for Worse. (Yeah. I’m a softy under it all.)
It was a truly a words fail me sort of experience. “Holy shit” will have to suffice.
Totally missed the Jeff Smith and Paul Pope conversation while I was mesmerized by the galleries. A little bit of a shame from the perspective that my friend Jack insists that I already know Pope from my days at OSU. I really can’t place that and was hoping that seeing him on stage might jar my memory. (So much of the 90s is lost to me…) A small price to pay for a few hours of joyous sensory overload.