Sunday, October 31, 2010

Festival of Cartoon Art — Snippets, Part 3

I’d be remiss not to mention how … well, nice everyone was at this year’s Festival of Cartoon Art.

Lynn Johnston on the spot did a marvelous sketch for me to give to a friend who’s been cutting my hair for a year now in exchange for only occasional payoffs in home-baked cookies. (I won’t mention his name, as others who’ve been paying in more than cookies don’t feel abused.) He was delighted.

Gene Luen Yang also did a clever sketch of the Monkey King for my wife. Yang’s American Born Chinese is one of the few graphic novels she’s ever read without my coercion. (Maus is another.)

And curator and emcee Lucy Shelton Caswell remained cheerful throughout. I interviewed her way back when the cartoon library started, I think — and before it was officially called the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. That was for Ohio Magazine (several owners ago). I spoke with her again a few years later for another story I assigned when I was editor at Acclaim magazine, also in Columbus, on the Caniff collection and cartoons in general.

On that second occasion, she allowed us to use some Terry and the Pirates art to go with the magazine feature. (We also managed to get Bill Watterson to speak for the story about the reduction of cartoon panel size in daily newspapers.) Then as now, Lucy was generous with her time and knowledge.

See my earlier posts on the conference here and here. One more post to come, on the Columbus Museum of Art’s astonishing R. Crumb exhibit, “The Bible Illuminated” and its Nov. 15 showing of the documentary, Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Festival of Cartoon Art — Snippets, Part 2

Patrick McDonnell, creator of Mutts, wasn’t the only animal lover who spoke at the 10th Festival of Cartoon Art this past week. Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro showed a slide of him, cigar in mouth, proudly holding a rather large chicken.

He and his wife, he noted, are board members of an animal sanctuary that, along with the usual dogs and cats (and hopefully rabbits, too), also rescues chickens. Who would have guessed?

Other things I learned at the Ohio State University four-day event:

Robert Harvey, speaking of his 952-page Milton Caniff bio, Meanwhile …, told me, “Believe it or not, what got printed was only 60 percent of what I wrote.”

James Sturm, whose The Golem’s Mighty Swing was Time magazine’s best graphic novel in 2001, said: “Cartooning is a calling first, a career second.”

He talked a bit about the Center for Cartoon Studies, the cartooning school in White River Junction, Vt., for which he is director. Seth did the catalog cover.

Dave Kellett, whose book, How to Make Webcomics, I picked up at the Wexner Center shop during the conference and have been reading (and could have used two years ago before I my own online strip, Slipped), contended newspapers and comics are parting ways. This is because, he said, “In the mind of the average consumer, the newspaper comic strip” — such a small percentage of the daily paper’s content — “has always been free.”

In fact, he continued, the medium of comics is dying, though the art form of comics is not

• Speaking of the topicality of editorial cartoons, Jen Sorensen, of the weekly alternative editorial cartoon Slowpoke, noted many readers are “ahistorical” — meaning they know little about history, not that they don’t exist within history, of course.

One more post on the conference to come, I think, plus a post on the Columbus Museum of Art’s astonishing R. Crumb exhibit, “The Bible Illuminated.”

See my earlier post on this conference here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Festival of Cartoon Art — Snippets, Part 1

This year’s sold-out Ohio State University event was very much as I recall the very first Festivals of Cartoon Art — lots of speakers and panelists covering comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, editorial cartoons and animation (plus, this year, much talk about online comics), as well as professionals who weren’t presenters but came anyway.

So along with the presenters such as Art Spiegelman (Maus), Matt Groening (Life in Hell and The Simpsons), Jen Sorensen (Slowpoke), Dan Piraro (Bizarro) and Bill Griffith (Zippy), also milling around between sessions was Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Jeff Smith (Bone), editorial cartoonist J.P. Trostle, New Yorker art editor Francoise Mouly and Jeff Keane (The Family Circus). And those are just the ones I happened to spot.

Here are some bits of wisdom I picked up during and between sessions:

• Comics, declared James Sturm (The Golem’s Mighty Swing), are not a combination of writing and drawing, but of poetry and graphic design. Nicely put, right? Read that again.

Jan Eliot (Stone Soup) draws how people “feel, not how they look.” She added it’s hard to come up with kids-outdoors ideas — in the woods, playing in snow — not already done by Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes).

Roz Chast, one of The New Yorker’s 20 staff cartoonists, submits five cartoons a week for consideration.

She noted an idea evolves as she draws it. She confessed to resubmitting rejected ideas, months later and after “some reworking.” “Everybody does it,” she added.

Gene Luen Yang, discussing his American-Born Chinese graphic novel, recalled his mother told him not to draw the Monkey King barefooted. The centuries-old character always wore shoes, she claimed, because he didn’t want “people to know he’s a monkey.” Which, of course, dovetails beautifully with Yang’s primary theme of cultural ambivalence.

Dave Kellett, creator of Sheldon and one of the authors of the book How to Make Webcomics, discussed the benefits of disintermediation — how, for online comics, there is the artist and audience, and all the people in the middle of the traditional food chain are gone.

More to come on this year’s very worthwhile event ….

A link to the Festival’s site is here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Feiffer on Diane Rehm radio show

On this morning’s broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show on NPR, cartoonist and playwright Jules Feiffer was asked by a call-in listener whom he would cite as being as inspirational among today’s cartoonists as Will Eisner had been for him.

Feiffer, on air to promote his book from this past spring, Backing Into Forward, immediately claimed G.B. Trudeau was still at the top of his game with Doonesbury.

But newspaper strips, he added, were an endangered species, with graphic novels being where one can see excellent examples of sequential art today.

Feiffer noted the usual suspects — Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware. But he also lauded David Small and his Stitches and Craig Thompson for his Blankets. Which is interesting as the two look somewhat similar, with their soft brush strokes, and both are memoirs of less-than-cheery childhoods.

But both books are well worth reading and admiring.