Monthly Archives: October 2006

Spain, part two; Madrid

Blog entry by Jeff

Monday night we had a  presentation and signing at FNAC, a major bookstore, music, DVD chain. The room is full, with people standing at the back and on the floor around the sides.

On the left is popular Spanish cartoonist Mauro Entrialgo . His cartoons regularly run in the humor magazine El Jueves , and he has a bestselling book called How to be a Son of a Bitch.  I thought he had come to do a signing with me, but all he wanted to do was tell the Spanish crowd how much he liked BONE.  He said that compared to the standard 44 page albums that Europe is known for,  BONE was a revelation. A long form work with enough room to explore characters and story.  I hope I have that right, because it is very nice, and it would be embarrassing if I had my translation was wrong.

The highlight of two days in Madrid had to be seeing BONE racked with all the other new fiction bestsellers.  

I was suspicious that FNAC had put BONE on the fiction wall just for my visit, but they assured me it was the second best selling book in the store. Not of graphic novels, but of all books! Even Lauriano was surprised.

The next day, we had a signing in a different downtown bookstore called Casa del Libro. Once again we found BONE racked with the new bestselling fiction books.

Later that afternoon, I went to the final signing of the visit at Madrid Comics, where the que wound its way up the stairs. 

The people of Madrid are friendly, enthusiastic, and they love comics. We've done enough publicity to last for weeks, so everything's looking pretty good for our Spanish launch.  Right. Off to Barcelona… 

Spain, part one; Madrid

Blog entry by Jeff

In downtown Madrid, I meet my spanish publisher Laureano Dominguez from Astiberri.

Let me start off by saying that Spain is off the hook. The amount of national radio, TV and newspaper interviews I do is unbelievable. 

Twice, while riding somewhere in a cab, Lauriano receives a last minute request from a major newspaper and he hands me his cel phone so I can answer five minutes worth of questions. The main thing most journalists asked me: Why comics, why now? (A question I assume to be some kind of reference to both the universal invasion of Manga and the hype in Spain around the BONE release) They also want me to explain how I have created the most successful comic book in the world.  I assured them that I wouldn’t know, but it was nice being asked!

Here is the Spanish book surrounded by promotional material and reviews. 

The Astiberri editions are beautiful; Laureano's designer has put a snow white cover underneath the dust jacket that really works. Tonight we start a marathon series of signings with an appearance at the large downtown chain store FNAC. We hope there's a good turn out…

Greece, part three

Blog entry by Jeff

Dinner Saturday night before the Babel Festival is an adana kebab. It’s an incredibly tender mixture of lamb and beef.  And it comes with a roasted chilli pepper.

We know the festival will be unbelievably crowded so we arrive around 9 and start right in. The rock music playing outside is thumping out a good groove and I can feel the bass in the seat of my chair.

The que is pretty long. Everyone is enthusiastic, and the bad signing on Friday is becoming a memory. Our supply of books is dwindling. We sign until the festival closes at Midnight. Exhausted, we go straight home after the show.

The next morning I am in a cab going to meet Chuck Sperry, the rock poster artist I met at the official dinner on Thursday. We’re going to explore some of the ruins around the city.  On the way, I have a surreal moment driving through the twisting streets of Athens while listening to Hank Williams Sr. 

Chuck and I start in the marketplace and head up.

We aren’t going to the Acropolis today; we’re heading up one of the hills opposite – - we’re going to the Hill of The Muses.

On the way we find the old democratic assembly, the birthplace of democracy.  The Wikipedia says: "The word democracy was coined in ancient Greece. The Athenian democracy is today considered to have been a form of direct democracy. In theory, all the Athenian citizens were eligible to speak and vote in the Assembly, which set the laws of the city-state."  The podium where they could in theory speak was right where I’m standing. The Greeks used to vote by putting a mark on a tiny bit of tile.  I think this piece I found might be a hanging chad.

This was a sobering sight; the prison of Socrates. Socrates was imprisoned and forced to drink poison for corupting the youth (teaching them things the government dissagreed with) and being an atheist.  From the birthplace of democracy to the site of its first setback.  

At last we reach our goal: the original alter to the Muses. In the chamber on the right, you can see the thick smoke stains of sacrificial fires.  We both make an offering to our personal Muses.

We lose track of time and have to make our way directly to the Teknopolis where the final night of The Babel Festival is already underway. 

We stop at the bar and have a drink with Lefteris, who reports that sales of the book at the fair and around Greece are far greater than he expected. I walk Chuck to his exhibit area where he finds people are waiting for him.  Then I head over to my area.

The Sunday night crowd is delightful. The beauty of The Babel Fest sinks in…it's a bunch of young, friendly people, pleasantly buzzed, wandering around listening to music and reading comics. Like you can ask for anything better than that. All in all, I had a great time here, and it looks like BONE is in good hands in Greece.  Thanks Lida, and Lefteris. You must be as exhausted as I am. Tomorrow morning I fly to Madrid…

Greece, part two

Blog entry by Jeff

 Fifteen minutes into my signing at a big downtown bookstore at noon on Friday I knew we had a Spinal Tap on our hands.  The store is empty and stays that way until an older woman asks me to help her find a book on philosophy. A strange feeling of embarrassment washed over all of us. That’s when I knew. I thought it would be a good idea to set the timer on my camera and take a picture for the blog. 

I'm not sure Lefteris understood why I would want to take a picture of such a horrible moment – - he's really gritting his teeth here. Everyone feels bad. I feel bad because I wasn’t able to attract any customers, Lefteris feels bad  for putting me in this position, and the young woman from the bookstore apologizes a thousand times, which makes everyone feel just terrible.  The manager however is dismissive and rude. Turns out he arranged this signing just three days earlier and wouldn’t listen to Lida’s suggestions that the signing be after work or at a more favorable time.  We're not clear if he told anybody about the signing. It doesn’t really matter now, though, so we pack up and leave early.

We go to a little café to meet a journalist named Kostas from the country’s biggest music magazine Pop & Rock. Pop & Rock is planning to make a Bone soundtrack CD and shrink wrap it to the front of the magazine. The soundtrack will be made up of tracks from popular albums that Kostas and the editor have personally picked out while reading the comic. He is meeting us today to interview me for the issue. This is some pretty big exposure (and one of Lida's ideas, of course!).

I order the pork with sides of salad, hummus, and sardines with olives. It’s crazy good.

After lunch, Lida and I, along with her friend Kostas, a Greek artist from the exhibit, walk up the long sloping road to the Acropolis.

It’s a beautiful day and we wander around the antiquities talking about comics.

Not a bad way to spend a day. Back at the festival that night, the crowds are growing strong and generous.

 

The signings are slammed. I don't get a break for two hours. Leferis tells me they have sold hundreds of books, and the book stalls want more to make it through the weekend.  We’re back on top!

We all go out to celebrate with lamb chops.

This is Lefteris’ son Stavros. He wanted to stay up late with us. He and Kostas draw pictures together. Stavros presents me with this drawing he made of The Hooded One leaning in the window asking Phoney Bone for his soul.  Pretty cool. 

With our bellies full, and a sleeping Stavros in the back seat, Lefteris heads his car out onto the sea side road to drop me off at my hotel. It turned out to be a better day than it started out. Maybe the best news of all is that the airline found my luggage and delivered it while I was out.

Greece, part one

Blog entry by Jeff

It is dark when I land in Athens – - sometime after midnight – - and yet my publisher Lefteris Staurianos (Jemma Comics ), Lida Tsene, and their friend Kostas (who took this picture) are at the airport to meet me. Olympic Airlines has lost my luggage, but I'm too tired to care. Lida and Lefteris offer to take me shopping tomorrow to buy some new clothes. We have a drink and they drop me off at my hotel where I collapse into deep sleep.

The next morning I woke up to this view from my hotel. Not bad!

Lefteris and Lida pick me up around noon and take me downtown to buy a new shirt before the festival tonight. Lida is the head of Comicdom, a very well organized group of fans, artists and academics. This is the second trip to Greece she has arranged for me. We are about to bite into one of the best gyros I’ve ever had. The pita is toasty and the lamb is hot, crisp, and juicy. 

Lida hands me an impressive packet of press clippings from the past couple of days that she and Lefteris have put together. There are a dozen(!) articles in newspapers large and small, and some feature articles in the free weekend papers. Jemma’s edition of BONE is making a big splash here.

The book looks beautiful. The amount of news coverage is surprising and a bit of a relief. We are all a little nervous. BONE has never been translated into Greek before, so we still don’t know how the public is going to react to it.

Around seven that night we head off to the Babel Festival at the Teknopilis, a converted old factory yard complete with brightly lit smokestacks and out buildings. This plaza will be swarming with people listening to rock music and wandering around looking at comics in about two hours.

I check out the BONE exhibit. This is only the second time I have allowed a collection of original pages this large go out on loan. Too many things can go wrong – -  I decide not to think about it. I wander around to see the other exhibits. Some of them are really good.

These pieces by Oscar Chichoni were one of the highlights.

The wild colors of San Francisco rock poster artist Chuck Sperry are eyecatching.

While I was making some purchases in the small press area I ran into Vasili Lolos . Vasilis has worked with Becky Cloonan, and was in the anthology FLIGHT. He is also the artist for the much talked about new book Pirates of Coney Island from Image Comics. Sorry about the red eye, Vasilis (Somehow I don't think he would mind).

Around nine o'clock, I sit down to start signing.

It was a very nice crowd and sales of the new book are much stronger than we’d hoped.

The reaction to BONE is positive and sales at the book stalls are brisk as well. 

After a two hour signing, we cross the now jammed festival yard to join the organizers for dinner. I tried to take a picture of the band on stage, and the crowds around the central smokestack, but these blown out shots were all I could mange.

Chuck Sperry sat across from me at the festival organizers' dinner, and we chatted about home. Tired and happy, Lefteris and I are pleased with our good debut and clink glasses to our success.

If only we knew what was waiting for us at the big downtown store signing the next morning…

Hamburg; a day of rest, news from home

Blog entry by Jeff

We left Frankfurt this morning by train; I love European train stations. It was a lesurely 4 hour ride to the northern port city of Hamburg.  I checked into my hotel and read e-mails.  I call Vijaya to see how things are going back home. It seems Steve and Kathleen are buying lots of toys for our dog Preston and he is going to the office everyday and getting lots of attention. I miss Cartoon Books. Vijaya will be joining me soon in Paris, but for now I can only read e-mails and talk on the phone.  Vijaya had a few tid-bits of Cartoon Books news for me:

Tony Packo's restaurant, the Toledo chilli dog place made famous by Klinger on the TV show M.A.S.H., mounted my hot dog bun on the wall. I visited a couple of months ago while talking to an art league there, and the manager asked me to sign a roll. The walls are covered with buns signed by presidents, singers and actors. Very cool, and the hot dogs are great! Spicy and covered in hot pickles. Sorry I don't have a picture of my hot dog for you, but I hadn't started my compulsive food picture taking yet.

More good news is that Telltale has launched a Mac version of the Bone downloadable games! Huzzah!! There is an eye-popping feature article up on Apple's home page that includes a link to a side article called "Bone Expands an Art Form."  Sounds interesting.

And The New York Comicon has officially announced me as one of their guests of honor. Go to their site and check it out. This show made waves last year and it is going to be big! Book your plane tickets now.

That night, the two Steffis  (Schnurer & Schrader) took me down to the Reeperbahn because they know I'm a Beatles freak. 

The highlight of the evening was finding the Star Club where the Beatles played in '62.

This a poster from the Kaiserkeller club advertising a show by "Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, with The Beatles fromEngland – Liverpool". My brother Randy, who lives in Seattle, is a Beatles-head too – - this one's for you, bro!

The next day we had an easy signing at the Hamburg Train Station.  Of note was one fan who reads the blog, and brought me two of the biggest knives I've ever seen. He'd read that I like to chop vegatables, which is true, I do, and he thought these were the best, sharpest knives on the planet. TokyoPop is shipping them home for me, since I probably shouldn't take them on the plane in my carry-on. But one set of knives is enough. This is not an attempt to get people to bring me cuttlery!

After the signing, some of the TokyoPop staff took me out for a farewell dinner. It was an Argintinian Steak House called The Arizona Steakhouse, and the restaurant's owner made us all get up and dance under his sparklers while the waiters sang and played guitars. A wonderful way to end the German leg of the tour.

This is the Third Steffi. The third Steffi shared her cigarillos with the group. All three Steffis were instramental in setting up not just the German part of the tour, but coordinating many things for the whole trip. My thanks also to Anna, Claudia, Joachim, Michael, Elke, Stefan and everyone at TokyoPop Germany, and special thanks to Steffi Schrader who shuttled me around Hamburg and sat with me while I did  my laundry, and to Christina Gossel, who along with Steffi Schnurer, took a lot of pictures I used on this site.

It was alot of fun, and I will miss them all very much.  My publishers in Greece have a lot to live up to…

It’s a Manga world and we just live in it. Frankfurt Book Fair weekend, part two

Blog entry by Jeff

The hall is filled with Manga inspired costumes. Anyone dressed up got in free, so they were really out in force.

The bald guy on the diaz is an opera singer who arranges manga theme songs into arias, and he performed them live with a piano accompaniment. The kids screamed and applauded the whole time. It was pretty surreal.

The halls are just as crowded on Sunday as they were on Saturday. 

When I finally make my way to the TokyoPop booth it is packed, and stays that way all day. Whatever I used to think of manga, kids like it; and I'm getting used to it. And I use the term kids broadly; the ages range from young teenie-bopper to high school. And Joachim tells me the Bone books are doing well with them. This is a brand new audience for Bone, and I notice that the black & white versions are prefered by the younger readers here, and the color editions are for the more adult readers. This is the exact opposite of the situation back home, where the color Scholastic books are aimed more at kids and the black & white BONE: One Volume Edition is mostly for the Indy/grown up crowd at comic book shops and the graphic novel sections of book stores.

More signing sessions.

My arm is feeling better today, so I almost draw real drawings for everyone. 

Finished!

More carnage! I head back to the booth for a couple of final interviews and find Anike collapsed on a table. Anike had a line of manga fans that wrapped around the pavillion!

She managed to find the energy for one more drawing of our characters together. The Book Fair ends, and we go back to the hotel to join the rest of the tired TokyoPop staff for a quiet, cool down dinner. Tomorrow we leave for Hamburg…

Frankfurt Book Fair Weekend, part one (updated)

Blog entry by Jeff

I was able to slip away from the craziness of the crowded Book Fair and have a bit of time for myself before meeting some people from TokyoPop for dinner.  I like to walk the streets of a new city. This time of night things are just starting to pick up. The shops and little outdoor cafes are full of atmosphere. Fall is finally here and the evening air is crisp. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

…back to the crowded halls of The Frankfurt Book Fair. 

I didn't get attendance figures for this Book Fair, but this is just one section of something like 20 or 30 halls. The size of the real estate alone is staggering.   

Joachim Kaps, or Dr. J as many people call him, TokyPop’s publisher, accepts an award on behalf of one of his artists, Arina Tanemura for Best International Manga.

Then Don Rosa is given an award.  Don is best known for his work on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge .  And he is one of the most praised and beloved artists I ever met. Everywhere I go in Europe, they treat him like royalty.

 (While looking around on the web for a page to link Don's name to, I found this awesome drawing!)

With that much praise, I figured he must be rich. I don't think he even noticed when I took his wallet.

After the awards ceremony was my official interview. My editor Steffi Schnurer asks the questions from the audience. The gentleman on my right is Peter, the translator.

It was a good discussion and I answered many questions from the audience about the decision to color the BONE comics.  

Many people seem to think that I just send the books off to have them colorized by my publishers. But I don't, of course.  I color them with my associate Steve Hamaker.  Steve does the bulk of the real work, the color pallet is his, but we go over every single panel together, making adjustments and reworking the flow of the compositions. 

There was also some discussion about manga, which in Germany at least, I am now part of…

Manga is an interesting case; on the one hand, I don't read too much of it. Not all manga, but much of it strikes me as being too corporate for my tastes; a company driven product where an editor assigns one person to write the stories, and chooses another to draw them. The kind of system in place at the big US companies, Marvel and DC.  

But what I like about manga is who it is made for, and what it is accomplishing.  It is created largely for kids, and kids are responding. By making a book, a comic book no less, exciting to millions of teenagers and younger readers around the globe, the world of Manga has done no small thing.

Still, for me, the best comics, manga or western, are the ones written and drawn by a single cartoonist. A book that can give you the vision of an author, not of a company. 

And if I end with this picture, it will look like everyone applauded when I said that.

We had a signing session after the talk that was limited to 50 people because of my arm,but again, people were cool.

Everyone got all their books signed and a simple Fone Bone head sketch. 

This guy had a good time, and so did I! 

Later, I set out for a walk before my rendezvous with Joachim and the gang at an Italian place for our TokyoPop dinner.

  

John Parker, who sat next to me, wanted me to take a picture of his meal for my blog.  I was happy to; it was a beautiful strip of steak with crumbled bleu cheese melted on top. Deee-Lish!

When I wanted a photo of the group, they all held up their food for the blog. In case you couldn't tell, I had a lot of fun. Everyone at TokyoPop in Germany laughs – - all the time.  I couldn’t have asked to spend time with better people. 

Dig these rhythm & blues

Blog entry by Jeff

Bonn, the town that Beethoven was born in. Friday was a whirlwind of travel that included planes, trains and taxi cabs, delivering me to Bonner Comicladen for a very nice store signing. On the way, I had to pass right by Beethoven’s home.

It is on a very unassuming street that leads to the market. I bought Vijaya a small Beethoven bust because she loves classical music, and she's a Peanuts fan. Now All I need is a little toy piano…

The signing went off without a hitch. One woman told me she had been reading my blog, and she almost picked up some vegetables at the market for me.

 My arm is still a little sore, so I have to cut back the amount of drawing I do. One little Fone Bone head sketch per person. Everyone is beyond cool, and very understanding.

Our first Tattoo of the tour!

We took a three hour train ride back to Frankfurt where we found Anike and Christina just finishing up a late supper at the Hotel. Anike Hage, in the center, is a German born manga artist who writes and draws a very popular book called Gothic Sports . I soon went to bed; tomorrow is Saturday, the big day at The Frankfurt Book Fair, and I need to rest up my arm …

Berliner Currywurst…mit Pommes Frites

Blog entry by Jeff

You have to admit it looks good. The sausages are tender and the curry is spicy.

I like Berlin. It’s very hip, the people are friendly. We ate in a great bistro last night with friends of my German editor Steffi Schnurer. They all love their city, and are proud of it. We have some time to kill before the afternoon’s signing, so one friend, Tina, drew us an elaborate map that covered two sides of a place mat, just to be sure we would see all the sites and knew where all the best cafes were.

I’m staying in East Berlin. East Berlin is a city that’s heavy with baggage for Americans. It was ground zero during the Cold War, and it is the birthplace of many iconic images of Hitler and World War II. Just a few yards from where I am walking was the Wall that divided the city until it was torn down by its own people in 1989. There is nothing left of it; no sign of it anywhere, just a little space between peoples’ houses. And so strong is the Nazi stigma in the American psyche, that as recently as a month ago on August 29 , Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used it as an analogy to describe anyone who disagrees with him or the Bush administration's policies: He compared Hussein to Hitler and claimed that critics of the Iraq war "seem not to have learned history's lessons." He said,"can we truly afford to believe that somehow, someway, vicious extremists can be appeased?"  

Come on. As if any American believes that. I’m no politician, but common sense says Donald Rumsfeld should avoid Nazi comparisons like the plague; he’s got all the charm and credibility of a dusty, old SS officer.

Behind me is the Reichstag. It is the building where the German government works.  In 1933, terrorists attacked the Reichstag and burned it to the ground

 Hitler claimed, but never proved, that communist enemies were behind the attack, and used this horrifying incident to justify the rise of the Third Reich, his invasions of other countries, and to justify his crack down on anyone who disagreed with him at home.

This is the University Library. When Hitler felt his critics were getting out of line, he called for their books to be burned.

In the middle of the square is a small glass opening. When you peer in, you see a faint, ghostly rack of empty shelves.

The plaque reads:

     IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS PLACE THE NAZIS BURNT THE BOOKS OF HUNDREDS OF AUTHORS, PUBLISHERS, PHILOSOPHERS AND             SCIENTISTS ON THE 10TH OF MAY, 1933.

    “That was only the beginning – - where they burn books, they will burn people as well.” Heinrich Heine , 1820

When I first read this, I felt a chill. And a little surprised that this monument to the Book Burning even exists. But then I realized it was a sign of hope. This monument, like the Wall disappearing from neighborhoods, is proof that governments that try to frighten their people, divide them, or force them to comply by destroying their critics always fail. Always.

I know Mr. Rumsfeld isn't a Nazi, and he isn't calling for anyone to burn the internet, but we are all stomping around on thin ice. A little less name calling would be a good thing.

Anyway, it's hard not to think about this stuff when you're right here.

Back to comics. We were running a bit late so we hopped in a taxi.  At the Grober Unfug comic shop we found a nice crowd waiting.

The first person in line was wearing a handmade Boneville skyline sweater.

I was having a good time, and got a bit carried away, making as many sketches for people as I could.

I may have overdone it with my arm, which tires out after a couple of hours. I’ll have to take it easy at the next signing.

The line continued to snake around the shop for three hours. We ended the evening at a nearby Austrian restaurant, where respected pop culture journalist Lutz Goeliner joined Steffi, me, and shop owner Bernd Henning for some wine, beer and conversation. 

At one point, talking about the German translations, Steffi said that she spent so much time sifting over each word in every balloon, that she got in trouble with Joachim. Then Lutz surprised me by revealing that he had translated the final third of the BONE story when it was printed in black & white by Carlsen.  Lutz claims he was forced to do it. He didn't like the translations, and often said so. Either start translating the comics yourself, he was told by Carlsen, or stop complaining.  He then spent the next four days stuck in his apartment trying to create a dialect in German for Ted the Bug! It is nice to know that someone would care that much about the stories.  I was so touched that I forgot to take a picture of my dinner…