Comics on Comics video – - an interview I did with Blair Marnell at the BEA.
I know the Book Expo America was weeks ago, but I’ve been slammed and haven’t had a chance to put up my photos until now…
BEA was all about graphic novels this year. Above is the Scholastic booth at the Book Expo America, where hundreds of bookbuyers and librarians lined up to get their advanced copies of BONE volume 8: Treasure Hunters signed. It was the kind of signing line I’m only used to seeing in San Diego at the Comic-Con international!
On Saturday morning, I was moderating the first ever BEA Graphic Novel Authors Breakfast, so I met early with Art Spiegelman and Janna Morishima to prepare.
Janna, who works with Diamond Book Distributors, organized the event and chose the panelists: Art Spiegelman, Mike Mignola, Jeph Loeb, and me. Four artists with very different styles and areas of expertise, ranging from the Underground to Mainstream, All ages to Hollywood. The thing we all had in common was an early desire to explore long form comics; comics that people now refer to almost off handedly as graphic novels.
In the days leading up to the breakfast, Art told me he had a power point presentation that briefly covered the history of comics and the things that led him to the art form. Sounded perfect, so we worked it into the panel.
Here we are going over the order of events and making sure I could follow his power point during my introductions.
People began to crowd into the room, and at one point, Mike Mignola wandered up to the podium and cracked us up as we fumbled with our technology.
The panel begins and Janna introduces us to the audience.
I start by stating my theory that 1986 was the Big Bang of graphic novels, a year that saw the release of MAUS by art spiegelman, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, and WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Also, I turned to the other guys and asked if any of them used the term graphic novel to describe what they do, or if they just call them comic books. Not sursprisingly (to me, anyway), they all answered "comic books."
Then I introduced Art’s power point.
Art’s talk was funny, personal and really informative. It included some historical background as well as some breakdowns on how the art form itself works. Art’s really good at this, and the audience, mostly made up of bookstore people and librarians who have never heard of Dr. Wertham or Basil Wolverton, were eating it up. And as Spiegelman interwove his own formative experiences with comics, you could see the whole thing was going over really well.
Next we heard from Mike Mignola who talked about the joy of working in his studio at his desk, weaving folklore into his Hellboy tales, and his less than compelling (for him) experiences working with Hollywood.
Jeph Loeb on the other hand came from Hollywood and was delighted when he was first given the chance to work on comic books. His work with long time collaborator Tim Sale on Batman: The Long Halloween was one of the turning points in the Direct Market’s interest in mainstream graphic novels.
At one point, as the moderator, I was trying to bridge the gap between Hollywood and comics, and I mentioned the similarity between the visual techniques of comics and film, the developement of camera angles and even saying that I disagreed with people who don’t believe you should use film terms to describe comics techniques. I was thinking of Alan Moore, but Art jumped in saying he was getting aggravated – - he pointed out that comics didn’t need films in order to innovate; Rudolf Toeffler was doing cross-cutting before D.W. Griffith was a gleam in his father’s eye! Or something like that.
(I mention this because it gets a lot of play in almost every article written about the event. I think it was a really interesting and memorable moment – - in my defense, Art actually makes my point for me by using the term "cross-cutting" – - a word that comes from the movie industry and refers to the physical cutting of the film during editing – - but I let it go, because his larger point that comics are not a derivative or lesser art form was a good one for a broader non-comics audience. Also, Art and I argue like that just for fun even when we’re not on a panel!)
Anyway, the breakfast was a huge success. You can read more indepth coverage by clicking on the links at the end of this blog.
Afterwards, folks lined up to get some of their books signed to chat up the panelists. That’s PW’s Calvin Reid talking to Jeph Loeb.
During my signing at the Scholastic booth, Dick Robinson, President, Chairman and CEO of Scholastic stopped by.
Above, I’m recording a podcast for Ingram Book Group, the world’s largest wholesale book distributors. Once I get a link to the podcast, I’ll post it for anyone interested. Below, one of my favorite interviews of the weekend was this one for younger readers, but I’ve lost my notes on who this little girl was – - doesn’t matter, she was adorable. Again, if I get some more info, I’ll pass it on.
And last, but not least, signing right next to me during the official BEA autograph session was master guitarist Slash. Only at Book Expo…or, well, maybe Comic-Con International in San Diego, now that I think about it.
This ain’t the old days, that’s for sure.
Some related industry links:
An attendee’s view: