A.D. Common Read @ Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

A.D.

I’m in Madison, Wisconsin, for an A.D. book event. Chadbourne Residential College (CRC), a program residence hall, part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has chosen A.D. as a "Common Read" book. What this means is that the whole CRC community — some 700 students and staff — has read the book over the summer, and invited me to town to talk about it with them.

The main events are tomorrow, where I’ll meet and mingle with students, share some meals, present my work in a slideshow, and then take part in some discussion groups. CRC has even put together a little website about the book and my visit, with discussion questions and everything: http://www.housing.wisc.edu/crc/commRead.php

Since the book came out last summer, I’ve been doing things like this in little bits, but this is the first time I’ll be representing A.D. in such an intensive way. I’m thrilled and a bit intimidated.

I’ve only been to Madison once before, when some good friends got married here, but ever since my own college days I’ve had an affinity for the school because it has a similar profile and reputation: politically active, Mid-Western, with a proud hippie past. And I’ve met many Madison grads over the years who always seem like decent, interesting folks. I look forward to meeting the current crop of students —  if they’re anything like Oberlin students, they’ll be highly motivated learners and have some good questions. Fingers crossed! 

This weekend: Brooklyn Book Festival

A.D.

The Brooklyn Book Festival is this coming Sunday, September 12, and I’ll be on a panel starting at 2 pm on the International stage featuring Nick Abadzis and Jessica Abel, moderated by Matt Madden. So if you’re not out of town at SPX, try to come. Believe it or not, this is my first BKBF, and I’m really excited to take part!

Here’s the description from the program:

The International Graphic Novel: Drawing from Life: Three acclaimed cartoonists, whose work takes on social and political themes, talk about the on-the-ground research and background work they have all done in preparation for creating their books: Nick Abadzis (Laika), Josh Neufeld (AD: New Orleans After The Deluge) and Jessica Abel (La Perdida). Moderated by Matt Madden (99 Ways To Tell a Story).

There’ll be a group book signing afterward.

And at 4 pm be sure to catch the other comics talk on the program:

Comics and Form: Is the Medium Still the Message?: Do comics change when they are released from their traditional print medium? And how? Creators, publishers and developers will combine to discuss the expanding boundaries of the comics format. Robert Berry (Ulysses Seen), Ben Katchor (Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer), Jillian Tamaki (Skim). Moderated by Columbia University librarian Karen Green.
Details:
2010 Brooklyn Book Festival
Sunday, September 12, 10 am – 6 pm
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
 

New Orleans K+5 Day One

A.D.

I flew into New Orleans Friday night, a double-barreled trip to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the paperback release of my document of the storm, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.

Dark clouds were in the air as we touched down, and the humidity hit me like a soggy blanket as I stepped into the Louisiana night. My publisher Pantheon was kind enough to book me a room at the French Quarter institution the Hotel Monteleone, famous for its rotating bar and rooftop swimming pool (neither of which, sadly, I got to sample during my trip).

I had made tentative plans to hang out with artist Blake Boyd and his partner Ginette Bone, but they were still at the New Orleans Saints game (where they had gone to shoot Saints’ coach Sean Payton) for Blake’s Polaroid portraits project. While I waited for their call I was able to catch the last hour of an absorbing Katrina documentary called New Orleans Rising, by John Patrick King. Like many documents of Katrina — from A.D. to Dan Baum’s Nine Lives to Mari Brown & Deanna Pacelli’s 23 Feet in 12 Minutes — the doc weaves together stories of a number of New Orleans residents as they attempt to make sense of and rebuild their lives since the storm. The most fascinating account was of Darryl Montana, Mardi Gras Indian chief and son of the late “chief of chiefs” Allison “Tootie” Montana. Since watching Treme, and the story of Albert “Big Chief” Lambreaux, I’ve been interested in the Mardi Gras Indian phenomenon, and New Orleans Rising goes in-depth into the pride and dedication of this unique cultural expression.

Finally, around midnight, I hooked up with Blake and Ginette, who had also made plans to see writer Dave Eggers that evening. Eggers (who very kindly blurbed A.D.) was in town to discuss his incredible book Zeitoun, and Blake had shot his portrait for his project as well. Eggers had expressed some interest in meeting me, and I was quite anxious to meet him, so we all agreed to get together. Blake and Ginette picked me up in the Quarter and we drove out to the St. Claude area, to a wonderful dive called the Allways Lounge. The place had just hosted some kind of wacky event — a transvestite jello wrestling contest, maybe — and they were still mopping up when we arrived. The lounge was filled with that particular assortment of grungy tattooed hipsters which I always associate with New Orleans, and Blake and Ginette, being long-time NOLA residents immediately recognized numerous friends and acquaintances. (In the next couple of days, I talked to at least two other people who had also been at the Allways that evening who I had just missed seeing myself.)

Soon enough I got to meet Eggers, who was just as humble and down-to-earth as I had been told. Turns out he had at one point been an aspiring cartoonist, and really related to my comic book retelling of the characters’ stories. Eggers was with some other folks, and after awhile our whole gang headed over to a nearby after-party. The shindig was in someone’s upstairs apartment, and was throbbing with dance music and awash with booze. Again, I was struck by the similarity of the evening to scenes from Treme, particularly Davis McAlary’s house party. And just to prove what a wonderful small-town New Orleans really is, the minute I walked in I was embraced by Cree McCree, writer, designer, post-NOLA blogger, and all-around great human being.

The group of us hung out at the party until the wee hours, drinking wine and talking about all things New Orleans and Katrina. I was struck by one resident’s ironic comment that this “Katrinaversary” was “The one where we pretend it [e.g., the hurricane] never happened.” I was already getting a sense of the visceral truth of that statement, that no one suffers from so-called “Katrina fatigue” more than those folks who’ve had to live with it for the last five long years. As much as New Orleanians don’t want the rest of us to forget what happened to their city, they are completely sick of reliving August/September of 2005, and of constantly being reminded of it by the descending media hordes.

By this time it being about 1 a.m. and the party breaking up, Blake and Ginette took pity on me and drove me back to the Monteleone. I had two events scheduled the next day, and I needed to get some sleep.

Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers

Cree McCree

Cree McCree

A.D. paperback events

A.D.

The A.D. paperback — with a brand-new cover! — debuts August 24. I’ll be making a few appearances here in New York City and down in New Orleans, so here are the details…

Tuesday, August 24: On-sale date. Book signing and giclée print-sale to raise money for New Orleans nonprofits. Desert Island Comics, 540 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY, 7 p.m. [Facebook event page]

Saturday, August 28: Signing at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia Street, New Orleans, 2 p.m. [Octavia’s event page]

Saturday, August 28: In-store signing, art show, and party, with appearances by A.D.’s characters. Crescent City Comics, 4916 Freret Street., New Orleans, LA. 6–9 p.m. P.S. Crescent City Comics is co-owned by A.D. character Leo McGovern!

Sunday, September 12: I’ll be part of the panel "The International Graphic Novel: Behind the Scenes or Drawing from Life" — Four graphic novelists whose work takes on "big themes" talk about the on-the-ground research and background work they have done in preparation for creating their books. With Jessica Abel and Nick Abadzis. Moderated by Matt Madden. Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn, NY, 2 p.m.

Monday, September 20: A.D. slideshow presentation followed by conversation with Publishers Weekly Editor Calvin Reid. Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY, 7:30 p.m. [Facebook event page]

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

A.D. BP

A.D.

I just want to go on record to say I’m as horrified and dismayed by the BP oil spill as anyone. I just haven’t had anything brilliant to say about it. Like everyone else, I’ve been a helpless witness to this unfolding disaster.

At first, I was led to believe that the spill wasn’t anything like the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdex spill. Unlike that event, which dumped almost 11 million gallons of oil into the water extremely close to the shore, the BP spill was "only" releasing 40,000 gallons a day from over 40 miles from shore. The implication was that there would be much more dispersal of the lesser volumes of oil into much larger quantities of ocean water.

But now it’s coming out that initial reports of how much oil was being released into the war were vastly under-estimated. Now we’re seeing the oil coming ashore, and those heartbreaking, all-too-familiar images of oil-saturated birds and water-life are being broadcast to our television screens. Now the tragic truth is becoming clearer.

The ironies for the Gulf Coast are obvious. Just as the region (in some ways) is emerging from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina (and Rita), now this. There are already reports of tourists canceling trips to the region — and to New Orleans in particular — for fear of unsightly beaches and contaminated seafood.

There’s a larger question of how a disaster like this is a direct result of our country’s — our world’s — insatiable need for oil. That’s something we all need to think about it. In the meantime, below is a list of organizations which are working to alleviate the effects of the oil spill. Some have even changed or adapted their focus from post-Katrina relief to this new ongoing disaster. Please consider donating something to their efforts while we continue to hope that a solution to the leak is found.

Danny Caine — Teacher of the Year!

A.D.

I returned home last Friday to find a wonderful surprise waiting for me. Inside a manila envelope postmarked Smithville, Ohio, was a packet of letters from Danny Caine’s 10th-grade English Class at Smithville High School. Mr. Caine explained that he had recently assigned A.D. to his class, and that it had been a rewarding experience for all involved.

As Mr. Caine wrote, "My students were 11 when the storm hit, and so it felt pretty current to them. Yet they were still too young to understand the weightiness of the situation, and A.D. opened their eyes." Because of budget issues, Mr. Caine chose to use the original, online version of the book (on "SMITH Magazine’s fantastic website"): "… Online reading is a novel yet relevant way to experience text; as nonlinear web reading becomes more common, your online presentation of A.D. (with informational links for many panels) matched the style of literacy that students are comfortable with. In addition, the links lent gravity to the material, and served as important reminders that this was indeed nonfiction."

I’m really overwhelmed by this package. Not only does it thrill me beyond words to know that A.D. on SMITH has continued life, but to think that actual students are taking advantage of all the site’s resources is more than I ever could have imagined. (After all, I put most of those links together!) And the individual letters from the kids are really touching — filled with questions, comments, and appreciation. I still haven’t worked my way through them all, as I’m savoring each one individually. I’m so grateful to Mr. Caine for exposing his students to the unique educational potential of comics in general, and A.D. in particular. And of course for taking the time to let me know about his class’s experience.

I plan on sending the class a personalized hardcover of A.D. And of course letting Mr. Caine know that, should he care to teach Katrina through A.D. again in the future, that there’s a free teacher’s guide online, and that the more economical A.D. paperback is due out in August.

Three cheers for Danny Caine!

Extra Bored to Death

A.D.

Last week I was an extra on the set of Jonathan Ames and HBO’s Bored to Death. Along with a cohort of other Brooklyn cartoonists — particularly Dean Haspiel — I got to play myself at a fictitious comic convention. It was easy to get into character. Just like a real comic convention, it was crowded, repetitive, and no one buys anything!

Although exhausting, it was altogether a fun experience. In addition to getting to hang with Dino for a couple of days (an all-to-rare occurrence nowadays), I got to banter with Ames and Jason Schwartzman, and ogle Zach Galifiniakis and Ted Danson. Look for the episode to premiere some time in September or October.

I can’t say I remember (or recognize) fellow cartoonist Gabby Schulz from the shoot, but he was set up behind me and must have kept to himself. He didn’t mention me either! But he wrote an excellent synopsis of the experience: http://www.gabbysplayhouse.com/?p=1124

P.S. Despite my joke above, in addition to getting paid as an extra, and for providing “set dressing” for the show, at the end of the shoot I ended up selling eight or nine copies of A.D. to members of the “Bored to Death” production staff. Three income streams from one event!

P.P.S. As is S.O.P., I did a (rather uninspired) sketch of the actors. Wonder Woman is a character created just for this episode. Particularly egregious is my "Ted Danson." Apologies to all involved.

Bored to Death

Sydney Morning Herald on A.D. and "serious" comics

A.D.

This weekend’s Spectrum supplement of the Sydney Morning Herald features a long piece on me, A.D., and serious/literary graphic novels. I really enjoyed talking to the writer, Samantha Selinger-Morris, and I think she did a nice job on the story. Written for a general (Australian) audience, it does a good job of introducing the lit-comix concept and providing context for A.D. It also has a recommended reading list at the end, which includes Joe Sacco’s work, Eddie Campbell, Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, Rutu Modan, Logicomix, and more.

I’ll be visiting Australia for the Sydney Writers Festival in May, so this is a nice way to break the ice a bit for Aussie readers who probably have never heard of me or my book.

Check it out!

Threadheads Raffle

A.D.

I’ve donated a signed copy of A.D. to "The Threadheads" for their 2010 raffle. The Threadheads are a group of generous folks who met on the Jazz & Heritage Festival chat board, and since Hurricane Katrina they’ve hosted several charitable projects to give something back to New Orleans. The biggest one is the Threadhead Raffle, offering music and New Orleans-related items as prizes.

Last year the Raffle raised $18,000 to be split between two charities: Half the money raised goes to Fest 4 Kids, which provides tickets, food money, and chaperones for local children to attend Jazz Fest. It is affiliated with Silence is Violence, which provides instruments and music clinics to local kids as an inspiration and alternative in their lives. The other half goes to the Threadhead Records Foundation, which helps out unsigned New Orleans musicians and also donates money to the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic.

Should you want to buy an A.D. raffle ticket (only $1.10!), you can find it at the Threadheads raffle site by looking under "Raffle Items" and then "Books": www.threadheadraffle.org

But hurry — the raffle ends May 5!

Sketching, Speaking, and Signing at MoCCA

A.D., Publicity

This Sunday, April 11, at the annual Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) Art Fest, I’ll be a “special guest,” sketching, speaking, and signing…

From 1-1:30, I’ll be at the MoCCA Sketch Table, donating my time to create original sketches for festival attendees. The primary purpose of the sketch table is to create a fun way to fund-raise for the museum. Festival-goers pay either $25 dollars for a “headshot” or $35 for a “full body” sketch.

From 2-3, I’ll be taking part in the panel discussion Sequential Activism: Saving the World, One Panel at a Time. Moderator Brian Heater (Daily Crosshatch) will lead us to explore the history of subversive political comics, from political cartoons to World War III Illustrated. Along with Bill Ayers (To Teach: The Journey in Comics), Peter Kuper (WWIII Illustrated, Oaxaca), Tom Hart (Hutch Owen), and Ward Sutton (Sutton Impact). Should be fascinating.

From 3:30-4:30, I’ll be at the Pantheon table, signing copies of the Eisner Award-nominated A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Come on by and say hi.

See ya Sunday!

MoCCA Fest 2010
April 10–11
69th Regiment Armory at 68 Lexington Avenue (25th Street), New York City
$12 at the door ($20 for both days)