Wheeler’s recent book is the quite wonderful Oil and Water, about the BP oil spill and its effects on the region. Shannon and I will ll be interviewing one another about our work in comics, especially as it relates to our approaches to documenting tragedy on the Gulf Coast.
I’ve occasionally been asked if I ever thought of doing a sequel to A.D. Well, Oil and Water could be seen as that sequel—and done far better than I could have ever hoped to do. Anyway, it should be an interesting conversation. Please come!
Tuesday, Oct. 12 Flew in to Algiers sick as a dog. Never should have had that Egyptian KFC. After many bathroom visits & sleeping 10 hours, I feel human again. They’ve put me up in the beautiful and history-steeped El-Djazair, whose former guests include Dwight Eisenhower, Simone de Beauvoir, Edith Piaf. Not too shabby.
My first official activity is a presentation of my work at a local “access school,” an English language school for underprivileged youth sponsored in some part by U.S. funds. Goes well.
My compatriot, comics writer Brandon Jerwa, and I are taken to the central newspaper “district” for a fairly extensive and thoughtful interview with the largest Algerian daily, El Watan. (My interview ran here. Warning! French language.) After that, a short nap and missed connections ultimately proves unable to derail a nice dinner with several of the other visiting artists, including Pakistan’s Nigar Nazar and three young women from Lebanon, Joumana Medlej, Amal Kawaash, and Lena Merhej.
I just learned from the TV that Global Handwashing Day is coming up next week. The two English-language TV stations here show 1.) 20th Century Fox movies, and 2.) 80s/90s music videos. Oh, and BBC News. (P.S. The music video station is actually a German station, but they predominantly show English and American pop.)
Today, a day of storms and rain, I am doing a bullpen-style drawing marathon with five other cartoonists for Algérie News, a daily paper which will be entirely illustrated by us! I draw four finished illos in about seven hours, sort of like Illustrator Boot Camp. The job runs so long we miss the wet F!BDA opening ceremonies. Too tired to eat. G’nite from the Meghreb.
Thursday, Oct. 14 F!BDA proper begins today. My first look at the festival, which is set up on the European/Angouleme model. Almost like a little village, the festival consists of tents housing a bookstore, exhibition spaces, an event space, and smaller “booths” for exhibitors. This is the anti-San Diego Comic-Con: no video games, no movies or TV shows, no cosplay to speak of… The emphasis is on the art of comics, and the experience of reading.
I’m on a morning panel charmingly titled “Can the Comics be Therapeutic?” After the panel, Brandon I are taken to L’Ecole des Beaux Arts to teach a class together. It goes very well, despite our mid-exercise fear that the whole experiment is going to derail. The students are eager and the teacher tells us later that we achieved results in 90 minutes that would have taken him a week. We share tea with the director and the head teacher, and exchange books.
We are shuttled about in a specialized Embassy SUV, which looks normal on the outside but is heavily armored on the inside. The doors seem to weigh a ton, requiring real strength to slam shut, and the insides are all built up with plating, so much so that squeezing into one’s seat is actually quite difficult. The windows are all bullet-proof glass, of course. John B., our Embassy host, brags that the vehicle is so well protected that we could “drive over a land mine and not even feel it.” I have no desire to test that assertion.
Then we tour the stunning the Bastion 23. Whenever the guide mentions anything to do with Islam he says, “With great respect to all other religions, of course.” It is very charming — and quite odd.
After another interminable wait in the lobby, we drive to a restaurant far on Algeria’s outskirts for a group dinner with the FIBDA organizers and invited artists. The roasted headless sheep they deposit on our table is undeniably tender, yet I think I have been forever cured of a taste for mutton.
Other than the lamb misadventure, I am finding Algeria to be a fascinating country — with really uninspired cuisine. How can a culture with French and Middle Eastern origins have such drab food? It’s like the cooks conspire to drain the taste out of what should be delicious, culturally specific foods. For instance, the couscous has been bland and mealy, and the crepes tough and tasteless.
Friday, Oct. 15 Our first full day at the Festival. Brandon has a morning panel, then after lunch we head over to the book-selling tent and signing area. It is really fun to soak up the atmosphere, check out all the great BDs, and meet festival attendees. We even sell a few books, and I sign and sketch for folks, just like back home. Then we have dinner back at our hotel with John B. and our new British friends Paul Grist and Nana Li. I hear the tale of the Cuban cartoonist, first time off the island, refuses to shake John’s hand because she is afraid that her Cuban handlers will think she is planning to defect!
In the evening we are guests at a party at the U.S. Marines’ quarters in the U.S. Embassy. There are six Marines stationed there — six of the sweetest, fresh-faced kids (of all races) you could ask for to represent the U.S.A. Most of the guests are young Algerians, typically well-off and “connected” somehow…
Saturday, Oct. 16 Today we get a break from the festival to do a little exploring: tours of Blida and Chrea are on the agenda. This is an internal U.S. Embassy function that we are lucky to be included in on. The dozen of us pile into two vans, and, as required by Algerian law, are given a police escort all the way on the hour-long trip. Not exactly a subtle travel method, though it’s a cool way to speed through traffic, what with the guns and sirens and everything.
Back from the tour of the former “Triangle of Death.” We had monkeys! Brandon & I are hitting the streets of Algiers while we can. As per Embassy safety regulations, we are forbidden from using public transportation or private taxis, though we’re allowed to walk anywhere we want. Unfortunately, the El-Djazair isn’t in the most happening area of town, though there are some awesome views of the harbor.
Back in the room after a street excursion and subsequent hotel-room-patio steak dinner with Brandon. Our British friends are free to hang out, but the front desk says the wait for the only cab we’re allowed to use is at least 45 minutes. Calling it a night and hitting the whirlpool tub.
Sunday, Oct. 17 Last night I was awakened by the loudest explosion I’ve ever heard. Was sure it was a bomb. Turned out it was thunder. Then it began to rain.
Today is the Last day of F!BDA: Jerwa panel on comic book adaptations, then to the U.S. Embassy for a video conference with some Algerian and Iraqi political cartoonists. Fascinating to be a fly on the wall as they discuss the ins-and-outs of lives, careers, press freedom, and the like. Supposedly it was covered by CNN. Anyone see it? (The Embassy posted a photo and short blurb about the event on their site.)
Then back to F!BDA for the closing ceremonies: prizes awarded, many sad goodbyes, commemorative sketches, Facebook friendships initiated.
Monday, Oct. 18 Rainy morning. After I pack, check out, and have a final breakfast with Brandon and Nigar, it’s Airport Time.
[Check out a full album of photos from F!BDA Algeria here…]
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
Yo yo yo, I’ll be at the New Haven Summer Comics Fest tomorrow, and you should come too. It’s all part of New Haven’s 2010 Street Fest, which will includes two stages of live bands (all day and into the night), a rockabilly car show, skateboard demo, booze, food, arts and crafts, and representatives from all your favorite underground subcultures! The Comics Fest will feature a busy sales floor of cartoonists and mini-comics creators, and a full slate of panels and presentations. And it’s all free (donation requested)! Check it out:
Sam Henderson and Danny Hellman will join Andrew Bonia and Peter Cunningham
Cheese Hasselberger, Lauren Barnett, and Prof. William Foster III discuss the role of comics in changing global media
R. Sikoryak will do an adaptation presentation [not to be missed!]
And I will be the NHSCF “keynote” speaker, doing my patented A.D. presentation
Other day-time entertainments include a twenty-minute film fest! The evening festivities will be:
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)
My first SPX in three years — but by my count, my tenth overall — got off to a great start with the ride down. The four musketeers of JahFurry, Heidi MacDonald, Brian Heater, and Ben McCool added my fifth wheel since Ben was jetting off to England for a fortnight, so Jeff, Heidi, Brian and myself made the rest of the trip after dropping Ben off at Newark. Good times — with lots of cutting people off — were had, including a stop in Baltimore at Atomic Books for the Nerdlinger Awards.
However, despite my sadness at missing so many folks, I have to admit that SPX is alive and well! The great funky/DIY/artsy tradition is still very much in evidence, and the comix tribe is rejuvenated with lots of new blood. That included my tablemates this year, fresh-faced 2009 Xeric winners J.T. Yost and Sophia Wiedeman. I was under strict luggage (and economic) constraints, so I only picked up a few things, but everywhere I looked there were young cartoonists offering tempting delights. I couldn’t resist some purchases, of course, and came away with Yost’s Old Man Winter, Wiederman’s The Deformity, Jeffrey Brown‘s Funny Misshapen Body, Liz Baillie‘s My Brain Hurts, Picture Box’s crazy oversize Real Deal #1, and a decrepit Robin T-shirt by fellow SPX returning veteran Tom Galambos.
As for my end of the show, A.D. sold respectably, with about 30 copies finding new owners. (I also signed a fair amount of previously purchased books.) I had some great conversations with people connected to the NOLA scene, including a high muckety-muck of the Louisiana Redevelopment Authority. And Gina Gagliano was kind enough to moderate my spotlight panel, where I presented my A.D. slideshow and answered questions about the project.
The only major negative for the show this year was the frigid temperatures inside the room on Sunday. I tend to run hot (body temperature-wise) but even I was shivering. I was pleasantly surprised that my nose didn’t fall off due to frostbite, but all the same I think I’m coming down with something: I’ve been achy and off my game ever since Sunday.
The ride back with Jah, Heidi, and Brian was as fun-filled as the trip down, with the added excitement of seeing how far the car could go with an empty tank of gas and the "Change Oil Soon" light flashing. And did we really almost run down Philip Seymour Hoffman on his bike as we tore through the West Village? Brian swore it was him. Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. *Cough*
Evan Dorkin has a lengthy and IMHO balanced wrap-up of MoCCA on his blog. I basically agree with his comments (which he seems to have taken some heat for from other bloggers — big surprise).
I’ve been to every MoCCA since it started, and I treasure the show dearly. Lately, I’ve been tending to go to MoCCA (and the New York Comic-Con) more to see compatriots than buy much stuff, though there’s always a gem or two which finds its way into to my hands. This year, despite the fact that for most of it I was wheeling a napping Phoebe around the gym, er, Armory, I had the pleasure of seeing and chatting with man_size, chatterbox_dc, James Romberger, George O’Connor, Joe Infurnari, Charlie Orr, Bob Sikoryak, Isaac Eddy Littlejohn, Mark Siegel, Gary Sullivan, Greg Bennett, my old assistant Nick Sumida and my current assistant Ben Moody, David Mazzucchelli, and my benefactor, Pantheon publisher Dan Frank. I also spotted, but never got a chance to talk with, Chris Staros, Brett Warnock, Lauren Weinstein, Tom Hart, Brendan Burford, and many other folks.
That was great. However, given all that, I totally agree with Dorkin’s characterization of the show. The new locale changed the feel of MoCCA from a "classy" art show to a punk rock flea market. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re into, but I guess I’m not. On the face of it, I applaud the fact that the Armory’s new one-room layout democratizes the space and equalizes all the presenters, but I miss the way that certain publishers had pride of place in the old layout. You always knew where to find Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, and Pantheon.
Personally, I didn’t notice the heat, but I wasn’t working a table (other than sitting at the Pantheon table for an hour), and I was only there on Saturday.
There were some advantages to this new location (the bathrooms, the location of the panels, the all-in-one-room openness), but I miss the more elegant (yea, "precious") feel of the Puck Building. And I agree that the organization, with the dysfunctional badges and wristbands, long lines, etc., was a total mess. I hope they can work out all these kinks for next year, as I love MoCCA and fervently root for it to succeed.
On Saturday, Sari, Phoebe, and I were up on the grounds of Bronx Community College, checking out the Kids Comic Con. Afterwards, it being a beautiful day and Phoebe needing a stroller nap, we walked down Jerome Avenue and River Avenue all the way to Yankee Stadium, before we got back on the subway for home. Not a terribly scenic walk, unless you’re really into auto-body shops (at one point we crossed over the Cross-Bronx Expressway), but certain elements of the walk really brought be back to my childhood.
When I was a kid I lived in California, but I would spend a month each summer visiting my dad in New York. He lived in Manhattan then, in the far West Village, and I fondly remember those days walking around the streets of late 1970s New York. That was when a "normal" person could actually afford to live in Manhattan. Apparently, things haven’t changed all that much in that part of the Bronx. It was a riot of color and activity: restaurants and shops of all colors and varieties, and people and families out and about.
Hot sidewalks, the shade of the elevated train, music blaring from an apartment window, fried food, discount stores, outdoor vendors, graffiti, illegal posters (remember "Post No Bills"?): it was wonderful. So much stimulus, the sense of intersecting so many other lives. Sure, like late ’70s New York, the streets were dirty and maybe they weren’t the best place to hang out at night, but so what? There was life, and bustle — and no freakin’ chain stores!
Going to the New York Comic-Con this weekend? Looking for an inspirational/educational break from the barrage of noise and overstimulation? Then come to the Comics and New Media panel!
"What challenges do we, as publishing professionals, face with the rise of new media? How has it influenced the editorial process and the promotion end of things? How have web comics affected the industry? And, what happens when web comics transition to printed books?"
The round table bull session includes yours truly, SMITH comics editor and ACT-I-VATE minister of hype jahfurry, Vintage & Anchor Books Publicity Manager (and my editor) Lisa Weinert, and International Creative Management agent Kate Lee. Obviously, A.D. will be a large part of the discussion. Heh-heh…
Details: February 6, 3:30pm – 4:30pm Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Room 1a22
I’ve been wangled into being a “featured artist” this coming weekend at MoCCA. I’m not sure what that means, except I’ll be sitting at a table on the 7th floor, from 3-5 pm on Saturday, sketching alongside such illustrious fellow cartoonists as Ruben Bolling, Chris Giarrusso, Cliff Chiang, and our very own
Does anyone have any tips on what I should be prepared for? It seems I’m supposed to draw stuff, charge money for it, and donate all the proceeds to MoCCA. But what should I draw? Eeek.
Other than sketching, Sari, Phoebe, and I will stroll around a bit beforehand. Hope to see you there.
[MoCCA, in case you don’t know, is the Museum of Comics & Cartoon Art’s annual “art show,” featuring the very best in alternative, literary, and self-published comix. It runs June 7-8, 11am – 6pm each day, at the historic Puck Building, 295 Lafayette @ Houston. $10 admission per day (or $15 for the weekend), and well worth it!!!]