Friday, our last day with the Burmese professionals, was taken up with an exercise dreamt up by my French compatriot Émile Bravo (currently the recipient of three Eisner Award nominations for his recent book My Mommy Is In America And She Met Buffalo Bill!). The assignment was to take a “tragic” event from your life and depict it in a humorous way.
I loved the idea of the exercise, and think it’s a wonderful way to get beginning cartoonists to flex their creativity, but for some reason I had a terrible time with it. It’s not that I’ve lived a charmed life and have no sad stories to tell — far from it — but I just found it incredibly difficult to boil one of those stories down — to a one- or two-page comics story no less! As the other artists set to work right away, I sat there sweating, running different ideas through my mind — and rejecting all of them. I even left the room and stalked around the grounds of the American Center, attempting to clear my mind and find the right story. By the time a half hour had passed and I still had nothing, it became a joke, as Émile and Badoux saw me agonizing over the assignment. It got so extreme I was even thinking my story should be my anguish at trying to find the right story!
Finally, however, I settled on an incident from my deep past, when I was but a babe. I had to scramble to plot out the piece, and pencil and ink it, all within the three-hour time allotted. The end result isn’t quite the masterpiece I had hoped, but it’s not awful…
For an example of how a master works, here’s Émile’s simple solution — just one of at least three different stories he came up with on the spot for this assignment. Sheesh — what a show-off!