Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SPX Report / Owning Up to It

Things that a couple of my cartoonist friends said at different times this weekend at SPX have got me thinking. Here's a sort of disjointed essay about letting yourself enjoy things that aren't cool.

First, during the panel on “genre” in alternative comics, our pal Jon Lewis was talking about the period in one’s life when one powerfully wants to be taken seriously and therefore loudly denounces or eschews anything that’s not “serious.” Maybe this particular pupal stage is only experienced by a certain variety of nerd, but it’s definitely something I recognized in my own past personality.

At a certain point in your development, though, as Jon said, you start to feel secure enough in your own personality to allow yourself access to the unhip, the non-serious, the mainstream, and so forth. You can even enjoy some of it without irony.

I have a playlist on my iPod that I listen to sometimes on my way to work. This playlist is all ’80s pop songs that I thought were for idiots when I was in high school (and totally into the Talking Heads)—stuff like “Walking on Sunshine” or Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days.” They're actually really enjoyable songs. Now, my only embarrassment when I listen to them is that I was such a snob about them decades ago, when I was green in judgment. And there are certainly analogues from the world of comics.

Later, at the Ignatz afterparty, I was telling my friends from Partyka about the genre panel. There had been this moment on the panel when Gilbert Hernandez, talking about writing Birds of Prey for DC, was joking about how he’d been confused about Barbara Gordon being stuck in a wheelchair. (I’m paraphrasing here, but what he had said was something like, “You see, there was this issue of Superman where Lois Lane had a mermaid’s tail, and Superman learned how to be a surgeon so he could reattach her real legs; why can’t Superman just fix Batgirl’s legs?”) So, as I’m describing this and Shawn and Matt are chuckling, Sara Edward-Corbett goes, “You guys are such total nerds.” Or, anyway, words to that effect. I think she meant it kindly.

And I thought, you know, I’m okay with that. There are things about mainstream comics that don’t interest me one bit, and there’s a lot that I won’t bother reading, but I’m not going to deny that I have a segment of superhero “history” printed indelibly on my brain. (It’s a different segment than Gilbert Hernandez’s, I’m sure, but if anyone needs me to describe Kirby’s run on Kamandi or, God help me, the first dozen issues of Alpha Flight, I can probably do it.)

Come to think of it, I consider it kind of a compliment that one of my cartoonist friends asked me to remind him what Metron’s chair looks like, for a sketch he was doing this weekend.

I’m not even going to disallow the possibility that some unhip, mainstream stuff currently being printed would turn out to be enjoyable. I liked the first six issues of the Waid / Perez Brave and the Bold, for example. I can admit that.

Anyway, all of this has led me to think about why it is that I enjoyed this year’s SPX more than I did last year’s. I think it’s mostly because this year I took it a lot less seriously. I mean, I was a little nervous about the panel I moderated, and I was glad that it went well. I was honored to be the one to introduce Bill Griffith’s lecture. But on the show floor I was neither concerned about being cool nor worried at all about selling Satisfactory Comics. (I gave out a lot of postcards, and traded quite a few copies of #7, but I didn’t sell a single comic.) Basically, I was treating the convention floor as what it is, for me: a venue where I can pursue my minicomics hobby.

Also, I have a couple of notebooks that I’ve slowly been filling with sketches by other cartoonists, one book with monkeys and the other with robots. It’s a fanboy thing to do, and I recognize that; showing the books to someone always makes me feel uncomfortably geeky, and I feel like a dork when I ask someone to do a sketch for me. But I think I can admit to myself that the sketchbooks make me happy. The drawings (some by famous cartoonists and some by friends) are souvenirs, more than a collection, and a lot of them really do put a smile on my face.

Last year at SPX I asked Tony Millionaire to draw the frontispiece in my monkey sketchbook. This year, back toward the back of the book, Gilbert Hernandez:

I don’t think I should feel embarrassed to have asked for that.

1 comment:

the fearless hippie said...

this is way cool - rock on!