Saturday, November 10, 2007

Two Evenings with Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, & Chris Ware

On Thursday and Friday, I was privileged to attend evening events here in Washington that only boosted my admiration for excellent cartoonists. Friday night, the PEN/Faulkner Organization hosted an event at the DC Jewish Community Center featuring three outstanding cartoonists in conversation with Chicago-based writer Dan Raeburn, whose self-published critical zine The Imp offered some of the finest writing available on such diverse cartoon topics as the works of Jack Chick, Chris Ware, and Mexican comics (the world awaits the book edition of Dan's work, the forthcoming The Imp of the Perverse). Chris Ware himself was one of the outstanding cartoonists in question, and he was joined by Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel. Each cartoonist spoke over a slide-show presentation of his or her work, then they joined Raeburn on stage for a moderated discussion before taking questions from the audience. All three cartoonists spoke eloquently and hilariously, and Chris Ware movingly read from a letter of encouragement Lynda Barry had sent him at the start of his career.

Thursday night offered a related event, a welcome dinner for the cartoonists that was open to ticketed guests. The cartoonists did not have to speak formally at this event, though in fact all of them were quite approachable and open about their work. The only threat to the evening's relaxed festivities was the planned programming, a brief chat about comics and graphic novels in the classroom featuring a panel of local comics scholars: Marc Singer (Howard University professor and former executive director of the International Comic Art Forum), Mike Rhode (an editor for the International Journal of Comic Art and the forthcoming Harvey Pekar: Conversations, and proprietor of the ComicsDC blog), and yours truly (!). Yes, I got to gas off about comics for twenty minutes or so in front of the likes of Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Chris Ware. It's probably a good thing the stage lights meant we couldn't see anybody listening to us!

At any rate, there's a lot I want to share about both evenings, but I'll be doling it out over the next week or so. I still have page 9 of the Elfworld story to work on, and much else besides! But in the meantime, I recommend Mike Rhode's blog post about the Thursday night event, where he shares some of the cartooning secrets that Lynda Barry brought up. (And if you're really curious, you can also find another link at that link for a downloadable recording of our panel, but not, alas, the Friday night panel.)

Much more to come next week. Stay tuned!

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