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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When you travel with D+Q, you travel with comics

If I were a less foolhardy human, this blog post would have been broken up into chunks - one part about what it's like spending a few days with the delightful Rutu Modan, and the other a testimony to the awesome thing that is Art Spiegelman Speaking About Comics. Instead, you're getting all the goods in one blog post, dear internet.

Let's start it off in D.C. After the so-good-I-needed-to-sleep-a-thousand-years radness that was SPX, I headed to D.C. to visit a good friend who just moved there. We checked out some museums and wandered around.

Above is the one thing I saw and liked at the Hirshhorn modern art museum. One day after seeing Seth debut Palookaville 21 at SPX I couldn't help but draw a certain parallel. For those of you who haven't read Palookaville 21 yet, let me articulate it for you:

Rubber stamps Seth uses for his diary in comics form.
And that is how you make everything about comics.

After admiring a bunch of skeletons at the Natural History Museum, I headed up to the new NPR building, which, according to the person I was meeting there, resembles a "giant Apple store" -- she's not wrong. It turns out we are living in the future.

Since I arrived too late to snag any merch (why oh why would the NPR store only be open till 2 pm!), she graciously showed me around the building. Some consolation prize, amirite? Above you see the war room setup of NPR news, which is pretty darn cool and makes me suspect maybe NPR is preparing to take over the world. After that, I took another wander, and ate some ramen. But I'm trying to keep this thing on the rails, so let's fastforward to a little bit later...

When I spotted a preview of Enough Said on my friend's TV, I was psyched. You guys! If you're in a city where you can actually see new films, check this one out. What more could you possibly want from the world than Tavi Gevinson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and James Gandolfini? Well, maybe a copy of Rookie Yearbook Two, or the opportunity to meet Tavi face-to-face, but either way, the movie looks really good.

And rather than share any photos of the elegant meal Rutu Modan and I enjoyed on the train to New York City (think hummus, crackers, and carrot sticks, reaaaaal classy), I will spare you any more vacation blogging, and head straight to the action: Tuesday night, we hit the Society of Illustrators for a conversation between Rutu and Liza Donnelly (of the New Yorker) about The Property, Rutu's career, and other fascinating stuff.

Let's pause here to give a shout-out to SoI for hosting an excellent event and for being the wonderful people they are. Their space is beautiful and their audiences ask astoundingly good questions. Thanks to Anelle Miller and Katie Blocher of the Society (pictured above), for being so generous with their time and energy!

Liza Donnelly did a really wonderful job moderating the talk, drawing out some of Rutu's influences, like Edward Gorey (see above), and touching on the different periods of Rutu's career. Rutu's thoughtful and often wry comments made for a great discussion of the place her comics occupy in Israeli comics history, and brought out a lot of subtle stylistic and formal choices I hadn't been aware of in The Property.

Rutu signing for some fans - apologies for my poor camera skillz.

And this is the point in the evening where we made poor Marc Sobel (The Love & Rockets Companion) hold six different cameras and take photos of us - L-R: Liza Donnelly (moderator extraordinaire), Ulli Lust (Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life), Rutu Modan, and me. It was a very pleasant surprise that so many comics folks turned out for an event so soon after SPX.

The next day dawned beautiful and sunny, so we headed down to DUMBO where we met an old friend...

Adrian Tomine! We gorged on pizza and beautiful views. Wanna see what lunch looked like from Adrian & Rutu's side of the table?

Yeah you do! I'm going to go ahead and call this the most picturesque lunch spot in all of New Yahk. That backdrop looks downright fake. I'm told Adrian and his daughter Nora (aka The Cutest Girl in All of Park Slope) often do takeout pizza and rides on the carousel.

Afterwards, we ambled over to the PowerHouse Arena, where a certain Brooklyn illustrator's images were up on the wall...

Beautiful, n'est-ce pas?

Then, after a quick jaunt along the High Line, it was finally time for the launch party of Art Spiegelman's Co-Mix: a Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps at Fort Greene's justly beloved indie bookshop, Greenlight.

Store owner and manager Jessica Stockton Bagnulo handled the introduction beautifully, and then it was on to the main affair.

Art Spiegelman is an incredibly articulate thinker-about and maker-of comics. It was really wonderful to spend an hour soaking in his heady, hilarious commentary about his own career, and its place within comics history.

Okay, but seriously, look at this rapt audience. There's no other word for it! Perhaps by this point, Art was explaining the funniest response to this New Yorker cover: "It's cool that for the 130th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, you decided to portray Abraham Lincoln kissing a slave."

After that, it was time for the signing. A seriously long line formed and people patiently waited for their chance with the man of the hour. Meanwhile...

A gaggle of new and old friends settled in nearby. From L-R: Francoise Mouly, David Prudhomme, Ricardo Liniers, Rutu Modan, and Ulli Lust. It was nice to have such an international group of artists visiting, and it was startling just how many of the event attendees were coming from farflung locations - Paris, Poland, Westchester, etc.

Back to ye olde signing line! This couple (sorry, I didn't catch your names!) had just shown Art their wedding cake topper, which included, NO JOKE, a Garbage Pail Kids card! And then they busted out the 9/11 New Yorker, which Francoise was kind enough to sign too.

Watching Art sign books is a real treat - he's kind and thoughtful with his fans, gracious with his time, and his drawings in the books are often downright funny. I adored the fact that he would "co-mix" / hybridize his self-portrait on the splash page of Co-Mix, creating a centaur Spiegelman. Peep that two-story (no pun intended) Maus!

Once the signings were over, Liniers charmingly and shyly mentioned that he had brought along his copy of Funny Aminals, if Art wouldn't mind signing it. In exchange for that, we made Liniers buy us all dinner. Just kidding!

Then it was off to dinner, where I only took two photos - one very unflattering one of Rutu and Ricardo examining his watercolor pen and this one of Art examining the product of the pen - Liniers' beautiful tour sketchbook. But trust me, we had a very nice time!

The next morning, it was off to the airport with me, where I heeded my father's advice and had a farewell-to-NYC-breakfast-pretzel.  So long, New York!


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