Saturday, September 10, 2005

Next Weekend: Comics and Cartoonists in Burlington Literary Festival...

I'll be posting more tonight and tomorrow (AM and PM) on the Center for Cartoon Studies events this weekend, but here's an announcement that may be of interest to y'all, particularly if you're in driving distance of Burlington, VT. I'll be there, so read on:

* Saturday, September 24, 2005: I'll be in Burlington, VT next Saturday with a bevy of marvelous cartoonists as part of the Burlington Literary Festival, which shows we're all "moving up" in the world, eh? The fact that this comics event at the Fletcher Free Library in downtown Burlington is popping up in the context of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center's ongoing exhibition of VT cartoonists (yours truly, Frank Miller, Rick Veitch, James Kochalka, and James Sturm) is indicative of a real change in the cultural winds in my home state. More on that next weekend; in the meantime, you can find all the particulars about next weekend's event
  • here!
  • The event be at the Fletcher Free Library (235 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401), and for more info you can call 802-865-7211 or FAX 802-865-7227, but here's all I know:

    This event was brainstormed by Barbara A. Shatara, Outreach & Reference Librarian at the Fletcher Free Library, and my good pal John Rovnak, who used to own and manage Comics Route in Manchester, VT and hosted one of Vermont's first expansive comics-related events in the mid-1990s, the ACE/Independent Comics Exposition (also in Manchester, VT, at the historic Equinox). The Burlington Literary Festival is a city-wide event, celebrating all facets of writing and creativity in Vermont, but this is the first year I'm aware of that the event has expanded its parameters to embrace comics, graphic novels, and cartoonists.

    The comics-related portion of the Literary Festival programming kicks off in the Fletcher Free Library's Main Reading Room next Saturday at 1:00 PM with an illustrated lecture by the great James Sturm, who is presently amid the opening week flurry of activity at the newly opened Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction (much more about that tonight!). James is founder and director of the CCS, and needless to say he's best known for his comics and graphic novels (all of which have been translated into several languages and have won numerous awards, including "Best Graphic Novel of 2001" by Time Magazine).

    You know, I might as well give you the whole scoop (and nothing but the scoop) on James, since he'll hereafter be a constant presence in my life and on this blog.

    Let's see, where's the official bio? Ah, here 'tis:

    In 1991 James received a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, moved to Seattle and co-founded the alternative weekly, The Stranger. That same year Fantagraphics began publishing his Eisner-nominated comic book series The Cereal Killings. During the next five years James was the art director of The Stranger, collaborated with syndicated columnist (and talking head) Dan Savage producing two issues of the comic book Savage Love. In 1996 James received a Xeric grant for his comic The Revival. From 1997-2001 James lived in Savannah, Georgia and taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the sequential art department. In 1998 Drawn and Quarterly published the story Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight, the second in a trilogy of American historical fiction pieces. Three years later came the last installment of the trilogy, the best-selling and award-winning graphic novel The Golem's Mighty Swing. The book has been translated into several languages and was named "Best Comic 2001" by Time Magazine. An avid collector of Marvel Comics in his youth James wrote and designed the 2004 Eisner award winning Unstable Molecules, a four issue series and trade paperback featuring the characters based on the Fantastic Four, and published by Marvel Comics. James' writings and illustrations have appeared in scores of national and regional publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Onion, The New York Times, and on the cover of The New Yorker. James is also the founder and active member of The National Association of Comics Art Educators; an organization committed to helping facilitate the teaching of comics in higher education.

    Now you know all you need to know about James, though I'll be sure to post embarrassing and intimate details about any compelling or particularly vile personal habits he might have in the coming weeks, months, and years.

    OK, enough on James. Back to the Burlington Literary Festival. So James gives his lecture at 1 PM, then a new group convenes in the same area -- Fletcher Free Library's Main Reading Room -- at 3:00 PM for a panel I am moderating, which has a silly title I won't repeat here (Why do they saddle us with these risible panel titles? Thankfully, "Pow! Whap!" is not part of the title, so I suppose we'll count that as a blessing). It will basically cover how we work, how we got into the business, and how we eke out livings therein. Who's "we"? I'm so glad you asked. I'll be sitting alongside James Kochalka, Tom Devlin, and Gregory Giordano, a fine group of fellows, two of whom I'll be teaching with at CCS starting this week.

    Some background on everyone: Greg Giordano managed the first-ever Vermont comics convention I ever attended (and perhaps the first-ever VT comics con, period), which was at the Sheraton Inn in Burlington. Greg is a Burlington comic book artist, and his website is
  • here.
  • Greg's a fine fellow and key to the ongoing Burlington comics scene.

    James Kochalka is known to most of you, but again, since he'll now be an ongoing part of my life at CCS and hence a frequent persona in this blog hereafter, as will Tom Devlin, who is likewise teaching at CCS, I'll post their official Burlington Literary Festival bios here, just by way of introduction for those of who aren't familiar with them or their work:

    James Kochalka's comics have been published internationally by almost every alternative comics publisher; he's recorded several music CDs under the name James Kochalka Superstar (making him a favorite at college radio stations across the country); and he's developed animated cartoons for Nickelodeon. Best known for his graphic novel, Monkey vs Robot, and his critically acclaimed Sketchbook Diaries, Kochalka currently lives in Burlington, Vermont.

    Tom Devlin is the publisher and visionary behind the art-comics publishing house Highwater Books. Specializing in comics that don't fit into the publishing profiles of other companies, Highwater has carved out a niche in the comics publishing world as an idiosyncratic, art-first/artists first comics publisher. Devlin also draws an infrequent strip on the Highwater Web site. In the past, Devlin has guest-edited The Comics Journal, managed a Diamond Comics Distribution warehouse, designed covers and content for nearly all the other independent comics publishers as well Harvard University Press, sat on the Steering Commitee of the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, lectured at Universities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Montreal, had artwork displayed in galleries in Boston and Portugal, and managed a comic store.

    OK, we'll be informative and entertaining and engaging as hell, and we'll also be signing our work after, which will be available and on sale right then and there, shameless hucksters that we all are.

    After they clear our mangy hides out of the seats and we scatter like sheep to go have dinner, the Burlington Literary Festival will reconvene in the Fletcher Free Library's Main Reading Room for that evening's event at 7:30 PM: the Cartoonists Panel with Alison Bechdel, Harry Bliss, and LJ Kopf. Alison will be the moderator, and if here's the skinny on everyone at the evening panel:

    Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For reproduces the texture of 21st century life, queer and otherwise, in exactingly high resolution. From foreign policy to domestic routine, breastfeeding to chemotherapy, postmodern theory to parenting practice, the finely-drawn characters of Dykes To Watch Out For fuse high and low culture in a serial graphic narrative suitable for humanists of all persuasions. The Comics Journal says, "Bechdel's art distills the pleasures of Friends and The Nation; we recognize our world in it, with its sorrows and ironies." Bechdel grew up in rural Pennsylvania. After graduating from Oberlin College, she moved to New York City, where she began drawing Dykes to Watch Out For as a feature in the feminist monthly Womanews in 1983. Ten book-length DTWOF collections have since appeared, nine of them -- including Spawn of Dykes To Watch Out For and Hot, Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For -- published by the pioneering feminist press, Firebrand Books. The most recent volume, Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For, was released by Alyson Books in the fall of 2003. Her bi-weekly strip is syndicated in over 50 periodicals. Bechdel's work has become a countercultural institution. "Hers are thinkers' comics," writes Harvey Pekar, "full of the stuff that classics like Gasoline Alley and Doonesbury are made of." Bechdel's work appeared recently alongside Aaron McGruder's Boondocks and David Rees' Get Your War On in Attitude 2: The New Subversive Alternative Cartoonists (NBM, 2004). Four of her books have won Lambda Literary Awards for Humor, and The Indelible Alison Bechdel won a Lambda Literary Award in the biography/autobiography category. Utne magazine has listed DTWOF as "one of the greatest hits of the Twentieth Century." In addition to her comic strip, Bechdel has also done exclusive work for a slew of publications including Ms., Slate, The Village Voice, The Advocate, Out, and many other newspapers, web sites, comic books, and 'zines. Her work has been widely anthologized and translated.

    Harry Bliss was born in upstate New York and studied painting at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Illustration at The University of the Arts (BFA) and Syracuse University (MA). Bliss was illustrating for Gentleman's Quarterly, McCall's, Business Week and other national magazines in his final year at The University of the Arts. In 1997 he was asked by the art editor of The New Yorker to submit cover sketches. His first cover for The New Yorker appeared on January 5, 1998. Shortly thereafter, his black and white cartoons began appearing in The New Yorker; to date Bliss has published fifteen covers and numerous cartoons and illustrations with the magazine.
    In addition to his work for
    The New Yorker, he has contributed cartoons to Playboy, Nickelodeon, Archaeology, and illustrated book covers for writers such as Lawrence Block, Dorothy Uhnak, Bob Dole, Ben Yagoda, and Fiona Buckley. He has received awards of excellence from Print, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, National Society of News Design, Inc., and Art Directors Club of New York. His first children's book, A Fine, Fine School by Newbery award winning author Sharon Creech, was a New York Times Bestseller. Other books for children Bliss has illustrated include Which Would You Rather Be? by William Steig, Caldecott winning author and creator of Shrek, Countdown To Kindergarten by Alison McGhee and Diary of a Worm, a New York Times Bestseller by Caldecott winner Doreen Cronin. Bliss's next book, Don't Forget To Come Back Candlewick Press), is due out in February 2004.

    L. J. Kopf had his brief bid for local fame when his Edge cartoon appeared in every issue of the twelve year (1978-1990) run of the Vanguard Press, a Burlington news and arts weekly that laid the groundwork for Seven Days. A collection of the best of those Edge cartoons, entitled Into Every Life a Little Edge Must Fall, was published by Fantagraphics Books and is still available. Mr. Kopf continues to draw cartoons. By day, he works as the Children's Librarian at the Richmond Free Library in Richmond, VT.

    OK, that's the lineup. I'm looking forward to being there -- hope you'll join us!

    A proper, non-huckster blog posting will follow this evening, after I return home from this afternoon's CCS Grand Opening event. Hope to see some of you there; in any case, see you Constant Readers here later.

    Labels: , , , , , , , ,