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Nijigahara Holograph is a comic book by Inio Asano published for the first time in English by Fantagraphics. It is currently available for pre-order and will be available soon at whereever fine comic books are sold. This is third of a three part series on the book.  The preceding sections covered the role of memory, and the role of violence, respectively.

 

Moreso than the other pieces, this particular article will contain spoilers, because it is dealing with one of the central ideas threaded through the entire book.  And while I don’t think it is possible to have an experience reading Nijigahara Holograph spoiled, because every read it reveals itself more to you and makes whatever surprises you may have felt the first read through seem small by comparison to the overarching considerations that Asano has put into the book.  But some people are more sensitive to others on these things.  So there you go.  Anyways.  Is it ever appropriate to start a critical essay with “let’s begin”?

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I start with these two pages because they have in them one of the core thematic oppositions at work through all of Nijigahara Holograph. Which is to say, the opposition of beauty and the monstrous.  The depiction of the dual nature of the sublime which is at once beautiful and horrible.  These natures find their homes within the book in many different forms, but principally they are depicted through the characters of Arakawa Maki(the woman in the scene above) and Kimura Arie.  These two characters are the vessels through which all of the world of Nijigahara Holograph pivots.

 

There is a central myth in the Nijigahara Holograph of the beautiful prophet who represents the word of god, who comes to the village and tells them of a monster in the tunnel who will bring about disaster.  The villagers though are so afraid of her divine beauty that they chop of her head and offer her to the monster.  And then another beautiful girl, the reincarnation of the first girl, appears.  And the story is repeated over and over, as the monster becomes larger and larger feeding upon the misogyny and hatred of the community at large which is creating it’s own eternal hell around itself.

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This is a flashback from Makato after he failed to rape and murder the young girl Arie Kimura, who after this would be pushed down a well by her classmates, and live the bulk of the book in a coma, and becoming illuminated.  It speaks to this notion of true sublime beauty as being terrifying.  Sublime beauty that reminds us of our imperfections and our degrees removed from its impossibility.  Almost without fail every time Arie Kimura shows up in the book, a male character tries to kill her or rape her.  We see this behavior fragmented out through the rest of the story, with a culture that is shattered in degrees across this violence towards women, because of man’s perception of them as a reminder of this divine nature under which they are unable to cope.  In fact it is this cycle of violence against women which powers much of the childhood trauma that the kids of Nijigahara Holograph are themselves destroyed by.  In some ways you could say that misogyny is the original sin of the world of Nijigahara Holograph, and the inescapable violent hell of the world around them, comes from this continual perpetuation of violence towards women.

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On the other side of things is Arakawa Maki.  The monster in the well.  The collector of souls.  The destroyer of beauty.  Maki both feeds and perpetuates this violence.  She manipulates the school children to push Arie down the well, which destroys Khota because he saw himself as some great knight, some great protector of Arie.  But Maki manipulates that core value to lead Khota along a path where not only does he become trapped in the hell pictured above, but he is the one that finds the necklace, which Maki gives to Amahiko, which causes him to try to rape and murder Arie, his sister(and mother), once she reveals herself to him as God.  Maki is the monster in the tunnel who grows fat upon the weakness and fear of man, and it’s inability to withstand the sublime.  You can actually read Nijigahara Holograph, just tracking Arakawa Maki, and have the hell that Asano has crafted become fully revealed.

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This is the same kind of hell from Dante, where demon’s are attending to the damned which ostensibly want to be there, and want to be punished, because they are incapable of accepting a notion  of an eternal everlasting love.  They choose pain over love.  It’s more immediate and more understandable.  This is the decision of the community of Nijigahara Holograph.  And no matter how many times the beautiful prophet re-incarnates, she will always be killed–and the cycles of abuse, violence, and trauma will continue on and on without end.  And this is in the end the disaster that Arie and her earlier incarnations tried to warn of and stave off.   This central drama between Arie and Maki will play out for all time.  The monster who feeds off of our weakness and hatred vs. the angel who reminds us of those imperfections.

 

I’m not really sure what to think about both of these forces being represented by women, because there is a way you could take this where it is absolving those caught in between these two women of blame.  And that notion, that all of the horrors that men do towards women and the world at large, is as a result of their powerlessness against these two different kinds of women, is a fairly destructive idea.  I think that’s why it’s important to understand that though Maki has a pro-active role in the destruction of Arie–the choices and actions are always left up to someone else.  She only presents scenarios in which the community is offered a choice, and it is their choice to continually act against women which damns them.  The monster didn’t make Makato into a house burning murdering rapist.  The community did, because of how it reacted to beauty.  Maki only organizes and tends to these impulses to direct them toward the end of perpetuating the hell that they have chosen.  So if anything, I think Nijigahara Holograph acts as a criticism of our conception of beauty as something to react fearfully to.  Violently to.  And because we’ve feminized beauty, women take on these aspects for men, which for them, justify on some level the horrors they visit upon women.  Our notion of beauty as something to control in some way, because the sublime horror of that which holds us in awe, but which we have no ability to desire to cage for ourselves is currently an impossibility.  I think part of our survival mechanism springs from this notion of needing to capture and have beauty.  Life is nothing if not the impossible struggle to wrestle the divine notion of death into a controllable vessel.  If we were able to simply see the sublime without desire, in totality, it would be annihilatory towards our consciousness.  Which is what Asano seems to say with Nijigahara Holograph, that once the community embrace the sublime “the butterflies which have been pulled apart by fate shall become one”.  Instrumentality.  Perceiving god, makes all god, and there becomes no self, or perception, only the eternal, without end.  And then of course the notion that once all returns to god, new worlds can be created by the return of thought.  Something like that.  Neon Genesis Evangelion is a wonderful companion piece to Nijigahara Holograph, basically.

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Siegfried is a comic book adaption by Alex Alice of Wagner’s classic Norse Mythos inspired opera Ring of the Nibelung, it follows the titular Siegfried on his archetypal journey toward destiny. It has been published by Archaia and volumes 1 and 2 are available now wherever fine comic books are sold.

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The other day I got into a conversation online a bit about what I see are the intrinsic failures of digital comics despite their huge advantages of accessibility(anything that allows me not to go to the shitty LCS and get treated like a childish idiot is a good thing for my money and sanity).  Basically what I said was that for the most part because of the size of the tablets on which most of this work is displayed for the reader, much of the oomph and awe that a comic can produce has been removed.  I have a tiny first generation Kindle Fire that I read monthly comics on, and besides it’s questionable reproduction of color, any time there is a two page spread, I can barely read the thing.  I have to constantly zoom in to read the words on the page, which removes me from the majesty of the page as a whole, and also can cause me to lose my sense of space.  The digital format is largely animus towards the kind of wide square scale that makes up some of the great dramatic majesties the medium can produce.  

When I was writing this, Siegfried was one particular book I had in mind.  I read volume one of Siegfried on my small shitty kindle, and the experience was…okay.  It wasn’t kind of disappointing in some ways, and I couldn’t really understand what the big deal was.  Fortunately there was enough there that I did end up getting the first volume and later the second volume in their hardcover large european sized scaled versions–and it is a very very different experience.  There is a grandeur and scale to the world Alice has created in these books which is directly tied to the story itself and how it feels to you.  The act of physically moving your head to move from panel to panel allows an intense kind of immersion in the work that smaller floppy comics or digital comics have trouble replicating.  What’s more, a book at this size when you read it, it is so big that you can literally see nothing else but the book in front of you.  The book’s dimensions force you into it.

And what a world.

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This is sort of a tough review to convey because obviously my scans are also not really giving you a sense of what it is to really see this art.  Besides the colors not really popping as much, you have to understand that the bottom half of this page is as big as your face.  The sense of sublime beauty you get at a moment like this in the book where you turn the page and it just opens up in front of you.

The first volume of Siegfried takes place in a more clustered forest area, and a lot of what powers you through that first volume is Alice’s highly expressive character work.  But in the second volume, which is the best of the two volumes, the world opens up as Siegfried and Mime come into the world of the gods and giants.  Alice conceives landscapes themselves as monstrous sleeping giants, and he is constantly underscoring Siegfried and Mime’s smallness in proportion to these landscapes.

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Notice how small Siegfried and Mime are on that middle panel.  Alice conveys the sublime terror of nature arrayed against these two.  See here, with the foreboding and eerie greens behind the shifting mysterious shadows steaming up from the earth as the Giants begin to awaken.  Mime and Siegfried are trapped in a middle ground, as even the foreground arcs up out of the panel pushing them back into the thing which they are running from.  They are ON the thing they are running from.

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These three bottom panels because of the squared nature of book are given even greater panoramic sense than if they had been shoehorned into a more vertical format.  This sequence also points to another strength of this work by Alice, which is that his figure work retains it’s emotive qualities and strength even as it is just a spec in the wider scale of the world around it.  The way the Valkyrie sits perched on that cliff, her dress and hair reacting to the lightning crash in front of her.  This is something that you also see in artists like Nihei, where the magic of their scale is that they are able to bolt it down to really expressive character work within that environment.  The characters have their own weight within the larger panel which allows for a greater feeling of grandiosity.  It is our own weight in the face of unimaginable scale, which informs wonder.  Without that kind of dynamic figure work, you could easily lose these characters in their backdrops, and a large part of the story falls flat.

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The panel with Odin and the Valkyrie that makes up most of the left side of this monstrous page is an experience in and of itself.  Alice uses those wisps of storm and wind swirling about both to obscure Odin, and denote him as the force of wrath he is personifying–as well as a way to curve your gaze through the page.  This page also illustrates some of the jaw-dropping color sequences that make up both volumes.  Look how that red moves down the page, and changes weight and saturation from top of the page to final panel.  And those beautiful strokes of white in the Valkyrie’s hair that make her hair almost elemental in nature.  There’s also a wonderful shift from Odin as God in the long vertical panel, to Odin as father when he realizes what his daughter has done, and what he will have to do as a consequence of her decision if he is to remain true to his law. The humanity rushes into his cowl.  It’s fairly subtle, but it is extremely powerful.  And the pages after this are some of the most jaw dropping in the entire series so far.

These are the kind of comics that basically define the side of the medium that is almost beyond imagination.  These wondrous books by true masters treated with a real love and respect to their vision–these books that you can’t help but read as an artist, and get even hungrier to improve.  As an american who came up on mostly floppy sized format comics that were largely made to be very disposable, these kind of books represent a kind of comic’s culture that I think on some level I fetishize.  To read a comic as an artist, and think “never in a hundred years could I make something this beautiful” is a really special feeling.  And to think that this work would in some way be reduced or not even attempted because of the need to format for digital is something I have a hard time understanding.  There are specific qualities of these things as they exist now.  Scale is important in art.  A screenshot of a huge mural isn’t the same experience at all.  The physicality that art requires from you as it gets bigger, allows for a greater chance of finding a glimpse of true beauty.  I once had an ex talk to me about her experience seeing a particular sculpture from Dali in person for the first time, and how the experience was so overwhelming she was reduced to tears.  There are many many wonderful things about the digitization of art, and for many mediums the greater access it provides outweighs the slight modification of it’s form(for example music).  But for visual art, there is a side to this changes radically by your presence in relation to it.  A side that can move you in the same way that an amazing dawn can.  And basically what I’m saying is that I’m a fiend for the sublime, and some choices take us farther away from that than others.  Archaia’s decision to reproduce Alice’s work in this form is a choice that takes us closer to that unapproachable ideal.

I wrote this about digital comics elsewhere on Ayo’s facebook.  Thought I’d share it here.  And I mean, I’m not trying to be “digital is bad!!!” lady.  Because in terms of music, movies, and book books I actually think digital works really well.  But in terms of comic and fine art for instance, I think digital sacrifices a lot more in these mediums than in others. So blah blah ado:

I don’t think the digital experience is as good, fundamentally.  For one, in terms of the audience, how they could be reading your comic digitally could vary wildly in format, and that could really change the experience.  A two page spread is almost impossible to read on an iphone for instance.  Let alone appreciate.

There are a lot of compositional elements that are much less effective and impressive when you’re reading it in the digital formats as available.  The emotional oomph of a highly detailed stunning two page spread is really diminished in the form.  There is an interesting middle space if you’re ONLY making a comic for digital, as in Private Eye where Marcos Martin is doing a lot of things with the middle of his spreads that you couldn’t do in a printed comic with a spine.  But I don’t think that trade off is much in favor of comics as a whole.  

There are things in art which digital does diminish just because of space, and the physical action is different.  Like if you read European albums on a kindle, you completely lose out on the physical act of having to move your head from panel to panel, which changes the experience from an appreciation of the details of a particular panel, to the consideration of the page as a whole, which radically changes the experience and impressiveness.

Additionally, there seems to me much more wild fluctuation in terms of how color will reproduce itself than there would be in print.  Reading a comic on my kindle vs. my computer monitor produces wildly different experiences of color.

It comes down to the end of the day, comics like some fine art, depend a great deal on scale and reproduction, and digital can and does strip a lot of that magic out for the sake of convenience.  You can’t fully appreciate Picasso’s Guernica in a screenshot for instance.

So yeah.  I think digital is alright for it’s disposability, but for comics I legit care about, I need to have that in my hands.

Last but not least, you can buy MY digital comics from gumroad.  And I’ll have a new digital only Hecate Snake Diaries in August.

Operation Margarine is an iconic motorcycle death trip comic about two women’s escape from the caged world of their surroundings by Katie Skelly published by AdHouse Books available this month wherever fine books are sold

I am actually fairly new to the Katie Skelly game.  I first heard about her work after seeing Brandon Graham’s Operation Margarine Pinup.
I did a pin up for Katie Skelly’s rad book Operation Margarine

It was kind of one of those things, the more I looked into, the more it was like, “oh wow, this is very much what I get into”.  Skelly has a clever 70s pop comic aesthetic married to deep cut film love style that if you’ve read my writing on Guy Peellaert or like, read any of my own comics, know is very much what I’m about(Katie Skelly has also herself written on Peellaert in a pretty must read article too).

And while I enjoyed Nurse Nurse, which I think operates best as an almost ideas per page kind of book, Operation Margarine was the book I was looking forward to reading the minute I saw the Scorpio Rising jackets, and the cool art house/exploitation film interior panel composition.

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Operation Margarine is a powerhouse book when it comes to just power chord iconic shot choices for its panel interiors.  

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Check in these two panels the directional tension of oppositional panels married to just flat out mean mugging from one rider to the next.  That focus on Bon-Bon’s face(dark hair) to survive, and Margarine’s fuck you defiance, shown with just that ballooning eyeball angling back across the page.  And then Billy’s(with the glasses and two different colored eyes) surprised look at that defiance.  The how dare you of the furrowed brow, the surprise marks, and the exclamation mark–with the block sound effects revving up against the direction of that panel to create the power of the motorcycle roaring through.

 

In many ways, the core tension which gives Operation Margarine it’s anthemic iconic energy comes from a vacillation between these emotive close-up shots, and it’s open wide shot expanses.  This energy is best conveyed throughout the work the more basic the page layouts become.  In fact, Operation Margarine is a class in the modulation  of dramatic energy through the complication or simplification of page layout.  Much of the early pages of the book are pages with greater than 4 panels per page.  The last 2/3rds of the book largely open up into a dramatic pattern of the iconic pages of less than four panels and the pages used to distill their impact through panel counts greater than 4.

These early page layouts mirror the restriction and careful planning of Margarine’s caged world.  Margarine is because of her gender ostensibly institutionalized by the world around her that wants her to conform to the set out role of her princess-dom.  She’s caged up and waiting, and her resistance to that situation is viewed by the world around her as madness.  And rather than simply wait to be the prize of someone else’s adventure, Margarine escapes to a world entirely of her choosing.

And to correspond with that, the book opens up into these power pages of four panels or less.
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It is these pages where Operation Margarine really sings.  The book plays to dual strengths of cinematic panel composition and emotive closeup power to build pages, that could never be as big as they feel.  OM gets so much mileage just out of it’s characters eyes, and little sweat beads.  But it’s also the modulation of black and white.  The white bricks of the top panel match up with the white background of the second panel to underscore the interiority of the third panel which goes to black to underscore Margarine’s internal stress.  And that top panel…enough can’t be said about panels like that.  The performative qualities of Bon-Bon’s body language toward Margarine, and Margarine’s own conveyed uncertainty with the bike.  I’m almost certain it’s a quote from a film, I can’t quite remember.  Additionally, that panel sets up the space which the two close-ups exist in.  This page construction allows for an almost primordial engagement with the core elements that make up the magic of the comic’s medium–and by boiling the medium down to this kind of minimalist quality–it allows the beauty of these characters to shine through, both in terms of their characterization–but also in terms of their pop-iconic-ness(wordddds).  

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This page inverts the formula by starting off with the close-ups and then creating an intense panning back.  This allows for the emotion of the top two panels to paint the more open and removed bottom panel.  Comics are in some ways always about what you drag into the next panel from the last, and every panel is the accumulation of everything that comes before it, even as it powers everything that comes after it.

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This is another page that gets it’s power from it’s simplicity.  The lower panel count allows for a greater play in terms of scale within the panels themselves.  And what we get here are two close-ups that create the space for the bottom panel to feel more immense.  Bon-Bon and Margarine’s heads are both as big as the figure used for the bottom landscape, which makes them almost shrink even further into that landscape–and it creates a release, in conjunction with the removal of dialog balloons, which is married to the sensibility of the page itself, which is that of “let’s just ride this forever”.

These middle open spaces of Operation Margarine also serve to create the dramatic space on which it’s apocalyptic ending gets so much of its power.  The net effect of Operation Margarine, and the reason I wanted to write about it, is that dynamic pop power of 70s film aesthetic married to the core principles which make comics such a dynamic and powerful medium.  It is a pure kind of comics.  And for someone often times mired in the complicated layouts of Guido Crepax, a nice refresher course on the benefits of this approach.  I read Operation Margarine on a PDF, but my sense reading it was that I could have read it in a book as big as newspapers and it would still not feel big enough.  Operation Margarine is a testament to the creation of space within the comics form, and how that space can be used to create a complex nuanced drama. Also, uh, leather, sex, death, and motorcycles.

Con haul

So yeah.  I went to my first con ever this weekend.  Like period, no comma.  This was Emerald City Comic Convention C C C in Seattle, which I guess is like the third largest con in the country.  I figure things like your first convention and impressions both on the artist side and on the wandering around looking at things side are the kinds of things writing is made for.  So 10 years from now when I’m rocking spaghetti brains, there will be a record, sort of thing.  Plus while I took some pictures I didn’t take a lot of pictures, so this is more like about all of the things between the pictures, which is everything.

 

That I went to ECCC was in no small part due to Brandon Graham keeping up on asking me if I was going to it, for like a year, and telling me how I really really needed to go, and making me feel bad for missing the one last year(where I missed out on Alison Sampson and Emma Rios for example).  Not enough good can be said about Brandon.  It would be impossible to even begin to say anything.  I got to room with Brandon, Robin McConnell(Inkstuds), Simon Roy, Amika(Amy Clare), amongst others(like for instance Shannon, without whom Amika and I would still be lost somewhere in downtown Seattle).  And as crowded as that sounds, it never was.  Besides making really dope comics, one of the things that has been consistent throughout Brandon’s whole comics career has been this amazing ability to put houses/communities together.  He is probably the most inclusive guy I’ve ever met.  He is constantly trying to bring people together in comics and help build a newer doper more diverse place for dope comics to come from and go to.  While some people sit up thinking about what boyhood fantasies they want to put in their X-men book Brandon I think sort of dreams of teaming of all of the different people he knows into the dopest books he can think of.  It was really motivating to watch him work at the con and make legit time for everyone.  Even though by the end, I swear his eyes were shifting in and out of focus like some kind of weird doppler effect.


Oni Party

I got in earlyish on Thursday which initially seemed like it was going to be a really awkward thing because I wouldn’t be able to check into my room until the Brandon/Simon and crew made it down to check in since the room was in their name.  Initially I think my plan was just to chill in the airport for a few hours and then maybe hideout in the Sheraton lobby.  But thankfully, because of the magic of twitter, I got in touch with Sandra Lanz who I’ve been friends with on the internets for minute, and she let me store my luggage in her room and hang out with her and Shawn.  It ended up being a super big deal, because Sandra and I basically became con homies through the rest of the weekend.  It’s one of those things that you can make a certain level of bond with someone through instagram photos and 140 character tweets, but when you actually get to meet them, you end up becoming serious friends.  Sandra was kind of doing the same thing as me, which was kind of chilling a bit with friends who were working a booth but mostly interested in kind of roaming around at the con and going to panels and things.  It was really great over the course of the weekend to talk to her about her comics and art, and what she wants to do with all of it.  She’s an artist who has serious strengths in a lot of the areas where I’m really really weak, so I learned a lot picking her brain.
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These are the cover and then an interior page from the webcomic she drew called Yonderling, which you can see ten pages of here.  She’s mostly worked with other writers, but talking to her about her ideas artistically and what she wants to do, I really want to see her write some stuff too.  Anyways, besides palling around for the rest of the con, the first night we roamed around the Oni Party with our sad hustle game of “Hey, I think that’s someone I know from the internet”.  Fortunately this guy showed up:
Me. Ian. And Sandra.   Holding it down.  I love these people.

That’s me,
Ian MacEwan, and Sandra.

Ian besides introducing large swaths of the modern comics world to deep heavy Moebius love through his old tumblr airtightgarage(which sadly is no more), and running the corpse project
Think of a City with (friend of the show) Alison Sampson, is a really talented artist in his own right.  His Study Group Comic with Jason Leivian(who I also met along with the predictably fantastic Zach Soto(comics bio: runs shit)) The Yankee is really good.  Evidence:

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Ian was there to run the 2000AD booth, which despite really only having the stuff that’s been released in America from 2000AD was pretty much empty by the last day of the con.  There’s a real thirst for that material I think, so hopefully more of it gets brought over.  Or at least more of those Judge Anderson Arthur Ranson books.  Ian is also just one of the nicest most knowledgable comics people you’ll run into.  Anyways, met him at the Oni Party.  Also met Andy Khouri who has been my editor at ComicsAlliance for the last two years.  It was really cool to meet the flesh suit behind all the thousands of words I’ve thrown at him over the years.  I also met Dennis Culver who in addition to writing all kinds of things, was just a super dope dude to me.

The other main thing that happened at the Oni Party was when these dudes rolled in:

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Jen Vaughn, look how tall I am, and Jacq Cohen.  And unfortunately the only picture I have with either of them despite both being highlights from the weekend as a whole.  Jen and I were born in the same hospital and with Farel Dalrymple and Sterling Gates and a few others make up the super secret Oklahoma Comics crew who are quietly taking over prominent positions all through your comics industry.  Jacq I’ve dealt with the last two years mostly on the critical writing side of things.  She sends me great books and then I write about them, basically.  She was also really encouraging about my comics as well.  It was really cool to talk with her over the course of the weekend and hang out a little bit.  She falls under the category of people who made the weekend feel way too short to spend as much time as I wanted with the people I dug.  But I got pictures of baby bunnies in my phone, and went to this really great dinner and drinks she invited me and others to:
Photo jacq took from an awesome dinner she invited me to.  I stupidly didn’t get pics with jacq and jen vaughn but both were completely great and amazing to me.

I like how this was just supposed to be about the Oni party, and now I’m all over the map in terms of time.  This will be a special kind of hell to try and read through.  Pace yourself.

Anyways.  Eventually Brandan and the Canadians made it to the hotel, and I got my luggage shifted.
Day 1: Con Air
So like I said, because of the room situation, I got to use the Prophet table as a kind of homebase which was cool because there were a lot of cool people sort of around that table.  
Ed Brisson was over there, Johnnie Christmas, Michael Walsh, Corey Lewis, Damon Gentry, Aaron Conley, Joseph Bergin III were all over there in addition to Brandon and Simon.  The dude who was running shit though was Con-Boss-Rick Ross Robin “Mr. Inkstuds” McConnell.Blurry bird.  Robin finds all the best comics.  And basically runs shit.  He also forgets to pack heavy metal issues with alberto breccia strips in them.  Which is a bonus.   Also Corey Lewis’ back.  And damon gentry who is also a cool dude.
(Robin, Corey Lewis’ back, Damon Gentry’s Back, and I think an obscured Sandra Lanz)

I don’t know how anything would have gotten done without Robin.  I think he was the only reason people knew when they were supposed to be at signings or panels.  He organized what was a really small space, that could have easily ended up a complete mess with books and art getting stepped on and things spilled on.  I figured out the first day as well that if I wanted to get any good comics at this con I had to follow Robin around.  The first day I came back with like a vampirella and some esteban marotto zatanna comics, which…alright.  Robin rolled back with these gorgeous Hermann Western comics and basically put me to shame.  It’s safe to say me getting the comics I wanted at ECCC is almost entirely due to Robin’s almost supernatural ability to spot dope comics.  Like I swear one time he saw a long box that had dope shit in it from like three booths away and through a crowd of people(there were 80,000 people at ECCC I think, I heard somewhere–it felt like that when you tried to walk or use the escalators, weirdly no one ever uses the elevators, so yeah).  I’ve been listening to Robin’s podcast Inkstuds since maybe 2007?  I first came across it looking for Paul Pope interviews to listen to, and I’ve been listening ever since.  I think I’ve listened to almost every episode since I started listening, many from before.  I’ve never really had a comics community or anything, so Robin gave me this window in this whole diverse world of people in comics, and what’s more the historical value of these documents through time can’t go without enough emphasis.  For some of these artists this is the only real historical documentation of their lives that will be done with this level of sincerity–and it’s impossible to overstate what that is and what it means.  I’m really excited for the big inkstuds roadshow that’s kicking up soon, even as I marvel at how these dudes(besides Brandon I think Simon Roy and Shannon Lentz are going too) find the reserves on top of the conventions, and just the normal work of making comics.  And life.  It is spectacular dedication to this comics thing.  Beyond just the art form, it’s about the people behind that art form and the flesh and blood that makes it all possible.  It is hard not to get hugely inspired by interacting with that kind of passion and intelligence.  And I was really happy to do so.

The first day Sandra and I basically sat down circled some cool sounding panels and then did our best to find them through what was an almost labyrinthe designed convention.  Over the course of the convention one of the things I began to notice was that almost 90 percent of the panels we ended up being interested in and going to either had
David Brothers moderating or as an unnamed guest.  David, besides being far and away the best dressed dude at the con, was basically like watching what it was like if a human being tried to be tweetdeck in real life.  Like so many lists and columns scrolling through that dude at any given moment that it was like being next to the ECCC matrix watching him carry on intelligent conversation while downloading images for panels he would then go and moderate.  His skills as a moderator really shown by contrast to the panels I saw that he didn’t do.  It seems like part of a panel going well is having this good balance of targeted discussion and the spontaneity of audience conversation.  The problem with the audience part is that it can be just about any kind of ill considered weird thing you can think of, and if a moderator doesn’t know how to handle that situation both strongly and politely, you end up with a situation like with the Self-Publish or Die panel which morphed into a strange and awkward digression through a very generalized discussion on Manga and Anime vs. Big Two Comics.  But as good as his moderation was, I think it was his work actually ON the hiphop and comics panel that was the best.

 

I didn’t know what to expect with the hiphop and comics panel.  I like both of those things.  But the panel didn’t list the guests or the moderators, and I generally find there is quite a laughable sentiment between both hiphop and comics toward each other, with both being pretty stupidly basic in terms of their attempts to use the other.  With hiphop perhaps handling comics better than comics has handled hiphop.  So I kind of went in there with the idea that it was going to be terrible, and I would have something to laugh about later with Brandon.  But I get in there and see David is on the panel, and if you follow David on the internet, you know one of the joys is whenever David writes about music, because he does it from such a personal vantage point that it’s always really cool to read.  One of the things that the panel made me think about was about whether hiphop is in 2014 an aesthetic sensibility or if it is a mindstate.  And I think I lean heavily on the latter.  A lot of the aesthetics of what we might call “hiphop” at this point, are just antiquated pastiches that are goofy at best, offensive at worst.  There was an interesting tension on the panel I think having Jim Mahfood who has kind of built his comic thing on pasting graffitti tropes over a fine arts lean, mostly situated around painting said aesthetic on attractive women…on a panel with two women graf writers who had just got back from a trip to Israel where they had been writing.  And while I do really like Mahfood as an artist, it is actually probably like the klimt-edges of his work moreso than the hiphop/punk angles.  I do think it’s interesting to think about his work as the idea of performing the idea of hiphop for a comics audience that is largely pretty dumb when it comes to hiphop.  One of the highlights on that front was when Mahfood was talking about the role of style, and saying how if you didn’t have style you weren’t anything.  And then the writer 137 chimed in that having no style was itself a style, and a thing unto itself.  And while I don’t think it was supposed to maybe come off like a shot, in my head I definitely went “oooohhhhh shit”.  So I don’t know.  I think that selling hiphop as an aesthetic isn’t the same thing as BEING hiphop, or doing hiphop.  Which brings us back to David Brothers, who isn’t a visual artist.

David talked about how for him hiphop was about ethics, way of living, way of approaching things, which helped him overcome mental health demons to go out and do the damn thing.  Which I basically wanted to stand up in cheer.  Because he put it into words pretty much exactly how I feel it.  I mean…I’m writing this article write now while listening to Big K.R.I.T.  I always write to hiphop.  Why do I do that?  I do that because even though many of the lyrics and ideas in hiphop are on the surface arrayed against me as a traswoman, the empowering swagger of hiphop and the ideas about ones community and art, are the only reason I am alive today, and the only reason I can write this, and the only reason I am the way I am about everything. Hiphop taught me moreso than any one other thing, how to live.  And yeah…it was fantastic that David was on the panel to represent that point of view, because I think it is how it is with anyone who have lived a life through a backdrop of beats and rhymes.  Style can be anything.  Hiphop isn’t what you carry, it’s HOW you carry it.  And it’s not something you can just fake.  You’re either doing it or you aren’t.  And it’s easy to see when someone doesn’t understand it and is just being a poseur to try and make a quick buck or get fake credentials in whatever it is they do.  

Also Mahfood and Matthew Rosenberg were both wearing Bad Brains shirts.

After that panel, the first day ended, and I ended up going out to eat with Brandon, Simon Roy, Adam Warren, Amika, Joseph Bergin III,
EK Weaver, and her husband voice actor Brett Weaver.

This introduces my other comic homie for the weekend
Amy Clare or Amika.  Amika is another vancouverite artist, who I knew through Brandon and the internet.  I had only seen her illustration work to that point which is pretty amazing in it’s own right:
tree city by glittervolt

 

But I got to see her sequentials as well this weekend, and talk to her about what she wanted to do with comics…and yeah.  She’s stupid talented.  And I’m really excited for people to see comics from her.  There’s this like really amazing two page spread I saw which, I can’t really describe, but I think everyone I forced it on while it was out had to double take the thing.

Beyond that, she’s just a really cool person to hang out with.  With her only main vice being that she has a terrible sense of direction.  Almost as bad as mine.  Which I found out the first night when we tried to get back to our hotel and if not for randomly running into Shannon Lentz, we’d have ended up…well we’d probably still be somewhere in Seattle downtown today.  We roved the con a ton the second day, and not because we went to a lot of things, but because we kept getting just amazingly lost.  Like we crossed the damn sky bridge like 6 times in an hour.  Did you know there’s a lower level at ECCC where there’s a sci-fi speed dating room?  I didn’t either, until the 8th or 9th time we passed it like “hmm I think we’ve been here before”.  

Amika also built this really amazing Princess Fortress in the room under one of the tables where she slept, and would sometimes talk like wizard of oz style as a disembodied voice.  Also she had a sword, which she had to tell the ECCC people she wouldn’t use for evil.  They tied this green tie thing on it, which made the sword, and I guess Amika by proxy “peacebound”.  I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of any of this.  You can see Amika sitting next to me in the picture up toward the top of the dinner.  Here she is with me and Damon Gentry:
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Also at this dinner was THIS guy:
Blurry Joseph Bergin pic.   He’s basically the coolest nicest dude.  Hopefully I’ll be interviewing him soon for my site.

Joseph Bergin III.  I know him mostly for the amazing job he does coloring Prophet.  Which he was sat back looking like a proper artist all weekend hand coloring prophet artwork he had done.  I got to sit next to Joseph at a few dinner party’s and have lots of cool conversations with him.  He might be the nicest most thoughtful and considered dude I met at the thing which is saying something.  If I get off my lazy butt, I will probably interview him for my website, because he’s really interesting in how he thinks about particularly color, and I have personally learned a lot the last few years from following random things that leak out about how he thinks about coloring in comics.  He kind of reminds me a bit of some of the interactions I’ve had with Dean White in terms of the depth of consideration of art as a whole.  Really cool and interesting dude.

Other days:
As you can see the days are kind of a blur to me and hard to seperate out.  It isn’t helped that I pretty much slept maybe 4 hours a day, while being up and with people for the other 20 hours of the day.  Plus if I wrote everything about what happened the way I did all of the above, it’d be like a novel.  So some other highlights: talking about monorails with Farel, meeting and talking to Sterling Gates.  I finally got to meet Sloane Leong in the flesh.  She’s definitely way deep into that category of people I didn’t get to spend enough time with.  It’s funny probably she and Brandon are the two people I spend the most time with on the interwebz, maybe, but I really didn’t hang out with either for as long as I did other people.  I think it’s just like, I’m comfortable with both them enough, where it’s like, I dunno–we’re going to talk about it later kind of thing or something.  I don’t know.  I also finally met Ales Kot.  I gave him a copy of my comic, which he seemed pleased with.  It was cool to meet him finally.  He’s a really happy positive dude.  I also met Rory Morris of Wolfen Jump fame, who had to deal with me aimlesssly trying to find Esteban Morotto comics.  I also met colorist/artist Marissa Louise who I am excited about talking with more.  I also met the very talented James Scott and had a cool conversation about Berserk comics.  Also showed him Abara which I’ve been carrying around in my purse for the past month.
These guys.</p>
<p>Side benefits of rooming with brandon and co is getting to talk comics with adam warren at dinner.
I got to talk with Adam Warren about comics.  That was cool.  I think I knew he read my tumblr or something.  I was still surprised when he was like excited to meet me.  His process posts, particularly on lettering are pretty much my school.  He also makes dope comics himself, and one of the real panel highlights was when David Brothers had him and Brandon Graham breaking down Shirow fight scenes.  I’ve always wanted to do that with artists.  I’m not that interested in listening to artists speak about their own work–but I love to hear how artists see work that is important to them, because it’s almost like it’s own kind of projection of their perspective through a very focused prism.  One of my favorite things this weekend was watching Brandon hang out with Adam Warren and EK Weaver.  Even though he’s done all of these cons and been in the game a minute, and even though he’s basically exhausted and in a daze for most of the thing–the joy he has about meeting the people behind the comics he loves is amazing.  And it’s cool too because Adam and EK I think were both very happy to talk with him as well.  So it was just really adoreable, and just kind of speaks to a general vitality about how exciting great art is, and how important people are, and it sort of underscores that despite all of the best efforts of the comic’s industry to be a giant boot stamping people’s faces in, this thing is still all about people.  

My sense about the whole convention is that while the booths and panels and everything are about at the end of the day making money, the real reason people come to this over and over, is because of the connection.  Comics can be a very lonely pursuit.  But every night I went down to the lobby and bar of the Sheraton and it was overflowing with noise and love.  I don’t think I was alone in a lot of days just counting down the minutes till the con was over, so the real deal could start up again.  The real deal was like being up until the lobby staff literally had tell everyone to leave so they could clean with a lobby full of happy to be around each other comic book people.  People so tired they could barely keep both eyes open, probably sore all over from a day of standing and running around under various stress and pressure, but who basically still had to be pried out of each other’s company.  There’s some sense of that kind of thing on twitter and facebook, but not to this extent.  And that and how apparently I basically need to move to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver concurrently was my main takeaway from the convention.  I didn’t really find a bunch of amazing comics I couldn’t have found otherwise.  But I did make stronger relationships with a lot of really amazing people, which was supremely amazing and flattering.  I work and sort of live generally in such isolation out in Oklahoma, that it’s easy to forget that I can kind of do the people thing too, and sometimes people are okay too.  Man, even my cab driver going back to the airport was like “you need to move here!”

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