For the record, I am now living in Montreal. A combination of the relocation and associated adjustments and general lack of writing inspiration have left this space blank for some time now.
Tonight I attended the fifth anniversary of Drawn and Quarterly’s storefront in Montreal. The event was held at the Ukrainian Federation on Hutchison and featured a panel conversation with Charles Burns, Chris Ware, and Adrian Tomine. I have long admired Chris Ware as a cartoonist and draftsman, and I own a couple issues of Charles Burns’ ‘Black Hole’. I’ve seen Adrian Tomine’s work around, (I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to ‘Shortcomings’ yet), but I’ve never read his books before.
The moderator of the discussion was unfortunately a very poor choice. After admitting onstage that she had never really read graphic novels until her preparation for this event, the gentleman next to me packed it in and went home (and his chair became my coat hanger). She clearly had the chops of a literary interviewer, but many of her questions about the medium and the authors’ previous work were duds. The cartoonists were just as awkward as I had expected, (Charles mentioned that he spends about 15 hours of the day alone and likes it that way), they managed to really make the discussion their own and take it to some provocative places.
I was particularly impressed with Chris Ware. Despite his clear discomfort with the large crowd and formal situation, Chris was ready with quick and illuminating answers and anecdotes. He managed to dust off old cliches of comics scholarship like the notion that the art of comics is the art of turning time into space and spinning it into a vision of comics as memory. He contends that the last forty or fifty years of the medium has been the realization that comics can convey and inspire more than laughter or derision, and exploring the range of meanings and emotions they can hold. A comment about the gentle and unpunctuated endings to ‘Jimmy Corrigan’ and ‘Building Stories’ had Ware holding forth on Chekov and ultimately the nature of human life without ever coming off as pretentious or self-aggrandizing. Reading Ware’s work (in particular his ‘ACME Novelty Datebook’ sketchbooks), it’s obvious that he is capable of and maybe burdened by deep introspection, and this manifests itself in the way he speaks. His ability to riff on questions and seamlessly connect them up to bigger themes of memory, family, art, and life reflect a well reasoned philosophy and internal life, despite his admitted self-doubt.
All three artists paid their respect to Drawn and Quarterly as a publisher, particularly the role that D&Q Publisher Chris Oliveros has played in the curation of artists and the design of books. Chris Ware pointed out that Oliveros never gets enough credit for pushing the idea that comics could really be presented in a beautiful, reverent, artistic way. Burns and Tomine agreed that the visual style of Drawn and Quarterly as a publisher inspired and encouraged them by showcasing comic art in a format that appeared proud of its content.
I was left with a lot of things on my mind leaving the talk, and I only touched on a few of them here. Since I stopped working at Bolen Books in Victoria I have really fallen behind on contemporary graphic novels, such that I haven’t read any of the three artists’ latest works. Beyond the introspection and thoughts Chris Ware’s words inspired in me, I was left more than anything with a renewed desire to keep up with the comic medium. As soon a I get a job I am buying Building Stories.