Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ICAF Retrospective

This past November, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Art Library and Museum hosted the 2014 International Cartoon Arts Festival. This amazing festival happens in a different place every year, and it was so great to see it in Columbus this year: to be able to walk out my back door and attend some amazing lectures and talks.

ICAF has their own "ICAF 2014 in Review" page, so this post is really about my own recollections. I attended some very academic lectures: about the influence of Rodin's "Gates of Hell" on Hellboy, the portrayal of women's bodies in Jaime Hernandez's half of Love & Rockets, different kinds of post-apocalypse stories in comics (including why Y the Last Man sucked), and a really cool comic book about an Arab-French kid with polio, Petit Polio by Farid Boudjellal. And that was just Saturday morning! Work kept me from being able to go on Thursday or Friday. Who knows what I could've seen.

Saturday afternoon saw a wonderful conversation between Jeff Smith and Tom Spurgeon. I've been kind of a Jeff Smith groupie since 1994, often hovering around his table or his talks at cons, usually too shy to say anything. This time, I asked a question which he answered in satisfying detail, about the times that Bone's plot got away from him -- in both good ways (the Great Cow Race) and bad (the giant bees in Atheia). He's always an engaging speaker and generous with his time.

At the end of the conversation, Smith and Spurgeon announced their plans for a Columbus-based (and Columbus-themed) comics/cartooning festival in 2016, called Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC). That is super exciting and it deserves its own post -- so more about that later.

Then that evening, Congressman John Lewis spoke about his work in civil rights, starting with his days in the '60s marching to Washington with Martin Luther King. Sweet Honey in the Rock sang. It was inspirational -- but I was also very glad to hear the sweet, self-deprecating Nate Powell say a few words about his process in making the comic book March, a biography of Lewis. He showed some giant slides with his layouts and pencils.

It turns out my wife (who works at OSU) knows Jeremy Stoll, who was involved with ICAF and who created the anthology Dogs! containing work by American and Indian cartoonists. So Saturday night, my wife and I went and had a drink with him. It turned out to also be with a pretty big group of other comics people, including Spurgeon (whom I found out only that weekend is an important part of comics journalism and the force behind The Comics Reporter) and Caitlin McGurk of the Billy. I'm ashamed to say that I spent a good deal of my time letting Jeremy and my wife talk to each other while I eavesdropped on Spurgeon's and McGurk's conversation about what's wrong with comics ... a rambling back and forth that I barely remember now. I hope I wasn't creepy.

All in all, a great day that left me in awe of how much is going on in Columbus. Sometimes this place seems like the place to be for comics. Who knew?!

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