[Note; we totally thought we had posted this last week, but it went up during a period of turmoil in WordPress. Moral: we suck.]
New York City is lucky to have many awesome comics-related events, but one of the most awesomest was a recent conversation between comics demi-gods Chris Ware and Marjane Satrapi moderated by Francoise Mouly. With a line-up like that, it’s no wonder the Skirball Center at NYU was jammed — we’d estimate there were somewhere between 400-500 people there on a Friday night. Images from the work of both was flashed on an enourmous screen, and both were effusive in their praise for one another, and talkative about their own processes. On paper it was a bit of a mismatch — Satrapi is witty and voluble, while Ware is known for his Herculean self-effacement. While on previous occasions we’ve seen Ware speak, he was genuinely shy, he’s now an absolutely hilarious and engaging speaker, and it’s safe to say both had the crowd eating out of their hands. But why take our word for it when an audio recording is up on WYNC?
Comment: Ware and Strapi have very different attitudes when it comes to discussing their own work. Strapi is comfortable and reflective while Ware’s adorably self-deprecating. When it comes to talking about your own art, can you relate?
One other thing that fascinated us about the event is that it was part of a larger three day festival of New French Writing that paired French and US authors in talks. There were some well-known names in the US contingent — E. L. Doctorow, Edmund White– and equal heavy hitters from the French squad — Bernard-Henri Lévy. However, after talking to a few people we confirmed that the cartoonists had the biggest crowd AND the biggest venue. Which is odd, because books without pictures are, in theory, more popular than books with pictures. But during the lengthy wait for the program to begin there was a palpable excitement for the superstars of cartooning to appear. Talking to a few non-comics affiliated folks at a reception later at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, they confirmed that Ware and Satrapi were the “rock stars” of the event.
We’re pretty sure Ware, in particular, wouldn’t be all that comfortable being branded a “rock star,” but as comics, graphic novels and “graphic books” get more and more acceptance and notice, it’s interesting to see that this kind of excitement is being generated over the creators. Hopefully, rather than it being a distraction or having a cheapening effect, it’s a sign of something we’ve long known: that cartoonists are important creators with important things to say.
All in all, a great evening. In the jump a larger version of the above picture where you can see how big the images were, because it was cool.