[As I said in my first post on this topic, “any mistakes I make are from dumb ignorance and not malice.” and I sure managed to make a lot of dumb mistakes, from misspelling the name of people I was trying to praise to other political missteps. Lo siento! My biggest error was something I knew but didn’t express very well: of course they speak SPANISH in Barcelona because it is part of Spain, but Catalan is also an “official” language there, and many street signs and menus are in Catalan AND Spanish. Anyway, I meant no offense, although several Spanish bloggers are having a field day with my mistakes. I’m sure I’ll make some new and even more offensive blunders in this post, but when did that ever stop me.
A word about photos: my camera had all sorts of problems on the trip, so I’ve added in some by Trish Mulvihill here.]
We returned to the show on Friday late after a day of hardcore sightseeing, but in time for the Awards. As I wrote in an earlier post, these were more like a cocktail party. El Conseller de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya Joan Manuel Tresserras showed up, which was a sign of the increasing cultural importance of the show. Miguelanxo Prado, whom I had met a couple of years ago when he was in New York, won the big prize. Victor de la Fuente also showed up because he had won the Grand Prize the previous year but had been too sick to attend. Howard Cruse won an award for Stuck Rubber Baby, published in Spain by Dolmen. I was most impressed by the slides from the actual Spanish comics from the publishers Astiberri, and Sins Entido, a bunch of very interesting looking indie type books. I was determined to seek them out the next day. Max, as I noted swept the awards, for BARDIN SUPER REALIST, leading one of my American friends to dub him the Chris Ware of Spain.
As I mentioned the awards included an open bar, tapas to snack on and the carved ham hock (with hoof attached) that is ubiquitous in the city. It was DEFINITELY festive and well attended, even if a lot of people were talking during the later speeches – but in all fairness at least half the crowd was trying to shush the other half. The AVB display was also outstanding, with animated artwork set to snippets of unobjectionable rock or dance music.
After the awards a bunch of the Americans went on a field trip, led by David Macho, to a bar called La Fira, an enormous disco filled with statues, signs and rides from an abandoned carnival. My camera had died – my electronic equipment went completely tits up on this trip in every way alas – but I think some of my pals got pictures. Anyway it was a memorable evening.
Saturday was the madhouse day of the con, just like in San Diego. My own arrival at the show was delayed by some problems back at the apartment we were staying at: in the space of a few hours I managed to rob some orphans, flood the neighbors and kick an old couple out of their apartment. Anyway I was in no mood to fight insurgent level crowds which is what we found. The place was PACKED! Crazy! What was everyone doing there? Like I said, with the language barrier I never really got to question any of the attendees. I will say there was a big do-it-yourself aspect. Whether it was intended or not, all of the whiter walls of the show were covered by cartoony graffiti, and there was a big sanctioned drawing space for kids, as well. I managed to talk to a few of the publishers selling books and they all said they had great sales. I saw a lot of people walked around with Prince Valiant, books – why so popular? It turned out Planeta was giving away copies.
A word on the publishers. Planeta is one of the largest Spanish publishers. They put out much Marvel and Dc stuff, along with manga, Prince Valiant, and other “adventure” strips. The variety of American comics on display was astounding – from Stuck Rubber Baby at La Cupula to Same Difference at Astiberri – you really could find the best American, Japanese and other European comics.
Of course, manga was well represented as well. In Spain, as in much of Europe, the manga revolution began about 10 years ago. As someone explained to me, it came about because the publishers forgot to put out good comics for kids – pretty simple, but a point so profound I think I’ll come back to it for another essay one of these days. Glenat the French publisher was there, selling half Spanish editions of American comics, and half manga with a few local books. (Glenat had Spanish versions of the ADV book Apocalypse Meow, called CAT SHIT on the continent. I almost bought a copy but decide the memory was as good as the real thing.)
Another notable publisher was La Cúpula which I would call the Last Gasp of Spain, in that they published stuff with a definite “underground” feel from most of Fantagraphics’ output to Hideshi Hino and Stuck Rubber Baby.
The two most interesting publishers I can across were Astiberri and Sins Entido, however, as both are “indie” publishers. Sins Entido is affiliated with a gallery and had many well known American indie books, as well as a series of small scholarly books on various cartoonists and comics topics – there was one on Little Lulu that I longed to buy, but I figured I wouldn’t get much out of it since it was in Spanish. They also publish the work of many female cartoonists like Peggy Adam, whose “Luchadoras” was nominated for an award.
Astiberri is sort of the Top Shelf of Spain, from their lovingly put together editions of Blankets to their original artists like David Rubin, Javier de Isusi and Pepo Perez.
After a little bit of viewing the Saturday madness – from stormtroopers to cosplay – we decided to climb up Montjuic (or Mount Jew, as it literally translates) in search of the Cementeri. It was only a vague hope as the Montjuic Park is the size of Griffith Park and just as hilly (but not yet burnt to cinders, as I understand), but…hey, everyone needs a dream, right? You’ll recall that in 1992 this was the epicenter of the Summer Olympics, the year of the American Dream Team (Magic and Michael), Evelyn Ashford, Hassalba Boulmerka, Alexander Popov (sigh) and Freddie Mercury and Monserat Caballe.
We made it up to the Olympic stadium, and were rewarded by some eerie Brasilia-like vistas of isolated modernist architecture and the now silent Olympic torch. Coolio! I love isolated modernist vistas, no lie!
We had also escaped the press of tourists, although a few Italian hikers were around. We circled the Olympic Stadium searching for a way to get up the hill and perhaps come to the cemetery (the map in my guidebook made it look like there was a road over the hill) but the climb was too steep and the hour too late. Eventually the clearly marked road petered out into recreational areas where average Barcelonans were enjoying some outdoor activities on a lovely Saturday. We did find a dead cat however, a sure fire sign that we had left well-traveled roads behind us. We also heard mysterious buzzing sounds in the bushes that might have been model planes or model motorcycles…I dunno. It was kind of weird and it was getting dark so we were glad when we circled back to the art museum, but it was a fine excursion. If you have a car or take the tour bus, Montjuic Park is definitely a place to explore, with its castles, museums and botanical gardens. But I still want to get to that cemetery some day!
Actually our timing couldn’t have been better as we arrived back at the museum just as “The Magic Fountain” began it’s light show…basically fountains up and down the hillside which dance with colors in time to music in the long, placid dusk light. Really breautiful and memorable.
On Sunday, the show was still busy but not like Saturday’s Spanish version of Conmageddon. I checked in with the other US Mark Chiarello. Vertigo Will Dennis and Marvels Nick Lowe – who remained sequestered in offices looking at portfolio for four days straight. The level of the art they saw was high, as all attested, but due to the shortage of opportunities in the local Spanish comics market, all the super talented artists – like Jesus Saiz, David Lopez, and Bachs, to name but a few – have to find work in the US, or in the case of people like Prado, have to publish through Humanoides and so on.
Of course there ARE actual Spanish comics. The most popular, I was told, is Mortadelo, a kid’s comedy strip. The name is a take off on the luncheon meat. Creator Francisco Ibáñez Talavera is a native of Barcelona, and the strip has been turned into a movie and published in Germany. But considering the native talent, the market for actual Spanish comics seems quite small.
On Sunday I spent a lot more time walking around and shopping, picking up some retro war comics published in duo-tone digests. I also made it a point to stop by the Astiberri booth, and to my amazement they were Beat readers! I had a nice conversation with Laureano Dominguez, one of the three editor/owners. Artist Pepo introduced himself and told me how much he liked the site. I said I was just glad I provided something useful for people around the world, considering how much I post about 300.
“Si, si, Gerry Butler,” he said laughing. Wow, he really does read the Beat.
At the end of Sunday, we were invited to the end of the show dinner for the guests and the director of the convention. Carles Santamaria. This was a chance to meet some other cool folks, like Dargaud editorial director Yves Schlirf and Humanoides’ Nicolas Forsans, and enjoy one of the legendarily late and leisurely Spanish dinners. We talked a bit about the state of world comics and the continued ascendance of manga, mostly due to its appeal to kids and youngsters. Again, once you leave behind the kids, you have a problem.
At the end Carles gave a speech and made several exciting announcements – not only had the show broken previous attendance records with over 100,000 attendees – making it Europe’s second biggest comics show after Angouleme – but it had been announced that a comics museum will be built in Barcelona, making it even more of a mecca for the comics scene. In addition foreign attendance was up by 20%. I guess that included us!
Then there were champagne toasts and some heartfelt farewells. Since everyone was sitting at two long tables, it reminded me of the end of a Harry Potter movie, with the Quidditch Cup winner announced and cheering and toasting. Luckily we didn’t have to wear wizarding robes.
That was pretty much the end of our adventure. I know its been said many times before but if you get a chance to go to Barcelona, you have to go. I know it’s hard to believe, but cartoonists really are treated like rock stars, with only a few signings a day, a few panels and seminars. The city is incredibly beautiful, the food tasty, the people love comics and it’s truly amazing to see so many young folks who just love comics of all kinds.
Once again a big heartfelt thank you to David Macho for his friendship and help on innumerable fronts, and Carles Santamaria for his hospitality. There were also several people whose names (again!) I don’t know exactly how to spell, but they were indispensable: Ana, Herman and Guillermo, and especially Tomas, who ran the press room and let me camp out there for various emergencies. That was a lifesaver and much appreciated. And of course, thank yous to Ben, Trish, Jimmy, Amanda, Howard, Lauren, Mark and Cathy, Will and Kiki, JG, Michelle, Rodney, Nick, Alex and Kristen and the rest of the home-based flight crew for helping to make the trip so much fun.
I have a strong suspicion that I’ll see Barcelona again before the end…I won’t rest until I get to that cemetery.
That darned Cementeri, as seen from a speeding taxi the morning of our arrival.
More from the Awards ceremony.
Fantastic makeup on a young man dressed as Blcksad! He had two young ladies with him seen at the top of the post. Incredible!
Jimmy Palmioti, Amanda Conner, Gipi and one other artist whose name I missed at a signing.
Jimmy and Amanda deliver a “Master Class” on cartooning.
Local graffiti wall.
El Jueves is the Mad Magazine of Spain.
Did we mention that El Jueves is the Mad Magazine of Spain?
The Sins Entido booth.
Two of the very nice fellows at the Astiberri booth. Someone please ID!
El Jueves, the Mad Magazine of Spain.
La Cupula, which featured an incredible array of books from the US and Japan. We need more Hideshi Hino HERE.
La Cupula editions of Dan Clowes.
I don’t know what this was, but it looked kind of cool
The Norma booth.
When Prince Valiant met DC.
The view from the Familia Sagrada. Adios, Barcelona.