A few days ago I told you how Whitney Taylor’s convention reports are the industry standard, and I stand by that statement for factual reports that weigh the industry impact and success of a show.
However, I must say, for presenting the miasma of emotion and anxiety that attending a show entails, in an expressionist way that makes you feel it right along with him, Connor Willumsen has now written the greatest convention report of all times.
Willumsen is a very talented cartoonist from Canada who has worked a bit in mainstream comics, but mostly works online and with small publishers, such as Breakdown, to produce allusive, evocative and haunting comics that explore our world, our emotions and the fragile threads between us. And in fact Volume 3 of Treasure Island, his ongoing series from Breakdown, is just out. But I’ll explain more of that in a minute. What I am here to talk about how is Willumsen’s report on LICAF 2016 for Comics Workbook
It is a struggle to reflect on anything without first commenting on the unfathomable number of sheep abstractly pacing between an ancient network of low stone walls up in the Lake District of northern England. I guess I saw, by virtue of my eyes being open, over a thousand sheep over the weekend. I became self conscious and learned to be discreet about my developing preoccupation with photographing them.
And that’s just the beginning. While Willumsen is bewildered by the number of sheep, he’s even more bemused by the appearance of the Mayor of Kendal at an event tied to the show:
At a gallery displaying beautiful comic pages from Hanneriina Moisseinen’s recent work Kannas – The Isthmus, described as a book about cows and other animals during World War 2, the mayor (Stephen) and his wife (Sarah) struck up a conversation with Aidan Koch, Frank and myself. He was wearing a massive piece of gold jewelry around his neck that sort of resembled an ammunition belt. I didn’t understand why this was happening, and any time I say “I didn’t understand why this was happening” in regards to my time in Kendal, it’s because in terms of comics culture, I am more used to experiencing a disinterested glazed pessimism, often from the likes of it’s own tribe, to say nothing of relatively high ranking civil servants. The mayor and his wife came to hang out and meet cartoonists, him and the rest of the town were genuinely enthusiastic. As our conversation progressed I fell into a light panic from wondering who was supposed to end this conversation and how. The implied pressure of civility and politeness is real in England. My contrary reaction to this was a suppressed and sadistic urge to stretch the length of the conversation beyond comfort. Sarah was chill and doodled a map on a scrap of paper towards other towns we could check out in our rental car.
Willumsen – who once spent the night before a major comics show sleeping on a park bench and drawing comics, which he then xeroxed and sold at the show – experiences the hospitality and camaraderie of The Lakes with the keen observation of the outsider:
Throughout the weekend, not once was I left wanting for a hot meal (and alcohol, if necessary), generously provided by the LICAF organizers or Frank, who was acting as a professional host. This concept is so otherwise foreign in my experiences that it triggered in me the alert paranoia of theft. This might seem like a trivial detail but I appreciate it deeply. It’s a simple concept that cites by way of action the insufficiently discussed problematic nucleus of the comic industry and culture: food money. At the last MoCCA everyone knew to meet at the Society of Illustrators simply because it was known that they were serving free pasta salad.
Anyway, on and on it goes, laying bare the hilarious and tragic foundations of our business as it collides with the middle class life of the Lakes District of England.
As I mentioned above, Willumsen is also a cartoonist of note. I’m hopeful that Treasure Island #3 will be on sale at CAB this weekend, but if it’s not you can mail order it here. And here’s a preview.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.