Should comics panels be written about or recorded for all to hear?
This panel report from APE of Dan Nadel interviewing Daniel Clowes has been linked everywhere, probably because it’s such a thorough write-up. There’s lots of dish on other cartoonists, and anecdotes from the history of alt.comix:
Clowes told a story how the first panel he was ever on was comprised him, Robert Crumb, Gilbert Hernandez, Peter Bagge and Burne Hogarth. Hogarth spent the entire panel yelling at the independent cartoonists on the panel, saying how they were horrible artists.
“He spent almost an entire hour saying how we were the worst artists who ever lived,” recalled Clowes. “It was an audience full of young, hipster kids who wanted to see Robert Crumb and Crumb was not saying a word because Hogarth was rambling on. People started yelling out, ‘Shut up, old man!’ and finally Crumb just slowly leaned back in his chair and did a pratfall. Hogarth didn’t miss a beat, though, he just kept on going. I literally did not say a word on that panel.”
It’s probably been widely quoted because instead of the usual “Where did you get your ideas for WILSON?” questions, Nadel is comfortable enough with Clowes to just rap about comics, as suggested by Peggy Burns.
There’s finally audio of the panel up at Comics Comics, so you can listen for yourself.
Which reminds me of a growing beef — why is the set-up for recording panels at conventions so crap? During the ICV2 Digital and Comics Conference I tried to record them on my Mac but the ambient room audio eluded my technical ability. Milton Griepp used his little dictaphone but the quality wasn’t the best. I have to admit, I think we both screwed the pooch there with something that the average 12-year-old would be able to handle.
I recorded a few NYCC panels with my iPhone — the quality is fine for spoken word purposes. It takes a few minutes to clean and upload the audio files. In short, this is child’s play. So why aren’t all comics panels routinely recorded? I was told that at PAX, the video game conference, they record all the panels and CHARGE for the audio.
Part of this may be the lowly origins of the comic book convention panel. Having been on untold panels in my lifetime, I can attest to the fact that they range from horrific hungover Sunday exercises in awkward phrasing and long pauses best left in the scrapheap, to stimulating once-in-a-lifetime meetings of the mind. But of late it turns out we comics folks have a lot to say and a lot of Internet to say it on. Perhaps the time has come to archive more of these slices of history.
Thankfully, someone with a decent mike was able to record the Nadel/Clowes panel. But we’ve lost a lot of other pieces of our comics heritage along the way. Unless they are all in Mike Catron‘s garage somewhere….but that is a post for another time.
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.