The idea of blogging on-the-spot probably works better when the spot isn't rather content rich. I think I'll have more to say about the cartoon arts festival after it's over and I'm not staying up until midnight in conversations with interesting people.
By which I mean this fellow Eddie Campbell, for instance, who currently lives in Australia but then got up and spoke in an accent and cadence that so well mimicked Craig Ferguson that I quickly realized perhaps he was not native to Australia after all. Well, anyway, he lives there now.
And, moments before updating this blog, I was standing around having a conversation with him that took in .. well ... everything. French cinema, British comic books, Russian literature ... you know, stuff. There are conversations all over just like that and they are not conducive to keeping early hours.
But that's why we're here, after all.
This particular moment in his talk was particularly interesting because he said that, as a young lad, his first reaction to this book cover was not that there was a gorilla in a business suit, but rather that it was "Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book" rather the "Faceless Corporation's Jungle Book" or even just "Jungle Book."
The idea that a particular person had created this thing was a conceptual breakthrough for him, and at this state Eddie introduced an element of the auteur movement, which popped up in French cinema a generation ago and is certainly abundant in comics today.
It was a theme that threaded itself through the day.
Matt Bors had actually kicked off the sessions and Matt certainly personifies the auteur, going beyond the simple function of producing a cartoon for his employer and being both, which is fundamental for web cartoonists but for altie types like Bors more of a middle ground, given that they still need to sell their work to people in charge of something or other.
The alternative press, however, looks to be in more dire straits than mainstream newspapers, which is odd given their mission, but they're not so much of an alternative anymore and the idea of a fixated individual at the helm is less applicable than it was 30 years ago. Which is to say that they are as beset by beancounters as anyone.
However, there are some non-print sites emerging, and cartoonists like Matt are finding space, sometimes direct income and at least potential audience there, which means that he can put out a book and have a fan base to buy it. Can't tell you how many discussions of how to expand this emerging venue I heard throughout the day.
In the course of his talk, he also laid down (sometimes by implication, sometimes directly) an idea of where political and social commentary ought to come from, which, you may rest assured, is not the hallowed mazes of Beancounterland.
This one got a huge laugh, but far less trenchant commentary continues to get either spiked or, in the case of syndicated cartoons, simply not picked up by editors. The former may be "censorship" but the latter is simply a case of the free hand of the market either not getting it or not wanting to encourage edgy things that might offend customers.
In the end, it hardly matters. More venues, and more of them freewheeling, means more points of view.
Incidentally, and going back to the laughter remark, one thing that is interesting in these gatherings is the amount of laughter from the audience.
Whether it comes from appreciation of a particular cartoon or from a remark about the business, it's an uncommon thing for the speaker, who is used to working in silence and then waiting a few weeks for crickets if you've done well and fatwas if you inadvertantly (or intentionally) insulted somebody.
Matt got a lot of instantaneous, positive feedback.
Talk of auteurs was certainly present in Brian Walker's tour of the main exhibit at Billy Ireland, which he had created, and I think he even used the term. Brian (in red sweater here) grew up not just with Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker as a dad but with a lot of cartoonists weaving in and out of his house.
I was reminded of Arlo Guthrie who once remarked to me in an interview that he thought everybody's parents' friends came over and played music.
And when you grow up among a forest of cartoonists, you learn a thing or two. Brian's insights were pretty cool.
One statement he made -- born of picking the right examples from 200,000 to 300,000 donated items and then attempting to verify the provence and significance of each -- was "Two words I try to never use are 'first' and 'never,'" and he's got a few battle scars to prove it, because there's always someone willing to refute that point.
Another was an exchange he recounted which went something like this:
"God, there's a lot to know about this, and it's only cartoons."
"I've worked with this all my life and I learn something new every day."
The other major event of the day was the (first ever) screening of the film "Stripped," which several people in the audience appeared in and several others had supported at Kickstarter.
The screening was followed by a free-form Q&A and panel discussion with producer/co-director Dave Kellett and cinematographer/co-director Fred Schroeder, with cartoonists Dylan Meconis, Hilary Price and Patrick McDonnell.
The film is fascinating for comic buffs and I hope non-buffs will give it a look. I thought it was excellent, but I did -- to be honest -- wonder at times if I'd find it that compelling if I didn't know the issues and personalities they were talking about. And how many people do know those things?
Still, if you get a chance, get a look, because a large percentage of it is very much in reader's terms and the rest will provide some insights for fans.
Oh,and do buy what is being called the most beautiful book of the year, Kal Kalaugher's "Daggers Drawn," which you can find on his website. Or just find Kal, because he's always got a couple.