Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Art Spiegelman

Last night's Seattle Arts and Lecture guest was Art Spiegelman. I suspected we were in for a good show when there were signs posted across all the doorways warning that tonight's performance would feature smoking and that special air filters were running to make up for it. One lone chain-smoking comic artist in the auditorium was already stirring things up and he wasn't even on stage yet.

Spiegelman gave his Comics 101 lecture. Or performance. It was a little of both: well-scripted, peppered with zingers, Spiegelman was comfortable on stage and comfortable with the material. At the link above, Iconia reports on the same lecture where Spiegelman delivered the same one-liners, the same set-ups and the same observations. In that sense, it was indeed a performance and so Spiegelman did not lie when he began by lighting up a cigarette and announcing, "This is not a lecture, but a performance, because at a performance you are allowed to smoke." Instead of repeating the parts of the lecture the Iconia already details, I'll just direct you over there.

Spiegelman was a very enjoyable and entertaining speaker. He moved fast and packed a lot into his hour, speaking rapidly. He gave off an almost manic vibe and I left with the impression that he could have easily gone on for another hour. More than that, I could have listened.

I definitely thought of J.D. and his Four Color Comics blog throughout the lecture. J.D. is a comic geek going way back, with an appreciation for the old stuff that never even hit my radar. Not just the old Action comics, or Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, but the stuff like Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, or artist Lyonel Feininger's foray into cartooning with "Wee Willie Winkie's World". Spiegelman covered a lot: Plastic Man, Robert Crumb, MAD Magazine, and had a few things to say about "Edu-Manga" (where Astro Boy takes you on a tour of history and introduces the reader to Helen Keller, Anne Frank or Mother Theresa...seriously). He's no fan of Lichtenstein ("He did no more or less for comic books than Warhol did for soup.") and made no mention of Alan Moore, which I thought was a fairly conspicuous omission, but he did have pretty nice things to say about Chris Ware and mentioned people like the Hernandez Brothers, Daniel Clowes and Joe Sacco in quite favorable tones.

Overall the lecture was perfect for someone like me. I have a strange and erratic relationship with comics and graphic novels. MAUS was my first comic book, though I read comic strips in the newspaper as far back as I can remember. My childhood was spent on Nancy Drew mysteries, not issues of Swamp Thing and the kinds of strips in the newspaper (Cathy, Garfield, Mary Worth, Family Circus, For Better of For Worse, Peanuts) were as plain and predictable as McDonald's hamburgers. Later I discovered strips like Bloom County, Doonsbury, Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot and occasionally read collections of their strips, but self-contained comic books were completely outside my experience before MAUS. In the same way that first MAD Magazine burned its way into Spiegelman's consciousness, MAUS hooked me and drew me in and so it was a great pleasure to attend this lecture and hear the man speak for himself.

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Anonymous James Wallis Says:

I babysit Art Spiegelman for a signing session he did at a UK comics convention in the early 90s. I figured that by the end of it I had increased my understanding of the graphic-narrative form by two skill levels and inhaled 12 fagsworth of second-hand smoke.

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