Hey Everyone, Frank Santoro here with a scene report. Please enjoy:
Thursday July 16th: Drove up to NYC from Pittsburgh, PA. Made it by 4. Mazzucchelli/Nadel talk at MoCCA was at 7 so I had time to rest. Found a parking spot right outside my summer sublet studio good thru the weekend. Yes! Dash rolled by and I showed him the rare early Yokoyama story that I had xeroxes of. Well, they’re Dan’s xeroxes and I had “borrowed” them for a few months. Never got around to making my own copies, oh well. We walked over to MoCCA. Humid as hell. But that means there’s lots to look at New York. Broadway and Bleecker is like a catwalk. Ahem.
Anyways, we thought we’d get to the talk early and get a good seat. Everyone else had the same idea. It was packed. Said hi to Dan and to Mr. Mazzucchelli. Made my way to the back. Stared at the art on walls. It has to be my favorite exhibition of comic originals, ever. Maybe the first career overview I’ve seen that doesn’t feel like a highlight reel. It’s a reflection of strengths and of rhymes. Lines of thought. Sounds and pauses.
The talk was great. I thought to myself that David’s apprenticeship in the belly of the beast (Marvel) has afforded him a POV that not many other (any other?) cartoonists working outside of mainstream comics have these days. And specifically to “alternative” comics, there is no one who learned within the tradition of (mainstream) American Comics who’s making new work at his level. Mazzucchelli talked about unlearning many of the approaches to comics that he developed because of the nature of the business of comics, of monthly deadlines. I think what’s so interesting about this “unlearning” is how it broadened his scope and how he can do both; how he’s choosing to challenge himself. Meaning he’s choosing a new phrasing style like a musician. He can play standards like no one else and then his own compositions are like some Duke Ellington 12-piece orchestral suite. He can do both. How inspiring is that?
Friday July 17th: Went over to Desert Island with one of my “Hype-Up” boxes. Y’know, the usual mix of “retarded” comics from my collection for the discerning reader. All three bux each! So, run, don’t walk, run over there and see what you’re missing. Talked to Gabe about doing something for his free comics newspaper Smoke Signal. Had a taco and a Mexican Coca-Cola (the kind with real sugar) next door.
Met Ray Sohn and his wife, Tomomi, over on 14th and 8th. We walked up to the old DIA Center where Dan was having his talk with Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. Boy, was it humid. Another great talk. Aubrey’s a total ham and told story after story. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, well, click around the interweb and then come back. Cool. You back? Awrite. So, anyways, Aubrey hammed it up, made fun of Dan at every chance and basically regaled the audience with stories about Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan, Paul McCartney, and just about everyone else involved in the ’70s Rock scene. His best friend is Robert Plant. He said, “Paul McCartney, who’s staying at the same hotel as I am here in New York, asked me if I wanted to go to his concert tonight, but I said, ‘No I’ve got to do this bit at the museum for my book.'” He gave Dan a sideways glance and Dan grinned widely as if to say, “Why wouldn’t you just go…?” Haha. It was a riot.
Went out to dinner with Ray and Tomomi. Talked about the idea of abstract comics. About narrative comics. About the differences in the practices of narrative art and “non-objective” art. Ray’s making these square drawings that are like updated Stuart Davis abstractions but still feel “narrative”. It’s a weird gray area in the practice of 20th-21st century Art that hasn’t been explored much. Single images strung together or shuffled to create a web of narrative is nothing new. But somehow when one thinks about how most comics have a very specific linear narrative and how the practice of most Modern Art has been to deny that narrative thread, to break with the old traditions in Art, it does make one think about the potential for a new type of practice in Comics. I dunno. Good dinner conversation, though.
Got caught in the downpour coda of a hot humid Friday night.
Saturday July 18th: Woke up early and got ready for class. Another “Hidden Tempo” class in my studio. Just getting organized. Had to rule a bunch of paper. Make templates. Set up the room. Was kinda nervous cuz I didn’t know most of the people taking it this time. Last time I almost knew everyone. Still, it was great. I did my song and dance. They drew, they laughed at my wacky theories, and then they all flipped out when I proved my theories correct by using their own drawings. Haha!
After class I got a text message from Dan: “Lee Perry is playing a secret show in Gowanus. You’re on the guest list. Starts in an hour.” Some days, I just love my life. Rushed over to Carroll Gardens on the F train. Found the outdoors club, the old Project Room on Bond Street, a stone’s throw from the old PictureBox office. The sun was going down and it was just the most amazing scene to behold. Me, Dan, and Helene Silverman standing around taking in said scene when here comes Lee Perry decked out in full regalia, walking towards us like a general. His road manager, Sebastian, is leading the way with Lee’s luggage and I run over to lend a hand. Sebastian is the generous soul who invited Dan and me to Lee’s house when we were all in Switzerland, and this is the first time we’re all seeing each other again. It was just amazing; the timing couldn’t have been better. It’s not everyday you get to see Lee Perry play a show. I was standing five feet away from him while he sang. The sky was that perfect magic twilight color.
Hung out with Dan and Helene over at her house. Gary was at band practice with Devin. Helene made pizza. Dan told some funny stories about the projects he’s juggling. From the sound of it, Art Out of Time 2: Electric Boogaloo should be pretty good. Anyways, Dan’s really entertaining some nights, and he was hamming it up worse than Aubrey Powell, haha. Just kidding, Dan. Good times, good times.
Sunday July 19th: Got ready for my second class. Smaller this time, only four people, which was fine cuz I was a little beat. Matthew Thurber and Dash Shaw were two of the “students” so it was basically a hangout. I still did my song and dance. The students still laffed at me. And again I watched them all marvel at how their own drawings prove my friggin theories. Go figger. Maybe I know what I’m doing.
After class me and Dash went and had a burrito. He’s on fucking fire. I’ve never met someone who works as hard as Dash does. He’s got a bunch of projects on the stove and a bunch of festivals coming up. A Portuguese edition of Bottomless Belly Button is coming out. Portuguese? Who gets a Portuguese edition of their comic made? Maybe French, maybe Spanish, but Portuguese? I guess that book is doing okay. Sheesh! We talked about Mazzucchelli and this idea of “apprenticeship” in comics, how it’s sort of faded away. We talked about that Trevor Von Eeden interview in the Journal again. What if Von Eeden would have taken the offer to draw Year One? Would Mazzucchelli have taken the same path? Of course.
Talked about SPX and the next TCAF. Then I realized that Comic-Con was this week and thought, wow, no one I know is going. No one’s even talking about it. The comics world is so fractured now. What they do has nothing to do with what we do.
Hung out with Aaron at the studio. New issue of Cometbus is out and looks great. We got caught up and drank coffee til the wee hours of the night. He split and then I crashed out on the floor. Got up at the crack o’ dawn and packed the car. Time to get outta Dodge. Take the money and run. And that’s just what I did. Six hours later I was back in the “City of Champions” (what you didn’t know Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup this year?).
Anyways, thanks to everyone who took my class this past weekend. It was truly rewarding. Really. Thank you. Over and out.