Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fair Share

Belated notes on the Frankfurt Book Fair:

o Missed the panel discussion on "The International Comics Market 2007" with, among others, Mile High Comics' Chuck Rozanski, because I was too stupid to read the program. Unfortunate.

o Didn't miss the panel on "Comics in Bookshops - Graphic Novels as Bestsellers" with a bunch of German (and Swiss) booksellers and publishers. Wasn't very enlightening, though. What's a "Graphic Novel"? What does "bestseller" mean in this context? Are comics a medium or a genre, and what's the difference, anyway? The participants used a lot of terms and buzzwords without really being able to define what they meant, and so clarity was lost and not much in terms of new information was to be learned.

o Saw Scott McCloud's presentation "Comics: An Art Form in Transition," and found that everything they say about him is true. In about an hour's time, McCloud clicked himself through more than 600 projected images while giving an involving, highly condensed lecture on the possibilities of the medium, his own background and the history of the universe in general - a crash course through his books Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics and Making Comics, essentially. McCloud never missed a beat, and it was a thoroughly intriguing and entertaining 60 minutes.

The event was announced as a "PowerPoint presentation," but live comics is probably closer to the truth. Amazingly, McCloud doesn't just have a lot to say on sequential art - he's become sequential art. My Comicgate fellows Björn and Daniel conducted a pretty sharp interview with the man on the final day of the Fair, which hopefully should be up soon.

o Attended the "Catalonia and Its Artists" panel, with an illustrious mix of creators including Max, Albert Monteys and Pascual Ferry. Additionally, there was an eye-opening exhibition on the history of Catalan comics at the Frankfurt Museum for Communication. To someone like myself, who's mostly concerned with the Anglo-American branch of comics and not much else, the discussion and the exhibition served as a gentle reminder that what most people in that sphere mean when they talk of "comics" tends to be defined by a very, very, very narrow focus, even if they're aware of the Asian or European branches. The wealth of material out there that I'll probably never even hear of is awe-inspiring, really.

o Also at the Museum for Communication: "Erlesene Comics - Comiclesung ohne Bilder," in which a bunch of fine ladies and gentlemen from the German comics scene gave a reading of select comics, effectively turning them into impromptu audio plays. Among the many highlights were a crappy, unintentionally comical old German spine-chiller from the long-running Gespenstergeschichten series (read by Tobi Dahmen), Will Eisner's haunting Spirit story "Life Below" (marvellously brought to life by Jan and Stefan Dinter), the Karl Marx piece from Action Philosophers (dramatized by Comicgate's Björn) and two unpublished short stories by German cartoonist Oliver Ferreira (read by his friend Mawil). A splendidly entertaining affair, all told.

o In terms of extracurricular activities, a lot of fun was to be had, as well. On Friday, Dark Horse Comics' Dirk Wood, Matt Parkinson and Lance Kreiter, a.k.a. Tiger & The Scorpion, played the Spritzehaus pub, covering a bunch of hard rock classics. As a very pleasant surprise, David Lloyd showed up, bought everyone a beer and stuck around to chat with us about all kinds of comics stuff.

o For the rest of the Fair, pretty much whenever you walked past the Panini booth, Mr. Lloyd, who'd come to Frankfurt to promote the German release of his graphic novel Kickback, was sitting there, signing books, drawing sketches or just talking to people - an utter professional, a perfect gentleman and a terribly nice bloke if I've ever seen one. He was kind enough to draw me a Night Raven sketch.

o Also briefly talked with Dirk Schwieger, who won this year's Sondermann Award for "Best Newcomer" with Moresukine, which is now available as a very nice-looking printed edition from German publisher Reprodukt. Congratulations!

o The best part of the whole thing was the people, really. Got a chance to say hi to a lot of people from all over the world I'd never met, or whom I'd only known from the internet, and everyone turned out to be great folks. A special thank you goes out to Comicgate's Thomas, Björn and Daniel, who welcomed me with open arms, and of course to Frauke, who let me crash on her couch for the duration of the Fair.

For more detailed Fair reports and pictures coverage (in German), look here. For even more pictures, go here.

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