Wednesday, February 06, 2008

an Evening with Art Spiegelman



Yesterday evening Anna and I went to Atlanta to hear cartoonist Art Spiegleman lecture at SCAD – Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta branch. It seems like it would be SACAD and with Art Spiegleman speaking, there could be two “Arts” in the title, which might be something like SACAAD.

Art received a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for his MAUS series which relived the Holocaust with cats as Nazis and mice as Jews.

SCAD (Atlanta Branch) has been in Atlanta two or three years. It took over the Equafax Equafax building, which was a huge modern thing that overlooked the I-75.

As usual we misjudged the time (you never know about traffic) and found ourselves at SCAD at 5:35 and the lecture did not begin until 7:30. We had about two hours to kill among strangers.

They have plenty of original art lining the corridors; and, that night, plenty of live artists in the corridors. Their assignment: Draw a corridor, or hallway, which would a be a challenge to bring out the design… to show the four lines to slowly almost converge with each other, to represent a scale of getting further away.

We ended up in the school’s cafeteria to do what I enjoy doing: watch people. Being invisible, it is always easy watching people be themselves, without fear of someone watching them.

We were pretty much surrounded by eccentric dressed people. I think that the eccentric dressing and appearance at SCAD might be a peer pressure thing. I saw one young man come through the cafeteria with a regular haircut, regular denim, regular shirt, regular running shoes, and regular jacket – he stood out! Boy, how daring he is against the local standards!

I think the SCAD building is about 8 or 10 stories high. The cafeteria is on the 2nd floor and the lecture was on the 4th floor. We took an elevator up about 6:45. People were allowed in then, not like the last time we were there when the a security guard told me we could not come in the lecture room yet.

As we went in the lecture room I heard one student tell someone he had to attend, it was mandatory.

I brought my camera and my book by Spiegelman IN THE SHADOWS OF NO TOWERS with the hopes of getting him to sign it and take a few pictures of him. No such luck. A sign was on display at the entrance stating no photographs beyond this point or your camera will be confiscated. The security man at the door glanced at the book in my hand and said “Mr. Speigelman would not be signing books tonight.” Oh, well, nobody promised me a rose garden.

The room was a big room with folding chairs. Up front was a podium which a desktop sat on, and a big screen. On the big screen we first watched interviews with Rex Reed, who has gracefully grown old since he starring role in “Myra Breckinridge” and interviews and film clips of Bruce Dern. Rex and Bruce were both given some kind of award at SCAD in Savannah.

I looked around for two Marietta cartoonists I know, Mark and Skip, and did not see them - but the room was full of people, I couldn't see everybody. Which I would like to put in that the room was a flat level with a lot of tall people sitting all over. Unless you were on the front row, there wasn't a good seat in the house. You had to twist and turn along with the same twists and turns the person in front of you did - but more extremely.

Art Spiegelman was ushered in from a door in the back to a seat on the front row. He looked over the audience and looked amazed. The huge room was bulging with people, standing room only – and quickly running out of that.

At a few minutes past 7:30 a lady, who is probably a dean, gave an unbelievable long speech of the biography and works of Art Spiegelman.

He was scheduled to talk from 7:30 to 8:30, then have a question and answer session from 8:30 to 9:00. He got carried away and talked all the way up until a few minutes after the nine. Then he started his question and answer session. Just when that started we and the mandatory-attendance students left. Time was the essence (as Sherlock Homes would say)! 4:30am comes early.

Art had on a little vest – that must be trademark look – every picture I have ever seen of him he had on a vest. He also resembled my neighbor Bob.

He gave an excellent talk. He called it Comics 101, or with the computer generation, now it has been revised to Comics 101.1.

He knew his stuff, I guess is expected – he lived the stuff he talked about. He gave a oral history backed up by digital slides on the big screen. He also pointed out universal language of comics such as: You read from left to right and so are the panels – also, not as evident, usually if a comic book character is walking – leaving someplace he or she is going from left to right…. However, when the are arriving someplace they arrive from right t left… you brain expects that – it would be confusing otherwise.

What all he said in almost 90 minutes, all witty, wise, and knowledgeable would be too much to put here…. I thought he was excellent.

He talked of his involvement with comics – his first “love at first sight” with MAD. In this case the paperback INSIDE MAD, shown above. He was born in February 1948. He was a kid who spotted the INSIDE MAD paperback on a book rack at a store, and begged his mother to buy it for him. INSIDE MAD is a collection of MAD stories that was first published in MAD comicbooks before it became a magazine. INSIDE MAD is pictured above.

Pappy at Pappy’s Golden Age of Comics has a very similar “Love at First Sight” history, but with Pappy it was the MAD READER, another paperback reprints from MAD comics.

My love at first sight was with MAD #6, which was the comic, not the magazine.

Art Spiegelman went on to tell of others comics the publisher of MAD was responsible for, such as TALES FROM THE CRYPT and the other horror comics which had a long range effect of comic book publishing.

Interesting, he did not mention the name of the creator and first editor and writer of MAD Harvey Kurtzman – although he went to a comicbook art class conducted by Kurtzman – and I know by some of his other stuff he thought Kurtzman had a huge influence on modern day comics.

It was a very enjoyable lecture.

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2 Comments:

Blogger kenju said...

It's too bad you couldn't get a pic and the autograph.

1:27 PM  
Blogger ET said...

Judy,
About ten years ago, if I wanted to take a picture and get an autograph I would have got them. I was more aggressive then.
But now days, I think, "What difference does that make in this stage of my life?"

2:06 PM  

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