New week, new TCJ. Mat Colgate writes in with a report from a crowded-sounding ELCAF:
The East London Comic and Arts Festival (ELCAF) is now in its third year (but its first time at the Oval Space, which might explain the capacity difficulties). Organized by the good folk of Nobrow press – they of plush and colorful releases from artists such as Jesse Moynihan, Kyle Platts and Blexbolex – it aims to “showcase the plethora of talent in the comics and graphic art scene in London and the UK and also to bring something fresh to our locals by drawing talent from abroad to take part in the event.” On the evidence of last week’s show it was mission accomplished: the exhibition space was heaving. Bodies jostled against each other politely in the near tropical heat, fingering sweat fogged pamphlets, queueing for autographs from, amongst others, Seth and Chris Ware, both of whom gave talks later on in the day. The crowd were young, oft bearded and wearing some frankly baffling t-shirts, and if there’s a better advert for the vitality and vigor of the underground comics scene then I’ve never seen it. It was a heart-warming sight, only slightly tempered by the sheer amount of folk one had to squeeze past to get to the tables. But, hell, I’d sooner have a bit of mare because of overcrowding than a total downer due to lack of interest.
And the great caricaturist and cartoonist Drew Friedman is here with a short essay explaining how he chose his subjects for his upcoming book of portraits, Heroes of the Comics. Here’s a sample:
The series kicked off with the great comics artist Will Elder and evolved from there. Shortly after Will died, his son-in-law Gary contacted me and asked if I would create a portrait of Will as a gift for Will’s daughter, Gary’s wife Nancy. They were very pleased with the result, (which is included in the book), so I decided to create a companion piece, a portrait of Will’s long time collaborator, the brilliant creator of MAD, Harvey Kurtzman, who had been my instructor at the School of Visual Arts. I was happy with the portrait and a limited edition print was made, which quickly sold out. I felt I might be on to something and decided to paint portraits of all the original MAD comic book artists including Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and John Severin, and also planned to release them as prints. I then added all of the EC artists (I’m a lifelong EC fan), and I realized I had the possible makings of a book, The Legends of EC Comics. It soon became apparent that depicting only EC artists would be too limited, so I expanded the idea to portraits of Legendary Comic Book Artists, centering on the early pioneers of comic books, those who entered the field during the first twenty years of its existence (mid-1930s to mid-1950s), and were virtually responsible for inventing the medium.
And last but also least, some comics people are arguing about this article making the case for “more shit-talking” in comics. I don’t know the full context, so I am probably missing something important, but it seems to be burying a worthy and unexceptionable point (comics professionals should be openly self- and industry-critical) under a mountain of ego gratification and eye-roll-prompting boneheadedness, starting but not ending with the initial premise of “embracing [shit-talking] as a label” as if it was the same thing as the LGBT community reclaiming the word queer or something, as opposed to a distracting way to (inadvertently?) make your own arguments look pointlessly idiotic and not worth paying attention to. Again, the point that creators and industry figures should be willing to take and make intelligent critical comments seems inarguable; the question is whether you want the criticism to prompt positive change or whether you’d rather just enjoy starting a bunch of unproductive internet drama while stroking yourself. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what’s going on, but that way of framing things guarantees that I won’t be the only one to do so.