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simmonds, spiegelman... and groening!

I love London so much. I imagine that in New York or LA, you'd have join long queues of fans at conventions to see your illustration, comics and animation heroes, but in London, you can have a nice chilled out conversation in the ICA bar or sit in a fairly small room to hear them speak.

Last night I arrived a bit early for the interview of Art Spiegelman by Posy Simmonds, and somehow nabbed Matt Groening while he was wandering around near the bar looking a bit lost. We were joined by his Argentinian painter friend Agustina Picasso, who's having an exhibition (Mondongo at Maddox Arts). Matt can't quite get her to admit if she's related to Pablo or not. Then Stephen Betts and two more of Matt's American friends arrived, Gilbert Shelton and Spain Rodriguez, who's recently published a new comics volume about Ché Guevara. Matt Groening was very nice, although he's doing a grumpy old man pose in the photo. Jim Medway gave him a copy of the DFC, and it was funny to see Matt looking at Vern and Lettuce. I thought I'd been a bit forward, but he came up at the end of the talk and slipped me his business card, which gave me a little tummy flutter.

Gilbert Shelton and Matt Groening

Spain Rodriguez

I must confess, while I think Art Spiegelman's work is amazing, I really went to see my comics hero, Posy Simmonds. I did a sketch of her in my notebook, but it was so rough that I went over it with a brush pen on my light box when I got home. Spiegelman thinks she's pretty cool, too, and talked about her use of subtle facial expressions, body language, and how all her characters are so distinct from each other. Spiegelman compared her characters to those by the Hernandez brothers, I can't tell their characters apart except for the bust size. Spiegelman and Simmonds hadn't met before, although Spiegelman had earlier commissioned her to do a piece for Little Lit.

Highlights of the talk included Simmonds and Spiegelman singing a rousing rendition of Davy Crockett, hearing Simmonds' very passable mimicry of an American accent, and a debate over the proper name for a downward spiral scribble (Is it a spurl or a squeen?) Spiegelman complimented Simmonds' great drawing technique; You don't mind going out and drawing f***ing trees! He discussed his theories about humour, saying it's built on something disturbing, then you discover it won't actually hurt you, then you feel a pleasant mastery over it. Both artists said they were hugely influenced by Mad Magazine; Simmonds got most of her early comics from the kids of GIs who lived on the nearby US Air Force base. Spiegelman showed early work published in his new book, Breakdown, the Portrait of the Artist as a Young... and the fascinating comics he made for the preface to put them in context. Actually, much more of the talk was about Spiegelman than Simmonds, so you will soon be able to read a more balanced account on Stephen Betts' Comix Influx blog. There were a lot of familiar faces in the audience, including Jan Pienkowski in the front row.

Thank you, Paul Gravett, for another wonderful season of Comica!

On the way to the station, Stephen took me through one of the tiled subways on Trafalgar Square that I somehow have managed to miss during the ten years I've been living in London. (I guess I always walk overground there.) I had to take a picture of one of the many weird and wonderful sets of painted tiles:


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2008 09:22 am (UTC)
Great to have this write-up - thanks so much!
I have to really disagree with Spiegelman on the Hernandez bros - they are two of the examples I would pull out of artists where you *can* tell the difference between their characters right away, not just on bust size! To be fair, I think I would apply that more to Jaime than to Beto, but they are both very good at using different body shapes, hair, and other physical aspects that feed into characterization.

Spain Rodriguez looks so distinguished for an old anarchist cartoonist!
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:34 am (UTC)
Re: Great to have this write-up - thanks so much!
Yeah, I thought it was interesting that he would pick them out to be critical, one of the quirkier comments of the evening. ...No, actually, there were a lot of quirky comments!

Rodriguez IS very distinguished! It's so embarrassing when I go to these things and meet old comics legends and don't have a clue about them. I'm just having to swallow my pride and write things down in my notebook and count them learning experiences. I was really glad to meet him.
Nov. 25th, 2008 09:42 am (UTC)
You're so awesome!

ANd your portrait of the magnificent Posy Simmonds is awesome too.
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:35 am (UTC)
Re: :D
Thanks, you're so awesome, too! Ha ha... we're all awesome. ;-D
Re: :D - dlasky - Nov. 30th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 25th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)
Wow I'm so ridiculasly jealous of you! Meeting all those amazing people and having a season of awesome on your doorstep.
Art Spiegelmen is really interesting to listen to as I managed to get to a talk he had in new york during MOCCA.
I may just have to invest in a wig and a red dress so I can steal your life this saturday...
Nov. 25th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
Now THAT'S something I'd like to see!
(no subject) - chamonkee - Nov. 25th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jabberworks - Nov. 25th, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chamonkee - Nov. 25th, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 25th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
What a fantastic sounding event! I totally agree with Spiegelman about Simmonds' characters being so easily distinguishable (but just even facially -- like a character could vanish for fifty pages and then reappear wearing something completely different and yet you immediately know who it is.) And the trees thing! Yes!

Seething with envy at your Groening ("rhymes with complaining") encounter.
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
It was fantastic! I thought he was a bit harsh on the poor Hernandez bros, but yes, Simmonds really does know how to style her characters individually!
Nov. 25th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
I almost met Groening at APE in '02. It was our hard luck to be at a table next to somebody else named Groening, who did these little photocopied comics of robots or elves being smartasses .. when Matt came through the room, just as his eyes lit on our books the guy next to us piped up "Hey! Matt Groening! My name is Groening too!" So Matt goes over to talk to him .. and never doubled back to us. Cry.
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
Oh man, that's rough!!
(no subject) - inkboy - Dec. 5th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jabberworks - Dec. 5th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
Sounds like it was amazing. I meant to go along to forbidden planet yesterday to catch Art Spiegelman before his talk, but was stuck in college. Bum.

Glad you had a good time. Thank you for the report xxx
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, that's too bad. Hey, I forget, are you at Camberwell?
(no subject) - squirmy - Nov. 26th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jabberworks - Nov. 26th, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - squirmy - Nov. 26th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jabberworks - Nov. 26th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
"...somehow nabbed Matt Groening while he was wandering around near the bar looking a bit lost."
You, madam, have more front than Selfridges.
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, luvvie, I take pride in my window displays.
Nov. 25th, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
Simmonds is a goddess. Did she do swearing? She's very good at swearing.

Very envious of you meeting Groening too but strangely unbothered about Spiegelman. I haven't really cared very much about anything he's done post-Maus (bit of a tricky act to follow though).

Gilbert's no relation by the way (so far as I know).
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
Haha, you're right, Simmonds even swears with articulate grace! She was in good form at the V&A, but I think she was a bit more restrained with Spiegelman because he was doing the job for both of them, which intensified as he started to crack under the need for a cigarette break.

Actually, I DID wonder about the Shelton connection, thanks! :-D
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
Re: I failed....
Thanks so much, Sean! I was in Winchester on Saturday and very sorry to miss Comiket! How did it go?
(Deleted comment)
Re: I failed.... - jabberworks - Nov. 26th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
i don't know how you find the time to meet all these famous people! and why do they all have beards? lots of love.
Nov. 25th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Urgh, it's because I've replaced it with sleeping. MUST finish colouring this V&L page due tomorrow. I'm checking my e-mail just to stay awake... :-P
Nov. 26th, 2008 04:11 am (UTC)
Trust not in an Arm of Flesh, but in the Luung GOD!
Nov. 26th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, that's how I read it aloud to Stephen when I first saw it, and promptly cracked up. :-D
Nov. 29th, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC)
Hey Miss Awesome! I wish I'd gone to this now. Also, thanks for reminding me to check out the Mondogo show, which is so close to my username I'd be remiss not to...

It was good to see you at the Dave McKean talk, too. Sorry I rushed off without saying goodbye -- I was going to but the ICA shop was so crowded and I couldn't face fighting my way through just to say goodbye.
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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