Emma was such a help to me a few years ago when I started doing events; at the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival, she taught a whole bunch of us creators how to lead comic-making workshops for children. She's very good at it! [Note to festival organisers.] ...But Vern and Lettuce were confused about the term 'manga', so they had a little chat with her about it:
(I'll include this comic later in Vern and Lettuce's online magazine, The Pickle) And here's our Paris signing table! Emma was launching the French edition of her book, Dragon Heir Reborn with a new publisher called Aaltaïr, run by Guillaume Bresch and Patrick Chaduc.
The guy I drew behind us is Julien Aubert, who's done some games development with Aaltaïr and was so nice and helpful during the show. (He even brought macaroons!)
On our first night at dinner, Emma got to see the lovely new edition of her book, it was very exciting! I asked Guillaume about why he'd decided to set up a small, independent publisher. He said he'd always been interested in movies, video games and books, but there's something he loves about books, they've been around for thousands of years and he thinks they'll keep existing in some form for thousands more. He has several projects of his own he'd like to publish, possibly even before the end of the year, but he's also open to new work by other people, and has set up several different labels: Aaltaïr for comics, Hikoboshi for manga (which are also comics... putting us back into Emma's controversial territory: what's the difference between comics and manga, and is there a difference?), and he's considering a third label for limited print runs of 50 books or so. The most important thing is storytelling, he said, so he's open to other projects besides comics, such as children's picture books, and he's already published Peter Pan as a chapter book, illustrated by Charles Vess.
Guillaume first met Emma when went to the same show three years ago, and then saw her twice at the British International Comics Show (BICS) in Birmingham, where she was launching the English version of Dragon Heir Reborn with her colleagues at Sweatdrop Studios.
I asked him about his books' distribution, and he said they'll be stocked by FNAC (which he compared to HMV in Britain), and he's approached other bookshops which have agreed to take it. In the St Michel district of Paris, these include Album, Manga Cafe and Little Tokyo. Further afield, in Rouen it will be stocked by L'Armitiere, Lumiere d'Août, Au Grand Nulle Part and Album; in Lille: Astrocity, Forbidden Zone, in Brussels: Forbidden Zone, and in Strasbourg: Cyclops Comics.
a page from Dragon Heir
I asked Guillaume about what people should do if they want to submit project proposals to him, and he advised them to get in touch with him via e-mail: guillaume at aaltair.eu And here's the Aaltaïr website, although the French version of the site is more up-to-date than the translated English site. Ah yes, here is my Dragon Heir fan art:
Emma came back at me with a fab drawing of Princess Spaghetti from You Can't Eat a Princess! and You Can't Scare a Princess!:
We had a drawing wall across the aisle from our tables, and no one was drawing on it for awhile, so I jumped in and shamelessly drew some promotional pictures, which my French friend Le_Woodman photographed.
After that, the space filled up so thickly that you couldn't even see our pictures anymore. Lots of drawing!
So who drew this fabulous picture of Emma and me?
It was the other writer and artist at our table, a lovely Spaniard named Nacho Fernandez. Here's Nacho's dedication in my copy of his new book, translated from the Spanish bu Aaltaïr (under the Hikoboshki label), Chevaliers de l'Horoscope.
A bit of fan art from me:
Nacho's book was a HUGE hit with the expo goers; he sat there drawing dedicasses for two solid days, in well over a hundred books. He didn't get time to draw many commissions (perhaps two?), but here's him drawing one:
And the last morning at a cafe, he gave me a picture of Lettuce from my Vern and Lettuce, hurrah!
I also got to see another one of his books, Kung Fu Mousse, which had beautiful drawing and colouring; I would love to read this book in English! (Do any of you English publishers fancy taking it on?)
Check out that great yeti!
So back to the expo... here's a Lady Vador who dropped by our table:
And here's a guy named Pierre-Stephane Proust, who commissioned Emma and me to draw him envelopes for his collection of over 5,000. He has some amazing stuff displayed on his Art Postal website, several by artists whose work you'll recognise. He gave me a spaceman stamp, so I drew a Princess Spaghetti planet scene.
Here's a beautiful old fold-out, pop-up envelope he had in his folder; I think he said it was sent by a serviceman from Japan to his wife in France, just after WW2.
All these kids are gathered around a screen showing the theme tunes from anime and gaming videos they grew up with. They got SO into it, cheering for their favourites like a rock star had just come on stage. Sadly, the only one I knew well enough to sing along was Still Alive from Portal, but Emma knew loads of them, many from spending some of her childhood in Italy. She, Guillaume and Nacho had a long talk over lunch on the Monday, about how some of these Japanese anime series are absolutely massive on European telly but somehow never make it into English language and on to English screens; if they do, it's usually through an American intermediary.
And, of course, we have to have some good cosplay photos. I didn't get much time to run around snapping costumes, but here are a few:
100% kawaii; such great legs, luvvie!
On the Monday, just before Nacho headed to Paris's Manga Cafe to do some live drawing, and Emma headed off on the Eurostar, we had one last coffee and drew portraits of each other. Emma had a bag with some big-eyed manga girls printed on it, and I'd seen so many of them that I had a good laugh drawing Nacho that way. (And made Emma roll her eyes when I said I was 'drawing manga'. She didn't say it, yet again, but I could feel her thinking, That's just ONE kind of manga!) But doesn't he look purdy? ^___^
During the two days of the festival, we only went between the expo centre at the Port de Versaille and the hotel complex, which had some good restaurants. Both the centre and hotel were outside the main Paris ring road and were so concrete and modern that, except for the fact everyone spoke French, we could have been somewhere near London's Docklands, or anywhere, really. Emma and I had a good view of the tram lines from our hotel window. Here is before and after the snow. Gosh, it was cold in Paris.
This sushi bar near the hotel was very tasty, but the door kept blowing open and we thought we'd freeze. But Guillaume and his uncle/business partner, Patrick, were excellent hosts and fed us SO WELL.
We did get out of the concrete jungle for a bit, though; Guillaume took us on a pretty little tram tour along the river, then out for a lunch of savoury and sweet crêpes in the city centre, so we were able to feel we were properly in Paris. And then I stayed for an extra night with new friends in Montmartre, but I'll give that its own blog post soon.
A big thanks to Guillaume, Patrick and Julien for being such wonderful hosts and looking after us so well all weekend! I look forward to seeing what new material they publish with Aaltaïr, and wish them lots of success!