I'm such a fool.
If you read my beef a couple of days back about the Article on Douglas Wolk's book ("Did Ingmar Bergman have to justify Star Wars every time he sat down for an interview?"), and picked up Tom Spurgeon's commentary on it, (not to mention those of Ben Schwartz, and James Vance) you will respond to the following with an accumulation of unkind mirth or of righteous dismay. This is not a qualitative beef. Bergman is great, Star Wars is fun. Neither needs to know about or explain the other. My beef: everywhere I go, why must I always have to represent the whole customary f*****g stereotype of comic books? It is tied to my ankles like clattering tin cans.
I thought that by appearing at a couple of 'writers' festivals' I would have a chance to establish my name as an author with his own world view and humorous thoughts about life. Yesterday on me blog i was so happy, if a little intimidated, to think about my appearance next week in Melbourne in the company of a couple of significant literary figures. Look, I'm not asking much. I don't mind if I come off as a literary jester, for that really is the role of the cartoonist-author (my real fear is that i'll come off as a fuckwit). BUT, today I see the program for the 'graphic novel' part of the Brisbane Writers Festival (12-16 sept), and Astro Boy is all over it... ?
A large number of questions are automatically asked:
If Campbell is to be a fuckwit, can't he be left to do it on his own account? Is Astro Boy connected to the concept of 'graphic novel'? With Eddie Campbell on hand to answer questions, how was such a mistake made? Is the author of that character going to be present? Will there be any authors from Japan? How about authors from other nations who are working in the 'manga' idiom? Surely it's not meant to stand in for the whole medium (whatever that medium might be)? Does it in any way relate to the festival's guests: Campbell? Talbot? Greenberg? Delisle? Tan? Rigozzi? White? And anyway, even if we can't all agree that it is not relevant why is the figure of Astro boy so clumsily traced from here?????
Where have I gone wrong? Sure, I looked away for a minute while my attention was diverted by wrapping up my new book, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, but where have I seriously misjudged the situation? I had a meeting and several phone conversations and explained the whole thing. A certain disgruntlement on my part has been interpreted, I think, as a dislike of the idea of the 'graphic novel,' (really a feeling that the term is useless, and the real irony in all of this is that I don't use the term any more , except when quoting another, which is why I always spell it with the quote marks) which they have taken to mean a dislike of 'comics,' because all the terms seem to mean the same thing, and since they have determined to spotlight the medium (loosely therefore understood as all of 'comics' I suppose), it is necessary to humorously disregard my 'literary pose' of being disgruntled, because that is the sort of affectation that authors like to sport.
"Eddie, Sorry 'the graphic novel' as a whole program is not quite to your taste/opinion." (from an email yesterday. Note that the quote marks were remembered.) Having early in the process sought the opinion of a supposed expert, it is now politely dismissed. Hey, I've got nothing against Star Wars OR Astro Boy. I like them all. Early in the planning they were talking about getting some DC and Marvel people in. I said (phone converation, no record of it), fine, but just call it 'comic books' and lose that pretentious 'graphic novel' tag.
Returning to the 'beef', a chap at Newsarama takes me to task for being critical of Wolk's book without having read it. When I said the book is doing 'more damage than good', I didn't need to go further than the title: Reading Comics; How graphic novels work and what they mean. Analyse it. 'Comics'= 'graphic novel', 'graphic novel'='comics', names for the same thing. Wolk is telling the world that they are one and the same. When Eisner first used the term he used it because he wanted it to mean something other than, or at least more than, comic book (as did the person before him who coined the term). I don't want to get into a semantic argument. If that original intention is now lost, I accept it. I believe Eisner felt that it was lost too. In his last years he was pleased to get his line of books out of the comic book market and into the hands of a mainstream book publisher (Norton). Anyway, that's why I don't use either of these terms any more (I'm going with the old fashioned 'strip cartoon' from here on, or at least till that gets screwed (just noticed I put it in quote marks too... wonder if I should leave them?) and note that I have no objection to 'comic book', which I see as a genre of popular fiction). From Hell is a 600 page strip cartoon.) And as for Douglas, he is an agreeable guy who is probably perplexed to learn that his enthusiastic celebration of his innocent pleasures could possibly be an obstacle to my megalomaniacal world conquest.
Now, lest you think this is all a bit abstract and not worth getting my nickers in a twist over (and as a professional humorist I must admit this is the sublime comedy of it all) I am the guy they have got in to stand up at the front and explain what a 'graphic novel' is, despite having promised myself I would never let it happen again.
From the online promtion:
CYA Later Alligator: The inaugural "CYA later, Alligator" Children's and Young Adult (CYA) Writers and Illustrators Conference will be held in Brisbane on 16 September 2006 in partnership with the Brisbane Writers Festival. This conference is aimed at new and established writers and illustrators of children's and young adult literature. Seminars and master classes will be conducted by well known Australian and International authors and illustrators.
From an email:
As discussed you are appearing at the CYA Later, Alligator Conference, on 15th September 2007, at the QUT Creative Industries Precinct in Kelvin Grove at 2.50 to 3.30.
Your topic is: The Graphic Novel Manifesto
(You may or may not recall that Campbell's so-called 'manifesto' was written as a jest, but has become his most reproduced work ever on the internet, even available on Wikipedia and long removed from its original context, and now comes home to haunt him. It was originally written in response to the mass of confusing information that the 'comics community' gives out. Wolk's title is the most recent example of same.) (there's a link in the sidebar if you're new around here)
wait a minute, it's the phone...
(it's my pal White..)
"hey Eddie, have you seen the program for the festival?"
"hey, nothing changes. it's 1984 all over again...FLASH!
Flash - Ah - Saviour of the universe
Flash - Ah - He'll save ev'ry one of us"
...ha! remember that radio show you were on...
yeh, fuck off.
"Flash - Ah - King of the impossible
He's for ev'ry one of us
Stand for ev'ry one of us
He'll save with a mighty hand
Ev'ry man ev'ry woman ev'ry child
Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body"
yeh, Daren, sob... thanks for roning.