A Day in 1998 with Art Speigelman

30 Aug

Too much on my plate to finish the second half of my ode to my a la carte streaming habits – plus I’m seeing Yes tonight performing one half of Tales From Topographic Oceans & Relayer in all its’ entirety at the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

Another lost blog episode from my Comics Buyer’s Guide day. I have no idea why this one didn’t make the cut, but here it all doctored up and updated for today’s hipster evolution.

0,,16249873_303,00  Imagine yourself on an oasis of on the freeway with nothing between you for miles but surrounding mountains, coyotes, mansions and maybe Harlan Ellison’s house. I found myself last Sunday ( the 15th of November ) anxious to attend a lecture given at a tranquil Jewish foundation and museum that I’ve always passed by on the 405 but was never inclined to stop by and visit; ( and further down on the same freeway and nestled on even a higher mountain is the newly opened Getty Center that is only accessible by tram ).

If you’re looking for a little isolation in your comic art indulgence in a place where nobody knows or wants to know your name ( with the exception of those doing the lecturing ),then may I recommend to you the Cartoon Art Cultural Expression and Social Commentary series happening at the Skirball Cultural Center in a very remote area of Los Angeles during this month and the next few months co-sponsored by Comic Con International and the Comics Journal ? I admit I came on the series a little late in the game having missed the Jules Feiffer tribute a few weeks prior, but Art Spiegelman and his travelling lecture slide show Comics 101 made up for lost time.

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A warning sign to patrons to beware of the fact that ” cigarette smoke will be used as part of tonight’s performance ” did not deter from packing in the auditorium. But I didn’t see any reason necessary for the disclaimer; after all the Republicans did lose five seats  in the house so I don’t think our so-called conservative state of California were going to turn on him like a pack of rabid dogs if he decided to spark one up after a few of us paid $ 12.00 a piece to hear him speak ( $ 6.00 if you happened to be a member ). And that’s a small price to pay to breathe in second-hand smoke.

What the general public was treated to was a very informative insight in the history of a taken for granted art-form, and what I mean by the term ” general public ” is by my own personal observation; these people in attendance weren’t your regular run of the mill gathering of fanboys. None at all. Some I’ve noticed seem to be a higher or middle-income bracket, clean-cut high school and college students ( a few overheard in my row were in attendance for class credit ),and just practitioners or admirers of fine art in general. And of course, there were Art’s fans with their copies of Maus and Maus II in tow for autographs.

And who better to tutor the genesis of the comic strip form than Art Speigelman ? During the course of the two-hour lecture, he gave us a brief overview of his own exquisite career in the days of the underground, Garbage Pail Kids, to the debut of Raw and Maus; with a hint of future projects on the horizon such as a junior version of Raw and the revelation that he is writing an opera on the history of comics.

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Not to be mistaken for a pair of biographies on Donald Trump

  Much degree of different of historic importance were explored in Art’s slide show in addition to profound quips and commentary uttered between puffs of tar and nicotine. One such observation according to Mr. Speigelman was that people who do comics serve the purpose of producing transformative work as real artists do and the comics themselves are internally entwined with the history of paintings themselves using such illustrations  such as William Brown’s Stages of Cruelty and Rudolph Topfier as examples. Mr Spiegelman also offered an easy analogy as how comics serve our political ideology through Krazy Kat. Krazy Kat represents democracy because she is always forgiving, Ignatz represents anarchy because he is always clobbering Krazy Kat over the head with a brick, and Officer Pup would stand for fascism because he captures Ignatz every time he smacks Krazy Kat over the head with a brick and therefore is thrown into a cell constructed of brick. I simply the comparisons to be very in tune with the way our world revolves.

Mr.Speigelman shared with us the cogs of how the comic strip industry operates from what advantage point an individual would be positioned in the food chain as to if he or she would be better off trying to break in the comic strip syndicates rather than the comic book industry itself simply because the syndicates are known to pay better. Mr. Speigelman was also kind enough to let us in on a little trade secret about the comic book industry is a major Jewish American industry, created to be more popular than the garment industry and that EC Horror comics were probably the American Jewish response to the Holocaust.

And what partial wisdom did Mr.Speigelman reveal on the current state of the industry besides the comic book stores being nothing but a gathering of Rosicrucians on a Wednesday afternoon? Glad you asked. Mr.Speigelman articulately pointed out that there is a future for a graphic novel section in bookstores, but what the general public doesn’t understand that it takes an artist years to accumulate a piece of work to be collected in graphic novel format. A star is not indeed born overnight. Mr. Speigelman concluded his lecture by saying comic books need protection from libraries and museums in order to preserve into the next century.

 

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