Atonement notwithstanding, comics are where it’s at book-wise — as the L.A. Times Festival of Books Graphic Novels panel proved.
Moderated by Deborah Vankin of Metromix, lots of people turned out for the panel. Including one of our spies:
It was pretty straightforward. (and hot, as the air conditioning was broken). Panelists were Jaime Hernandez (1/2 the Hernandez Brothers whose “Love and Rockets” has been a big, big influencer of indie comics in this country, Joe Matt (‘Peepshow’) and Cecil Castellucci (‘Plain Janes’).
It was a good representation of the indie publishers (Fantagraphics for Jaime, and Drawn and Quarterly for Joe) versus more mainstream (DC Comics for Vankin and Cecil). Lots of differing opinions/perspectives but the overall ‘unifying thread’ was an affection for the genre and agreement as to how difficult/complex it is to create! And how graphic novels are generally “misunderstood’ by the mainstream media and public was a theme (i.e., they’re not just for kids… they’re not porn!… and they’re not easy to whip up/create.)
Also discussed: the recent explosion of graphic novels and manga… how the genre is becoming accepted as a credible literary medium and a way to tell all kinds of stories, not just superhero stories. Like literary memoirs (Fun Home, Alison Bechdel) and Persepolis or the forthcoming Period Piece set in 1920s called Incognegro, by Matt Young. Etc.
Jaime told some interesting stories about growing up with comics in his house — they were always around! His mom helped cultivate his pride in the genre– and Cecil spoke about witnessing a terrorist bombing when she was a kid and how that scene made it’s way into her recent book Plain Janes. Joe talked a little about struggling with writers block and how he’s taking notes for his next book, which will be about his experiences in LA.
All the panelists agreed L.A. was one of the best cities to create art in these days. But that there wasn’t a central or easily accessible “comics scene” for comic creators.