|salam à la comics||October 1st, 2012|
My trip to Jordan turned out to be was the most fulfilling possible conclusion to HABIBI book tour. It was hosted by the US Embassy in Amman; worth noting as a reminder that our government cares about the arts (and graphic novels!) and sees them as a vehicle for cultural exchange. This turned out, however, to be a difficult & chaotic time for US Embassies in the Middle East, beginning with the attacks in Libya. It was an unsettling surprise, two days after my arrival, to learn that HABIBI was on the banned books list. And it was surreal to be ferried around in an armored vehicle, past security checkpoints, to roomfuls of adorable children brimming with creative energy, while elsewhere in the region, violence was breaking out over an internet video.
During a two week stay, I conducted graphic novel workshops to three entirely different groups, each with their own inspiring dynamics. The first were deaf children (ages 5 – 20) at The Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt, Jordan. These kids were a bit baffled by the concept of comics (perhaps even drawing) on the first day of classes, but by the third day, they were churning out comics with wild abandon. The institute is a boarding school, and the theme of missing one’s family was a common one in many of their stories, but the concurrent theme was that of gratitude towards finding an extended family they could actually communicate with.
Through comics, these kids proved quite eloquent with word balloons, sound effects and visual music. My favorite exercise was a pairing up of students – boy/girl, young/old – in which one student signed a story and the other translated it into comics form on a board in front of the class.
The second batch of workshops was with inner city youth – teens and university students – at the Princess Basma Youth Resource Center Computer Clubhouse. They channeled passions for music, graffiti, writing, architecture, and even computers into comics pages, collaborating on an anthology conceived and drawn in only three days — a pretty impressive display of constructive teamwork. If only I’d been so focused at that age! The girls (above left) are refugees from Syria and amazingly prolific cartoonists. They talked of creating a graphic novel to document their experience fleeing their war-torn homeland. The world needs this book to exist!
In the final workshops (below) held at Mlabbas – a hipster t-shirt shop on Rainbow Street in Amman – we gathered professional artists with specific interest in graphic novels. It was refreshing to be around like-minded, similar-aged peers without a language barrier, and also to witness the outset of a burgeoning comics scene. Every single meal we shared was an AMAZING FEAST! The media paints a bleak outlook for the region, but there is a visceral optimism around the arts and self-expression and the medium of comics.
Finally, despite the banning, we were able to organize a bookstore signing where I met HABIBI fans from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. These two fans (below right) had only recently left their homes in Iraq. Readers found the book’s ban quite arbitrary, and felt it corresponded with a time of public frustration towards increasing government censorship in Jordan. Many Muslim readers thanked me specifically for the reverent depiction of their faith in HABIBI.
At the Holy Land Institute in Salt, there were children who were not only deaf, but blind. They and their teachers labored so intently, against all odds, towards dialogue and understanding. Humans need communication. Art is a privilege, a great responsibility, and a necessity.
Thank you to the US Embassy and to their program that has represented music, theater, and dance for specifically requesting a graphic novelist this time around. And thank you to all my amazing new friends in Jordan for their generosity and inspiration. Keep making comics!
In other news, thank you, Blog-readers for the birthday wishes. And thank you to those I met at the National Book Festival in Washington DC, the official end-cap to touring. Special congratulations to Mike who proposed and Becky who accepted while waiting in line for the signing. The engagement ring was embedded in a carved out copy of BLANKETS!
|air jordan||September 4th, 2012|
It’s been a full year of touring with HABIBI, and this week takes me to what feels like a pinnacle – the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. While there, I’ll be conducting comics workshops with deaf children at the Holy Land Institute in Salt city, youth at the Princess Basma Youth Resource Center in Amman, and an elite group of Jordanian graphic novelists. This promises to be a life-changing experience; and I’ll be sure to bring home drawings/stories for the blog.
Enticing invites keep pouring in from all over the world; but I’m feeling growing pressure and obligation to get home to the drawing board and start producing new comics pages! My plan is to travel nowhere for October – my first month of not flying since this time last year.
|flood fund-raiser||August 10th, 2012|
Hello, Blog-Readers, and thanks as always for your patience. As you certainly can relate, the summer months are chaos.
First off, it was a treat to see many of you at San Diego Comic-con, and thanks to the comic industry for awarding HABIBI an Eisner for Best Writer/Artist. Here’s a con photo with a great group of fans from the Philippines.
The Philippines have recently been hit hard by monsoon season flooding, and members of the comics community have started a fundraiser for aid, relief, and medical assistance for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. As part of this, the original cover artwork for the new edition of BLANKETS has been donated. Details HERE.
As all of you know, I never sell original artwork, so this a rare exception that any piece is available. 14′x17″ India ink on Bristol board. If I have a chance, I’ll personalize a note on the back to the donor. Please, look into bidding to help raise funds for this crucial cause. Thanks!
|stormtroopers, flomgart & gluten-free beer||July 9th, 2012|
Thanks for the reminder, Jordi! The all-ages book is progressing, but still in its secret stages. What I can reveal is that I got last minute tickets to attend San Diego Comic-con this week. At 10:30 am on Friday, July 13th, I’ll be signing at the Top Shelf booth (#1721). That night, I’ll certainly be attending the Eisner Awards. And on Saturday the 14th, from 10am – noon, I’ll be presenting a writers’ workshop on ‘World-Building’ at TR!CKSTER (795 J Street, San Diego, CA). My plan is to hang around TR!CKSTER quite a bit, where they’ll be selling a super-limited-edition HABIBI screenprint – handpulled by Portland printmaking superstar Pete McCracken.
Speaking of Portland superstars, cartoonist buddy & psychedelic visionary Theo Ellsworth (above) is leaving town; so we got together for one last drawing day, and crafted an afternoon jam comic (below). FLOMGART’S DEPARTURE is inspired by Chicago’s Trubble Club sessions. For other surreal, half-baked jams on this blog, revisit those with Aaron Renier, Fabio Moon, and my brother Phil.
|home-back||May 24th, 2012|
Finally recovering from promotional travel. A token of carrying home on one’s back is this handmade Chunky Rice plush from Raquel & Ferran in Barcelona. Thanks, you two! And to Jordi & the other dedicated Spanish fans that made it out. Accompanying Chunky is a classic casualty of travel – the drowned sketchbook – reminding me of the age-old lesson to sketch in archival ink. Appropriately, most of the drawings are of airplane interiors that literally bled together after so many flights.
Along the way, I meet so many amazing people – too many to acknowledge in this small space – but foremost you readers! Seen here is my Spanish/Catalan editor Laureano & a new fave cartoonist David Rubin. Also, the charming Elvis Mitchell – an incredible interviewer that sets one at ease & draws out an honest conversation.
Some of you may recognize Laureano from my 2004 travelogue CARNET DE VOYAGE. Below, the view a block and a half from Laureano’s apartment. On the right is a snippet from my 2004 sketchbooks that never made it into print. But it’s another good reminder…
|stump down & melt town||April 26th, 2012|
Here’s a couple more events to extend last week’s list: This Saturday – April 28th – I’ll be at Portland’s own Stumptown Comics Fest, signing for the CBLDF from 1-2pm. CBLDF suggests a $10 donation, but it’s for a worthy cause. Then, the day after the Skirball event in LA, I’ll be at super cool MELTDOWN COMICS – May 11th, 7pm.
After my Barcelona & LA trips, I plan to get started drawing the “all-ages book”, but in the meantime I’m dabbling in a number of small projects – including a cover for Wisconsin buddy Tim Seeley’s farm noir series REVIVAL. A creepy sort of “X-Files meets Fargo” story set in our childhood stomping grounds of Wausau, Wisconsin. A) thumbnailed idea sketches, B) pencils, C) final inks & colors.
|team spirit||April 17th, 2012|
A 270-page thumbnail draft of my new all-ages book was completed today. About three months’ work versus two years spent on the thumbnails for HABIBI. For the new project, I scored a new $50 drafting table so that the vintage table HABIBI was drawn on can have company. That’s cartoonist buddy Farel Dalrymple in the photo joining me for a day of drawing.
This week, I’ll be at Calvin College in my home-state of Michigan for the Festival of Faith & Writing. This includes an exhibition of original art open to the public on Friday, April 20th at 6:30pm. The show runs for a week after; M-T 9am-5pm, W-F 9am-9pm, Sat 10am-4pm.
Concerning travel, I’m considering over a dozen invites from all over the world, but the only ones confirmed for now are A) Calvin’s Festival of Faith & Writing, B) the Saló Internacional del Còmic in Barcelona, Spain; May 3-6, and C) the Skirball Cultural Center in LA accompanying their Women Hold Up Half the Sky exhibition; 8pm on May 10th. And I hope to make it to this summer’s San Diego Comic-con!
|onde nouveaux deux||February 15th, 2012|
Continuing on the themes of last week’s post, you’ll find a link to my acceptance essay for the PNBA award which explains the Hokusai
Also, overlooked in that last post was a recap of London and Angoulême tour. London, as you know, is a charming city full
|new wave||February 3rd, 2012|
Home safe & sound, and desperate to take a break from travel for a while. My new babies are being neglected!
Next weekend is an easy jaunt to the Cannon Beach Book Company on the Oregon coast to give a talk and accept the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association award. Saturday, February 11th, 2pm — actually held at the library across the street from the store. I chose the location, because CBBC is an impressive book shop that’s a comfort to peruse on a rainy day at the coast, but also because Cannon Beach is a spiritual sanctuary where I’ve been nourished by the ocean in the company of friends, sea lions, probably some sharks, and occasionally sun. This painting by my dear buddy Dan Attoe perfectly captures the magic of our cozy surf cove.
Here’s another glimpse of that beach from the earliest days of this blog, five years ago. Still a good mantra: “Goonies never say die.”
|tour resumes – london & angoulême||January 12th, 2012|
The adventure continues. Next week, I’ll finally make it to the UK – at least London – for some HABIBI events.
Then it’s on to the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee in the cozy and chilly village of Angoulême, France.
An explanation of these images : There’s many overt references to classic paintings planted in HABIBI – here’s one of my favorites,