So yesterday was a rather great day, but today was even better. Because today, I got to meet with titans.
The first titan: Craig Thompson.
Thompson is a graphic novelist, and I mean that in the literal sense. He writes dense epics of incisive writing coupled with brilliant, gorgeous, lush artwork that evokes utterly human experience.
His main claims to fame are his 2003 autobiographical work Blankets and his 2011 foray into fiction, Habibi.
Blankets, a gorgeous, tragic coming-of-age story, is what broke Thompson through, winning him 3 Harvey Awards, 2 Eisner Awards–including, I learned today, the last Eisner ever personally awarded by Will Eisner himself–and 2 Ignatz Awards, but Habibi, nominated for 2 Eisner awards currently, has really catapulted him to fame, being positively reviewed by Time and other publications.
I attended 2 panels with him today–one that was half interview and half Q&A, another that was basically him explaining his creative process with a brief Q&A at the end–and an art gallery reception with a signing.
But it was at the start of all this that I think I’ll remember forever. I was sitting next to my friend Abby, who was assigned to be Thompson’s student escort, right up front in the lecture hall. Thompson–and I don’t know this was of his own volition or because my professor who interviewed him told him about me–came up to me, introduced himself, and we had a marvelous 10-15 minute discussion about comics and the comics world.
I told him about my paper on Carl Barks (again: more on him soon) and he was very interested in what I had to say. I will never, ever forget that.
Later, after getting in some good questions at both Q&A sessions, I went to the library and printed off a copy of my paper to give him at the art gallery reception, as well as a one-page comic I had written a while back for Transformers: Mosaic and a list of webcomics I follow, because I had heard him say to someone that he needed to catch up on his webcomics. Don’t worry, these two were included.
I gave them to him at the art gallery, which had an exhibition of original pages from both Habibi and Blankets. The cool thing about the signing line is, he personally sketched in your book(s), personalized it to you, and let you talk to him while he was doing it.
He seemed really psyched when I gave him my paper, and genuinely pleased about the sample of my work and thrilled with the webcomics list I made him. He made the front page of my copy of Habibi even more beautiful than it already was.
Overall, Thompson is a remarkable creative force and a wonderful man who made me feel like loving comics is the best thing one can do. And that’s the best.
The second titan was this man:
That would be legendary folk/rock singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who performed a concert about 3 hours after I left Thompson’s signing table.
I didn’t know what to expect, really, not knowing that much about his music, but I was blown away. The reasons Cockburn is so venerated, especially in his native Canada, is because of his thoughtful lyrics, masterful guitar playing, and soaring vocals. All of these were in place tonight, despite the concert being rather late, at 9:00 at night, and with Cockburn being over middle-aged.
He was masterful in an all-acoustic setting, and I eagerly jumped in the signing line after the show.
Now, I should mention that earlier this week, I wrote a review of Cockburn’s classic 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, which I probably will post at some point. It was published in our school newspaper today and, having a copy at hand, I wanted to give it to him.
I approached the signing table, had him sign a flyer, told him how wonderful he was, and started to give him the review and explain about it.
“Oh,” he said, smiling at me. “I read that in the hotel this morning. (Calvin has a hotel, the Prince Conference Center, on its campus.) Great job!” he said.
I’m still trying to decide whether that–the fact that a musical icon liked my review of his work–or meeting and connecting with a superstar graphic novelist made my day the most. I like to think they both did.