Sunday, July 15, 2012

Visit to San Francisco

I went to San Francisco at the end of May with my mom. She went for a conference on Latin America, so I had most mornings and afternoons free. And what did I do, given hours upon hours to explore San Francisco? Explore the city's comics culture, of course. 

On the first day I went to the Cartoon Art Museum. The museum isn't large, but a surprisingly large quantity and range of exhibits was packed in without feeling cluttered. The Avenger's exhibit, featuring art spanning from Jack Kirby (1960) to Frank Cho (2007), was surprisingly enjoyable, although I usually disregard superhero comics. Maybe the hokey 60's dialogue featured in a Hulk/ Iron Man fight  caught my attention: "Get out of the way you rust-pot before I peel that armor off you like a tin can." 

"La Raza Comica," an exhibit featuring Latino-American experience in comic art, is apparently one of the first large-scale shows in the country to showcase the contributions of Latino artists in comics. Spain Rodriguez, Grasiela Rodriguez, Mario Hernandez, Lalo Alcatraz, and Isis Rodriguez each displayed original art or pages from their comics. There always exists the danger that exhibits with ethnic orientation will end up focusing on kitschy aspects of culture to make it more recognizable to the general public. In this regard, the Cartoon Art Museum's choice of work was a relief. The exhibit showcased political cartoons, superheroes, and anecdotal comics.

The poster for the exhibit

By Lalo Alcaraz
By Jaime Crespo
The museum also managed to pack in a Mad Magazine retrospective with original covers, pages from Jeffrey Brown's new book "Darth Vader and Son," and a history of comic art from 1750 to the present. 

On my second day in San Francisco, I walked to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to check out  Comix Experience. I asked the clerk for a recommendation, something written by someone in San Francisco, and he suggested Julia Wertz's Fart Party, a hilarious autobiographical comic. 

I have a few friends from college living in the Bay Area and I met up with Sophia (pictured below). Her boyfriend Neil has an amazing comics collection and works at Kayo Books. Kayo specializes in vintage smut and sci-fi. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Comics: Philosophy and Practice

From left: W.J.T. Mitchell and Spiegelman 

Comics: Philosophy and Practice (CPP) marked a turning point in my life as a researcher. If it’s not too dramatic, I’d like to say that the conference created a B(efore)CPP and an A(fter)CPP. What CPP did that no other event had accomplished previously, is show me what an academic comics-oriented career looks like and that Chicago is an epicenter for the field. Hillary Chute, an English professor at the University of Chicago, organized the conference, moderated panels, and enlisted a number of other professors to lead discussions. I doubt I was the only person that coveted her job.

So, why was this conference so mind-blowing/life changing/amazing?

  • The guests: While at the conference, one of the speakers made an observation. The participants were staying at a hotel downtown and all took the same bus to Hyde Park. If something were to happen to the bus, the alternative comics world would lose all of its superstars. That bus contained R. Crumb, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Lynda Barry, Daniel Clowes, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Charles Burns, Seth, Alison Bechdel, and Joe Sacco among others. It’s a rare occasion when all of these people are in the same city, and an extraordinary one where they are in the same room.

From left: Chute, Burns, Clowes, Seth, and Ware
  • The talks: On Friday, I heard Spiegelman’s “What the %$#! Happened to Comics” where he spoke about his career trajectory and the evolution of comics from the lowest art to being praised by academics. One would think that might be a positive thing, but Spiegelman lamented the loss of the vulgar. Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s one-on-one discussion with Kristen Schilt gave a new perspective to her work from her start in the underground to teaching classes in France. “Graphic Novel Forms Today” with Ware, Seth, Clowes, and Burns was my favorite talk because these creators formed my comics aesthetic and the publishing process fascinates me. All of these authors give special attention to how their comics are formatted. Clowes’ decision to choose a thick, cardboard cover for Wilson was an attempt to protect him from the outside world. Cornell Boxes inspired Chris Ware’s next project, which contains a narrative told across books and foldouts. I wanted to ask them if cost and affordability was an issue when considering formatting.

  • The people: I was volunteering, so I got to meet other comics fanatics and have good discussions. I also met the owner of Quimby’s and Chicago Comics and interviewed him today. Look for a post about that in the next month.

I’m glad, that of all the places I could have ended up, I live in Chicago. I knew before that it had a strong reputation as a bastion of comics in the Midwest, but after CPP, I think it’s going to receive attention worldwide. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cruisin' Costumes at the C2E2

C2E2, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, is the first mainstream comics event I've attended. I guess you could count Crack Bang Boom in Rosario, but compared to C2E2, it was small potatoes. C2E2 was held in McCormick Place. To put it in perspective, this is the same location where the NATO conferences took place. Comics conferences, meeting of world leaders. Practically the same thing. C2E2 lasted three days, but I only had the stamina and money for one. I spent most of the time walking around with friends, checking out merchandise, comics, and tattoo booths and the costumes. Enjoy pictures and commentary of the event:

The McCormick Place entrance hallway.

With Max in the main conference hall. Don't our swanky passes make us look super official?

People in costumes, milling about.

Zombies on stilts? These were some of the best and most elaborate costumes I saw during the conference. 

Hunger Games costumes!

And what would a comics conference be without the Disney Princesses?
Renaissance ladies. 
Now that I've posted these photos, I see a distinct theme: lots of poofy, fancy dresses. Most people were dressed up as superheroes or characters displaying an excessive amount of cleavage, but poofy dresses apparently attracted my attention the most. 

This woman was getting a tattoo. I passed by her multiple times over a four hour period. Why would you go to a comics conference to get a tattoo?

At the end of the conference. So tired. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Prodigal Daughter Returns

Comics: Philosophy and Practice Auditorium

I’m back.

The past few months have been intensely busy, and my time has been filled with an exciting, but exhausting internship at a political campaign. In the few hours I haven’t been interning, I’ve been applying to graduate school in Latin America, writing papers for conferences, and preparing to take terrifying tests. And that left very little time for comics. I’ve been back almost three months, but only just today checked a comic out of the library.

But, to be honest, it wasn’t just the lack of time that caused this distance from comics. After a year of studying, I wasn’t able to enjoy them anymore. I was burnt out. Contributing to this malaise was the fact that during two of the past three months unhappiness from leaving Argentina, unemployment (I’m an unpaid intern), and the intense and painful introspection that comes with thinking about the future put me in a foul mood. I though, maybe, the comics period of my life was over. (Yes, yes. A bit dramatic, I know.)

But this past weekend’s Comics: Philosophy and Practice, a three-day long academic comics conference at the University of Chicago, reinvigorated me. First of all, I was volunteering and got to meet a bunch of thoughtful, like-minded comics fans. Then, the conference included panels and interviews with some of my favorite illustrators, like R. Crumb, Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Seth, Daniel Clowes, Joe Sacco, Charles Burns, and Aileen Kominsky-Crumb. And finally, the conference gave me hope that I might find a way to pursue comics academically. The organizer, Hillary Chute, is a professor at the University of Chicago and writes extensively on graphic novels. An academic field exists for studying comics, and given the good turnout, I think it will be growing in the near future.

So, inspired by comics, I write again. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Missing Argentina, but at least I have the Chicago Zine Fest

Leaving Argentina and all my friends in the comics community was quite painful. I spent the past year getting to know exciting people, learning about their lives and reading works that they’ve spent time and energy creating. When I started going to events last April, I didn’t know anyone, but the crowd was friendly and eventually I had a network of acquaintances. I wouldn’t have traded this sense of community for anything in the world. But, wait, I did. I left Argentina for the United States.

I went to the Chicago Zine Fest this past weekend and realized that I am exactly where I was last year, but this time I’m in Chicago. Zinesters (or fanzineros) have an intricate, interwoven community that I know absolutely nothing about. At first glance, most people seem pretty friendly, but probably have relationships that began years ago when they were angsty teenagers, eager to write. Do I feel discouraged, starting from square one? I still have my researcher status because I’ve been working on a report for Viñetas Series comparing income sources for Argentine and American comics creators. I do honestly want to learn about how the Chicago comics scene works. My impressions so far are favorable. Unlike in Argentina, there is a large female presence. One reason given for this is that in mainstream media there is a lack of publishing by and about women. Self-publishing offers an opportunity to people not given a voice by conventional publishing companies. Along this note, there was also a large queer community. It’s quite different from the Argentine comics community.

I started by talking with people who have done exciting things in the Chicago zine scene. Anne Elizabeth Moore, a decades-long zine creator, academic, and former Fulbright recipient, participated in an interesting talk about gender, race, and sexuality in zine culture. I spoke with her afterwards about fanzine culture in Argentina in the 90’s and later bought her book about her Fulbright teaching Indonesian women how to create zines. Sarah Becan hosted one of the workshops I attended and presented about her experiences publishing a compilation of her zines through Kickstarter. Kikstarter is a “funding platform for creative projects.” Basically, you submit a proposal and random people on the Internet send you money if they like the project. It is an alternative way of self-publishing comics that otherwise would not be able to exist. In terms of my research, Kickstarter offers a new opportunity for artists seeking to be published.

Zine Fest came at a moment when I was greatly missing Argentina. Even though I don’t know anyone and have to start over, I’m glad there is something in Chicago I can look forward to and enjoy.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicago Zine Fest

As many of you know, I am now back in Chicago. I deeply miss Argentina and all of my friends there, but I am also somewhat happy to be home. I am going to continue studying and writing about comics. This weekend is the Annual Chicago Zine Fest. A zine (or fanzine in Argentina) is a self-published comic. Apparently the Zine Fest also includes small and independent publishers.

If you're interested in learning more, go to the website:

And I'll be writing a bit about my impressions of the Fest when it's over.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

La historieta contemporánea argentina desde una perspectiva económica

(please scroll down for english version)

Charla y proyección a cargo de Claire Denton Spalding

En el Muelle Flotante* de

La Dársena_Plataforma de Pensamiento e Interacción Artística

presentamos el jueves 22 de febrero de 2012, a las 19:30 hrs a:

la investigadora norteamericana Claire Denton Spalding

Claire Denton-Spalding ha pasado un año en Argentina con una beca Fulbright estudiando la historieta argentina desde un punto de vista económico. Ha asistido numerosos congresos de la historieta y entrevistado a 30 guionistas, dibujantes, periodistas, editores independientes y dueños de comiquerías no sólo en Buenos Aires, sino también en Córdoba y la Patagonia.

Claire hablará y proyectará sus experiencias y los hallazgos de su investigación en Plataforma La Dársena. También será una forma de despedirse hasta el año que viene, ya que Claire regresa a Chicago a fines de febrero.

*El Muelle Flotante es el lugar de Plataforma La Dársena para la cooperación artística, el diálogo, la difusión y las presentaciones de artistas y asociaciones locales e internacionales. Está abierto a recepción de proyectos (presentaciones de libros, videoproyecciones, charlas) y funciona también por invitación.

Miércoles 22, 19:30 hrs. Entrada gratuita.

La Dársena_Plataforma de de Pensamiento e Interacción Artística

Mario Bravo 298, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dirección: Azul Blaseotto y Eduardo Molinari


An economic perspective on contemporary argentinian comic

Screening and talk and with Claire Denton Spalding


La Dársena_Plataforma de Pensamiento e Interacción Artística

The Dock_Platform of Thinking and Artistic Interaction

we present on tuesday the of february at 19:30

the northamerican comic searcher Claire Denton Spalding

Claire Denton-Spalding spent the past year studying the economic aspects of the Argentine comic with a Fulbright Grant. She has attended numerous comics conferences and conducted interviews with thirty writers, artists, journalists, independent publishers, and comic store owners from not only Buenos Aires, but Córdoba and Patagonia as well. On February 22nd, she will present her experiences and findings at La Dársena Platform. It will also be a way of saying goodbye until next year because Claire will be returning to Chicago at the end of February.

On the Floating Quay Claire D-S will present a summary of her investigation in Argentina, whose name is the title of this show.

*The Floating Quay is a permanent section of La Dársena: the place for artistic cooperation, dialogue, diffusion, and presentations by local and international artists and organizations. Floating Quay Works by invitation, but is also open to receiving projects (book presentations, videoprojections, talks).

+ about Claire:

Wednesday 22th. february at 19:30 hrs. Free entrance

La Dársena_Plataforma de de Pensamiento e Interacción Artística

Mario Bravo 298, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Dock_Platform of Thinking and Artistic Interaction

is a cultural and activist space, a dialogic-critical tool in Buenos Aires. Here we develope collective processual practices of contemporary art and thought in context. We create transdiciplinary networks, pedagogical projects and art methods based researchs. We realize non-profit activities, based on solidarity and reciprocity, looking for more cultural biodiversity, social incidence and communitarian Buen Vivir / Good Living. We encourage the continued blurring of aesthetic and political borders, the expansion of glocal debate and dialogue.

Concept / Direction: Azul Blaseotto & Eduardo Molinari