I met Harvey Pekar at a book signing a few months before his death. When I handed him my copy of The Beats, I said “Your work got me interested in comics and now the United States government is paying me to study comics in Argentina.” He smiled, wrote “Good luck in Argentina” on the first page of my book, and then moved on to the next person.
That much-practiced one-liner refers to a research Fulbright award I received to go study the market for the graphic novel in Argentina. I won’t go into the details of the highly stressful process of applying or the stressful months of waiting for a reply. That is a very, very long story. Instead, in this post I will talk generally about my Fulbright grant and what I am going to do.
My project title “Emergence of the Graphic Novel as Mainstream Literature” was a title that took weeks to emerge. My abstract concisely describes this project:
“The Argentine graphic novel defines generations through culturally relevant themes. It is now transitioning to a respected literary form through academic and financial support by universities and governments. I will investigate the conditions necessary for economic and literary viability. My project includes researching at the University of Buenos Aires, interviewing academics, printers and authors, and travelling to provincial communities of artists and writers.”
Some of the highlights and goals for the project:
*Join the research group Historiography of the Argentine Comic as a North American investigator
*Take academic classes on the graphic novel with professor Laura Vazquez and artistic classes at Escuela Argentina de la Historieta
* Attend comic festivals throughout the country
* Teach children the basics of comic creation through the program LIFE Argentina
*Interview writers, artists, critics, owners of comic book stores, and heads of publishing companies
I’ve had a lot of people ask if this project has anything to do with my future career plans. It was classified under “History, Modern,” but really involves economics, art history, history, and literature. Perhaps I will go to business school? Work in the publishing industry? Marketing? I’ll let you know a year from now.