My project is both amazing and terrifying at the same time. Amazing, because I get to study and talk about comics all the time, and terrifying, because my project requires being social. At the Fede Pazos show, for example, I went in without knowing anyone and hung out until someone started talking to me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love being social. I have no problem going somewhere and starting conversations with random people. But meeting a lot of new people at once can be extremely stressful. Sometimes this social aspect of my project made me feel so nervous that I almost wished I had a job working in a lab, like one of the other Fulbrighters. The EHH conference was a relief. As my description of the weekend shows, the people I met in Lobos were kind, funny, and interesting.
Friday night was sort of a bummer. I arrived at 4 pm and had to leave at 9:30pm because returning to Buenos Aires was cheaper than renting a hotel room. Laura refused to let me do that on Saturday and so I agreed to stay with one of the invitees. The one highlight of Friday night (besides the actual event) was that I got to meet Gustavo Sala and Lucas Varela, two comics creators that I have been reading (and have been continually disturbed by) since coming to Argentina in 2008. Varela, although claiming an affinity with Paolo Pinocchio, seemed to be a nice, relaxed guy. Sala was entertaining and seemed to have a lot in common with his comics. I was so sad when I had to leave, but knew I was coming back on Saturday.
I arrived at 4pm on Saturday, a few hours before the conference started, to meet up with Rosty (a friend from Laura’s seminar) and Paz (Rosty’s friend), two of the few fans that had arrived from Buenos Aires. We took the mandatory visit to Juan Peron’s childhood home and walked around a bit. Eventually, we wandered over to the Sociedad Española and I ran into Fran López, comics creator, rapper, and the only person I talked to at Fede Pazos show. We mosied on over to the Club Social Lobense for the round table discussions. (I’ll write about that part of the weekend in a later post.)
After the conferences, a few of the artists signed books and drew pictures. I hung out and ate fruit with Paz while Rosty walked around greeting artists. He had been after a drawing by Eduardo Risso for months, but Risso had refused every time. And with reason, Risso is meticulous. After conceding to Rosty’s request, Risso first sketched with pencil, then traced with pen, and finally filled in the shadows, taking at least fifteen minutes.
Meeting Risso was exciting. Before coming to Argentina, I read the work of two Argentine artists: Quino and Risso. Risso is the artist of 100 Bullets and is probably the only person I can mention in the United States who will make comic fanatics jealous. So, goaded by Laura, I finally asked Risso to draw me a picture of an evil character. Risso drew with such precision that everyone had left for dinner before he finished.
I was allowed into post-conference gala dinner because the cartoonist Eduardo Maicas confused/sweet talked the doorman into letting me into the building. The dinner was a monthly community fundraiser hosted in the main room of Ayuda a la Familia y al Niño’s boarding school. I was lucky enough to sit next to Sala and Maicas, and across from Noe and his wife. Throughout the night, children begging for drawings accosted these three artists and I got to see their creation process. Sala had been drawing pictures of a woman licking her own breast, so when a pigtailed muchkin approached him with a notepad, I was a bit apprehensive. He drew a cat jumping on a trampoline. *whew*
At the end of the night, we finally got around to the topic of where I was going to spend the night. It was decided, seemingly randomly, that I was going to stay at a cabin in the middle of nowhere with six men that I had just met: Federico Reggiani, Angel Mosquito, Fran López, Fabian Zalazar, Max Aguierre, and Hernán Cañellas. I was not afraid in the slightest (uncharacteristically) mainly because these men thought I was terrified and tried to calm me by repeatedly telling me not to be frightened. If I felt any apprehension spending the night with six random men, it disappeared completely when we got to the cabin and played…dominoes. The least scary game. Ever. And at the end of the night, they ended up giving me an entire room to myself.
The next morning was so relaxing, I’ve decided to become an Argentine artist in my next lifetime. They hung out, talked about cars (a conversation I could follow only because they inserted funny anecdotes), and made an amazing asado. One of the most interesting parts of my stay was the discussion we had about comics. We had to name our top five comics and then suffer the ridicule or approval of the others. Maus and Corto Maltes were two of the most popular choices. Being in a group of people where the participants can even name five comics is a rarity in my life, so hearing a lively debate about the merits of certain comics was like being in heaven.
During the day, I talked with Federico Reggiani and Angel Mosquito about “Tristeza,” a comic they are currently publishing in Fierro. “Tristeza” is about a world where a disease that causes people to become sad has decimated the population. Years later, the survivors have formed a semi-stable society. I am fascinated by the way that Reggiani and Mosquito imagine the details of the daily life of the survivors. The TV is a cardboard frame with drawn-on dials. Condoms have expired, making sex an obvious risk for pregnancy. Children from the neighborhood create the newspaper’s cartoons. Most of the post-apocalyptic comics I’ve read touch very little on how people would actually live, instead focusing on fighting, gore, or interpersonal power plays.
At the end of the day, they drove me back to Lobos so I could attend the closing of the conference. We stopped at Juan Peron’s childhood home to walk around and take pictures of Peron’s family relics. The guys left and as I wandered around the town, I realized Lobos is extremely boring when you are not hanging out with people. And so I took the next bus back to Buenos Aires.