Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Very Fierro Week

Rocketbooks Comic Fair and the Parque Centenario

On Saturday I went to Rocketbooks, a monthly fair that features used comics imported from the United States. The tiny room was boiling hot, filled to the brim with fan boys and superhero comics. It was the closest thing to hell I have encountered yet on this earth. (Kidding! Argentine fan boys are much more interesting and attractive than their USA counterparts.) I recommend this place for Argentines that like superheroes and enjoy looking through boxes of comics. Even though I ended up buying some second run Fierro comics at a reasonable price, I probably won't go back. It isn't my scene.

Afterwards, I went with Guillermo (a classmate from Diego’s workshop) to the fairs at Parque Centenario and found...a whole new genre of comic. As a child, Tintin fascinated me. The plots, drawings, and characters helped form a love of comics that lasts until this day. So naturally, when I came across La Vida Sexual de Tintin, a porno comic featuring all the characters from the series paired off in interesting ways, I bought it. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be traumatizing!

Fierro a Fierro

The University of Buenos Aires Social Sciences

On Monday, I went to an exhibition of pages and covers from the magazine Fierro, curated by Laura Vazquez, my adviser and teacher. The pages were not originals, but blown up, printed, and mounted. Usually, when I go to exhibitions, I get involved in a conversation within minutes of arriving and don’t get to actually see the artwork. Well, I got half way through the show when my friend Hernán saw me and invited me over to talk.

Remember that story about the six men in the cabin in Lobos? Apparently that story has become legend in the Argentine comics world. Anyway, most of those men were there and I got to hear them speak about their work during the show’s opening presentation. Diego Agrimbau, the moderator, asked the group of artists and writers if they had read the first run of Fierro and how they felt about publishing in the second run. As children or young adults, most of them had read the Fierro, but only a few dreamed of publishing their stories in the magazine. An interest in comics from a young age was a unifying factor. Facial hair was the other common bond. A word of advice to all the young men out there: if you want to publish in the Fierro, a beard/moustache/goatee is a must.

From left to right: Angel Mosquito, Max Aguirre, Federico Reggiani, Calvi, Dante Ginevra, Gustavo Sala, and Diego Agrimbau

Monday, May 16, 2011

La Feria del Libro

La Feria del Libro is basically book lover's hell. You pay money to get in, battle with thousands of slow-moving people to see the merchandise, then pay for overpriced books. And I went for three days. In a row. Am I a masochist?

Nope. I was just attending the “Congreso Internacional de Promoción de la Lectura y el Libro.” If anyone wants to go to the Feria del Libro for a few days in a row, I recommend signing up for a conference. It costs about $35 pesos for a three days ($15 pesos/day is the usual rate if you aren’t a student), you don’t have to wait in line to get a ticket (the wait can be up to 45 minutes), and you get a 20% discount on everything because with the special conference pass, people mistake you for a teacher. And, besides all those benefits, some of the talks are quite interesting. One talk, “La publicidad y sus herramientas para conquistar lectores,” was about using advertising methods to encourage readership. The lecturer, Ariel Abadi, advised moving away from tired clichés about reading to new techniques that incorporate other types of media. One example he suggested was having publishing companies create playlists for certain books. It might be interesting to see how these advertising techniques could be applied to promoting readership of comics.

Quite a few comics events took place that weekend. Gustavo Sala presented his book Bife Angosto 2 and then played a few songs with his band Los Dentistas Tristes. We were able to see a projection of his initial sketches and then the final, finished comic strip. He is also a pretty amazing singer. After that, I went to a presentation of De Amor, De Locura y De Muerte, a graphic adaptation of Horacio Quiroga’s book.

Anyway, just writing about this fair makes me feel tired, so I’m going to end with some pictures of the event. No matter how much I complain about the fair, I recommend going. It is the third largest book fair in the world and is an interesting topic of conversation.

The Feria del Libro took place at La Rural, a place where most large fairs are held.

A lecture given by librarians.

Some of the comics stands at the Feria

All the books I bought

Gustavo Sala signing my book.

Minute Reviews

Dante Elefante by J.J. Rovella

Colección Aventuras Dibujadas

Domus Editorial

I met J.J. Rovella while interviewing La Banda Dibujada (reflections on the interview are soon to be posted). The day after the interview, I bought Dante Elefante, a children’s comic about a blue elephant that has quite an active life—he falls in love, dies, does sports and tries to lose weight. My favorite aspect of the comic is the way Rovella recognizes the physical constraints of a comic (the panels, text bubbles, the space a comic occupies) and plays with them in a clever way. For example, Dante jumps off a diving board and is so heavy he breaks through the panel and off the page. In another scene, he sneezes while trying to read the newspaper, blowing it to pieces. After diligently taping the newspaper back together, we find that the end of the comic strip we are reading has been mis-taped and features another cartoon. Rovella creates comics acknowledging and then disregarding the limitations of a typical comic strip, challenging us as readers to think outside the panel.

The above images are from J.J. Rovella's blog. Check it out for more Dante Elefante comics!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Loss and Inspiration

I have no experience writing or talking about death. I know the words of condolences that people offer, but these phrases feel so stiff and overused. The writer Carlos Trillo died, and my friends in the Argentine comics community are mourning. For many of them, he was a companion and colleague as well as an admired and popular writer. I don’t know how to console them, so I listen to their memories about this man that guided them and had such a profound impact on their lives. When talking about Trillo, they lament the fact that I will never get to meet him and learn from him, like they did. I wish I could have got to know the man that wrote so many of my favorite comics, but in terms of inspiration, Trillo has already changed my life. It was through his words that I came up with the idea for my Fulbright project.

It was the talk “Carlos Trillo y Sus Dibujantes” at Viñetas Sueltas in 2009 that made me aware of the economic aspect of the comic book world. At this point in my life, I had given up sending ideas to Donald Andrew, the Fulbright Adviser at Smith College, because he had vetoed every single idea I proposed for a possible Fulbright project. I attended Viñetas Sueltas solely because of a growing interest in Argentine comics. My favorite comics at the time were Clara de Noche and Las Puertitas de Señor López, two comics written by Carlos Trillo, and so I decided to attend his talk. Trillo spoke about working abroad for Spanish companies because of the multiple domestic crises and limited Argentine market. He spoke extremely honestly about these financial and personal matters. And beyond that, he was funny and engaging, really connecting with the audience. Before hearing Trillo speak, I had no idea how comic book artists and writers lived. His experiences conveyed the complexities of living life in Argentina as an artist. After the talk, I went home and sent Donald Andrews an idea for a project about an economic analysis of the graphic novel industry. That one idea, out of many, was accepted and eventually resulted in my grant.

So I, like my friends here in the comics world, want to express my gratitude to Carlos Trillo for being so forthcoming about these challenges and being the catalyst for my investigation. Although I didn’t have the pleasure of studying with him or becoming his friend, I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to tales of him as told by his many admirers and to learn about the profound impact he had on the comics community.