The creator of Strangers in Paradise and Echo was here last Thursday as part of the events surrounding the Jeff Smith exhibit at The Wexner Center. Initially I liked Strangers in Paradise because the women looked real and their story was interesting. I wasn’t really into superheros anymore and had long given up my fantasy that some latent power would surface and make me special. By this point I knew I was special because of who I am.
Terry talked about how he went from editing the video work of other people to drawing, writing and self-publishing his own artwork. It wasn’t an easy road but living your dream is rarely easy. He took questions from the audience before signing items and meeting fans. Like most question and answer sessions it was slow to get started but Jeff was there to pitch the first question.
Terry is one of the most gracious signers I’ve met or seen in action. He spoke to everyone in line and found something to talk about with each person. If someone asked for a picture he was willing to do that too. I’ve been to some author signings where they’re more focused on signing the book or item than actually meeting with anyone.
After the signing a group of us went to dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in town. (You can see me next to Terry or just my hands at the dinner table by going to Jeff’s site.) Good conversation and good food go a long way towards making memories. I’m not always the best conversationalist because sometimes I’ll go into writer mode without realizing it but on this particular evening I wanted to take it all in. For instance, I noticed the sound of the chef’s torch on the maple syrup creme brulee and the toasted marshmallow smell before someone commented on it.
And the really funny part? Hearing Jeff and Terry talk about having their story lines set and then veering off in an unexpected direction but having to follow it was just like hearing my writer friends talk about some of their characters and story lines. The only difference is that when the story is published in periodical format (like a comic or a serial story) there is no going back to fix the plot holes.
The last few days I’ve been busy at The Wexner Center for the Arts. In conjunction with the Cartoon Research Library, the galleries have an exhibit of his work side-by-side with his influences. Friday evening was opening night and Saturday Jeff sat down with Scott McCloud to talk and then they did signings.
Show openings are usually a poor time to look closely at the artwork. People are crowded together to get their first glimpse of how the galleries are setup and to see what was included in the show. I’ve been to a few at The Wexner Center for the Arts but this one was different. Most of the attendees were in their 30’s, the artist was accessible – as were the “celebrity” guests (celebrity is in quotes since not everyone would think of Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, Charles Vess, etc. as celebrities), and several people were running around with cameras taking pictures of everything.
The talk was fun – Jeff always seems to have a good time with his audience. It was very obvious that Jeff and Scott always have a good time together. With Bone available now in Scholastic editions the audience has skewed younger than when the comic first began. I was one of the few women attending comic book conventions and going into the comic book stores with regularity. There are more women now but when I looked at the line in front of me for autographs it was mostly parents with their kids. The signing session lasted three and a half hours.
The original art in the Cartoon Research Library is interesting to see since it highlights nearly all of the characters from Bone before Jeff figured out that he just had to trust himself and do it the way he wanted. Jeff Smith attended OSU and has donated his papers to them. The name of the exhibit in the library is Jeff Smith: Before Bone. In conjunction with the exhibit, a special $25 numbered and signed catalogue is available for purchase. Proceeds directly benefit the library. Only 500 special editions will be printed and nearly all copies were spoken for as of Saturday afternoon.
I had older brothers into comics so it was normal to me to pick up a comic book from time to time at an early age. Shortly after our move to Columbus my brothers went on a day trip with an uncle to Hocking Hills and Old Man’s Cave. I was upset I couldn’t go – I wanted to do everything they did even though they were eight and ten years older than me. I was even more upset when Jim told me they were able to see the Dwarfs and Hobbits that lived there. At the time, I believed fairies and other magical creatures lived in the woods; they just weren’t discovered by the entire human population yet.
Fast forward over a decade later to when I’m making bi-weekly trips to the comic book store with my then-boyfriend (yes – I married him!) and we discover this new comic about three Bone creatures who get run out of Boneville and find themselves in a magical placed called Old Man’s Cave. Populated by some fantastic and improbable people and creatures, how could I not become a little girl again with each issue?
I know… I know… as you’re reading this you are probably wondering if I ever go to any author readings or if I’m just on the sidelines when movie directors come to town. As a matter of fact, I get to do both; I just haven’t been to an author reading in a while.
Last Friday I saw Milos Forman’s first American movie, Taking Off, at the Wexner Center for the Arts. He was there to introduce the film and afterwards he participated in a discussion. I had no idea what to expect from the evening and I must say it was amazing.
Going into the event, I had no familiarity with the movie but I knew the basic plot. It was a very funny movie. Early scenes led into later jokes. It was a bit like life in that respect.
Milos’ English wasn’t very good yet and after every scene he would look at Buck Henry. If Buck Henry nodded his head, Milos moved on to the next scene. If Buck Henry shook his head, then Milos complimented everyone and asked for another take. When asked if Milos considered himself an independent filmmaker his response was, “I don’t think so… I have a wife and four children!” After much laughter he continued, “Other than that… yes.”
Someone from the audience asked him which films or filmmakers influenced him. Prior to the war, he’d only seen two movies. The first was Snow White and sadly, he didn’t name the second one. It was a silent black and white movie of Czechoslovakia’s most famous opera. The lights went down, the movie played on the screen and everyone around him was singing it. He thought everyone went to the movies and sang.
Milos shared why James Cagney agreed to do the part in Ragtime, seeing Hair performed for the first time on stage, and how it’s preferable to have a Communist government ban a film for life (though it was only twenty years in actuality) than to have the studio heads edit and release a film. It was very much like listening to a beloved uncle or grandfather. The pictures he puts in your head from his stories are even better than what he puts on film.
Last Friday (a week ago) I attended a screening of Snow Angels where the director, David Gordon Green, introduced the film and then took questions afterwards. I often recommend his movie, Undertow, to other writers that want to get into a literary frame of mind.
Snow Angels is based on the novel of the same name written by Stewart O’Nan. This was the first writing job he’d been brought in to adapt a novel for someone else. As often happens with the movies, some personnel changes happened (such as the director), and Dave picked it up. It was only natural since he knew the material so intimately. Dave’s approach to movies is to use the script as a guideline and allow improvisation. For instance, Sam Rockwell’s last lines in the movie were improvised by Sam. Dave got such a chill from the character that could see a light at the end of the tunnel that it stayed in the final edits.
I thought the film showed a softer side to Kate Beckinsale than we’ve seen in a while. Most of the knowledge about her part comes from the experience and worries of being a mom. While Dave, as a single person with no kids, can’t know those experiences and worries, he could create a dialogue with Kate about them. Apparently, Sam Rockwell liked to listen to music between takes.
Seeing Dave on stage answering questions, speaking with people afterwards, and getting to meet with him long enough to exchange a few sentences was great. If I wasn’t so conscious of his limited time after the Q&A I would have asked him questions about his literary life such as how many books he reads a year, his favorite authors, did he have a favorite book, and did he ever write any short stories or novels?
It’s obvious he enjoys what he is doing. He’s lucky he hasn’t been blocked into only directing or writing a certain type of movie. One thing I noticed about Dave is that he’s an open person. I don’t mean the heart on his sleeve type of open; I mean open to new experiences and people. And if you’re not open to the experience with him, then that’s okay too.
I must admit the days have really passed me by. I try to update the site each Monday and before I knew it, Monday had come and gone.
Spike Lee was the recipient of the Wexner Prize for 2008 and came into town last Monday to receive the prize and participate in some events surrounding the honor. On Tuesday evening he sat down with his friend, James McBride, for a conversation in Mershon Auditorium which I was able to attend. McBride is in the middle of a book tour to promote Song Yet Sung which he described as about a slave who dreams of the future – of chariots with rubber tires, and inspires a revolt. It certainly got my attention.
It was interesting to hear McBride speak about working with Lee on a screenplay. He received a call from Lee while on the road and McBride thought a friend was playing a joke on him. Lee wanted to make a movie from McBride’s Miracle at St. Anna which was on its way to being out of print. This is McBride’s first screenplay. He’d write ten pages, give them to Lee, Lee would make comments and hand them back to McBride. McBride worked on the changes and handed those pages back with ten more new ones. It sounded like there was some give and take. They’re the same age and grew up only a few blocks away from each other in New York which automatically creates a rapport. The movie is planned to be released in October or November 2008. I think it will be a good one based on the trailer I saw. It has an international cast and subtitles.
The book is about the 92nd Infantry Division stationed in Italy during World War II. Two of the soldiers presently live in Cleveland. Several times during the evening they were given standing ovations. Harrison Dillard is a four-time Olympic gold medalist. William Perry is most recently noted for raising $30,000 by himself towards the building of a Colonel Charles Young statue. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if the characters are real people or based on real people. For the movie, four characters are given most of the screen time and they are based on combinations of real people with the imaginations of McBride and Lee thrown into the mix.
All four men went to the reception held afterwards. Several people bought copies of the book while walking through the Wexner Center Bookstore and had them autographed by as many of the four as possible. I initially went to hear Spike Lee but I found a new (to me) author and have added more books in my “to be read” pile.