My only interviewing goal was to talk to Paul Pope which I was told was not going to be possible. So much for that. However, I caught something exceptionally amazing on video when Matt Groening showed up at Jim’s table and bought Afrodisiac! He was just attending the show to enjoy it and said that he was picking up books to read on a trip to India. Afrodisiac is now among those procurements! Coincidentally, one of comics’ cult favorites, Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese, Beasts of Burden) was sharing the table with Jim and Jason Lex. Evan had worked on The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror comic which was out on the table. Groening saw it and signed the pile of five or six comics we had.
Though a small crowd gathered around him for autographs, I have to try and describe this man. You can believe me or not about the spiritual world, planes of existence or other things I talk about that are normally saved for ILM special effects. Groening reminded me of Santa Claus. He’s just a little bigger than an average man with floppy salt and pepper hair (of which my Mum and I are complete suckers for). There was a radius around of him that gave off a feeling of joy, much like Santa. Everyone stopped and simply smiled. This was Brooklyn, New York, folks. There’s a lot of attitude there so the abrupt change in emotional atmosphere was easily felt. He started flipping through Jim’s comics like Rambo 3.5 and Street Angel but it was the pulp style psychedelic Afrodisiac that caught his eye. Jim tried not to charge him but Groening insisted. He was so pleasant and happy, at least that’s what I saw.
I should prologue this by saying, I’m not a fan of The Simpsons or Futurama in the sense that I don’t watch The Simpsons regularly; in fact, I’ve never once seen Futurama. The Simpsons are great but I never got hooked. I love Lisa and Apu, in particular the vegetarian Linda McCarthy episode, but that’s it. I do however recognize the incredible talents that have made such a powerful piece of American pop culture for over 20 years and find it amusing that celebrities clamber to get guest spots. Cartoons are important to me and have been since I was born. I spent a few years of high school dreaming about being a cartoonist but was realistic about the kind of talent and energy it takes to be successful at it. People like Matt Groening, Charles M. Schulz, Rankin & Bass, and Hanna-Barbera are just a few of the legends that have changed the face of entertainment for all ages.
At a point, there was an ever-so-small break in front of the booth so I slid out into the traffic like a Galapagos turtle on the current and let it carry me two tables over to interview Benjamin Marra of Traditional Comics publishing. His comics are toned with the early 1980’s urban culture filled with sex, drugs and rap music. For such a dashing and dapper man, he clearly has a dark edge. He confessed that his new image replaced unruly hair and a long beard. Between his mini-series Night Business and his new highly acclaimed single issue, The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd: A Work of Satire and Fiction, the mainstream press took notice of this indie creator from New York. You can read free preview pages at the Traditional Comics website.
“I don’t think though the value of having an individual book as like, an artifact or an art piece will ever be unattractive to people,” Marra said about digital distribution. All of his work is available at the panelfly.com app store. He describes his work as “the kind of comics kids should hide from their parents.”
While I do wish I could have had discussions with exhibitors and guests like Kate Beaton, Charles Burns, or Anders Nilson, I had an unforgettable experience with Jim, Jason and Evan which was then followed up with an all-nighter of playtime with my friend, the very talented J.K. Woodward.
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