Pax (funcrunch) wrote,

Cartoonists to watch out for

Thanks to a last-minute tip from tgeller Friday evening, I found myself hurrying to Modern Times Bookstore in the Mission to catch a book signing and presentation by Alison Bechdel and other queer cartoonists. The panel was in town for the weekend's Alternative Press Expo.

I got there at a few minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. start, worried that all the seats would be taken. It turned out that hardly anyone was there yet except for the panel of cartoonists themselves. Alison signed and even drew a little cartoon of Mo in my copy of The Indelible Alison Bechdel. (I never know what to say when I meet celebrities or semi-famous people; I said something stupid like "I have all of your books! Well, at least I have all the Dykes to Watch Out For books; I don't know if you've written any others. She said "Not that I know of!" I also told her that my straight ex-husband loved her books.)

The room filled up by a few minutes after 7. What followed had to be the most disorganized (yet still enjoyable) bookstore event in memory. Cartoonist Leanne Franson decided that she was going to make everyone on the panel do live performances of some of hers and Alison's strips. She even donned costumes for the purpose (leather jacket for her butch personna, girly wig and long gloves for her femme). Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that it is not particularly easy to read a comic strip out loud and make any sense of it, especially with no prior rehearsal and on-the-spot decisions of who was going to read which lines. Leanne attempted to narrate everything that was going on in the strips ("The cats are now licking their butts") as well. It was quite comical.

Also, there were two empty pitchers and a number of upside-down glasses on the table. Despite a couple of the cartoonists wishing aloud that they had actual water in the pitchers to drink, and even picking up one of the pitchers and moving it hopefully towards the end of the table, they never got filled. (I suppose someone in the audience could have taken up the slack for the absent-minded organizer, but we were all too busy paying attention to the Q/A session after the live-action strip comedy segments ended.)

Alison fielded more questions than most of the other panelists, though Leanne was the most outspoken. One audience member asked her if there was any possibility of DTWOF becoming more uplifting, as events in the strip have been pretty bleak. (I won't be more specific as one of the turns of events was a surprise to me; I ended up catching up on a year's worth of strips on the web site later that evening.) Alison noted that "real life" has been pretty bleak too. Also, someone asked why her characters hardly ever travel or go on vacation; Alison said that she hardly ever does herself, and figures it's more interesting for her characters to just stay home. She also said that all of her characters are basically herself, and that "as a change" she's currently working on a graphic novel autobiography of her childhood.

Finally, there was supposed to be a slideshow, but there was no mention of it despite the projector and screen being set up, and the organizer (I think) unplugged the projector. After the Q&A she had people line up for autographs, so I left at that point having already gotten mine and being too tired to stick around.

I wasn't familiar with any of the other cartoonists' work, but I'm glad to see the genre is alive and (reasonably) well. And now I have in-person-autographed books from three of my favorite authors - assuming you can count cartoonists as authors. :-) (The others are Ursula Le Guin and Douglas Adams.)

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