Hi, my name is Mike Medaglia. I am a London based Cartoonist, originally from Canada. Check out some of my work at: http://www.facebook.com/taoistartist I have been going to Laydeez do Comics for a few months now, and this month I am honored to be blogging for it, which is daunting because this was a night to remember! I have never blogged before, so I am excited to make my first blog about this event!
At the start of each Laydeez Do Comics meet, everyone attending is asked to introduce themselves, and what they do, and then answer a question of Sarah or Nicola’s choosing. Some people are fine with it and some people shy up but always there are many laughs to follow people’s answers and it gives the room a lighter more intimate feel. The question asked on the night of June 20 was,”What was something that frightened you this week?” The four speakers of the night answered thus:
Andrew Godfrey: “In ten minutes time I have to talk in front of you.”
Katie Green: “…The scariest thing is my mum and dad saying they want to come along and watch tonight…they’re not here.”
Charles Hatfield: “In flight turbulence.”
Joumana Medlej: “This presentation I’m giving.”
This was the start of what was a great evening for comics!
The first speaker to take the stage and impress us all was Andrew Godfrey. A Bristol based blogger and cartoonist who has focused a lot of his creativity on his work titled, The Clichéd Artist: Autobiographical Comics by Andrew Godfrey. The work deals quite openly with Andrew’s own struggles with Cystic Fibrosis, which is a recessive genetic illness. Andrew referred to it as a “Sexy Disease” because of excess build up various fluids, Andrew’s talk was sprinkled with his humor! Andrew’s work deals with the various situations he has found himself in as a result of his degenerative illness. It shows the brutal physiotherapist he has dealt with over the years, which made him writhe in pain or the endless trouble that his digestive tract gives him as a result of C.F. It is very funny and very moving work.
As he talked about his struggles he was open, honest and confident which made the audience comfortable listening to his intimate experiences. He demanded no pity and has used his struggles to fuel his wonderful and expressive comics.
Andrew explained that a major inspiration for him was Bob Flanagan. He showed a clip from SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, a 1997 documentary film directed by Kirby Dick about Bob Flanagan, a Los Angeles writer, poet, performance artist, comic and BDSM celebrity, who suffered from and later died of cystic fibrosis.He explained how he used his first piece of comic art, titled, The Selfish Gene, to explore C.F. with “no idealism about illness”. He also talked about his experiences on web forums where he found people were sometimes not very supportive and even competitive stating that they were “Sicker then you”. Andrew found this less then helpful, and mentioned that for him sitting around talking about his illness is not great, that he would rather just get on with his life. This is an idea that can be translated to anyone who dwells on the bad and misses the good in life.
Andrew also has a website called Graphic Engine where he blogs about comics mostly, but also film and various other things! Check it out there is some great stuff on there: http://itsallaboutthecomics.blogspot.com/
Another aspect of Andrew’s life is his work as a feminist, which he sometimes struggles to identify with. He joking has been called a “Self hating male.”
Andrew’s talk was funny and his work was inspiring. It made me happy to see someone who has taken the struggles that he has been handed and turned them into personal and engaging art! I hope Andrew keeps going and keeps providing the world with his sequential stories and informative blogs.
Katie was the second speaker of the night and had a few similarities to Mr. Godfrey, she is a cartoonist and blogger, also from Bristol. Her first graphic novel titled, Lighter Than My Shadow (set to be released in early 2013 by Jonathan Cape) deals with her own struggles with sickness. Yet, being a very personal presentation the differences were greater then the similarities.
Katie focused on three different areas in her talk. First she talked about her on going zine titled The Green Bean, which she sells on her own itsy shop, check it out here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/katiegreenThe Green Bean feels like a visual diary, compiling sketches and blurbs from her daily life. Including reviews of books she’s read and wonderful recipes she has created herself!
Second, Katie talked about her degree piece, which was a very intricate map, hand drawn which told a story of its own. It was a lovely piece and she has been asked to design something similar for the cover of Solpistic 4: http://solipsisticpop.com/2011/06/08/solipsistic-pop-4/ A magazine that complies various UK based artists.
Lastly, Katie told us about he first graphic novel that she is currently working on. The book deals with Katie’s very personal struggles suffering from and overcoming anorexia. After struggling to identify the sickness in herself and getting to the point where the doctors told her that she would only have two weeks to live if she kept going as she was, it has now been 10 years since she started her recovery. A great feat that has now found her, over the past few years, in a good spot to put her stories together into a book that will certainly become a resource for other people fighting with this disease. She was very generous with experiences and when she shared them with us it felt like she was giving us a gift or sharing something sacred. The audience was captivated and with each story the tension in the room became more and more heightened as a result of us all feeling closer to Katie and her struggles. She did not appear vulnerable and had clearly over come her sickness and turned it into ‘armour’, knowing that if she could amount to so much, then she must be strong. It was very moving!
Katie said that it was difficult for her and her partner to be rehashing all these trying times in her past, but on occasion she has someone tell her that her work has helped them in their struggles. After that she knows it has been and will be worth it.
Katie had the great luck of twice being part of a wonderful course on graphic novels as part of the Arvon Foundation: http://www.arvonfoundation.org/pc652.html She has been asked to speak at it this year, which is very exciting! Check it out; it definitely seems like a great resource for aspiring graphic novelists.
Thank you Katie for inspiring people to tell their own story, whatever that may be, and to be proud of what you have been through as it defines the person you become.
The third speaker of the night was very intellectually stimulating, a true comics scholar. Charles Hatfield is a professor of English at California State University Northridge. Along with his English classes, he has started a number of courses focusing on the study of comics, some looking at the superhero in comics and others looking at newer aspects, such as the graphic novel.
A very humorous and sweet man, Charles said that being a professor of comics is like being part of a “perpetual, life long independent study.” Perhaps that is true, but it is people like Charles that will take comics into its next stage of existence, where it can be analyzed, categorized and through that evolve. Charles said that people struggle to develop the study of comics because of a lack of a formal degree, so that students will rehash old ideas as if new, simply because they are not aware of other discoveries in the field. There is already a strong intellectual conversation happening in comics but it needs to find its way formally into the ‘institution’.
On top of Charles wonderful work as a professor, he is also an author. He currently has one book published titled Alternative Comics, which explores the history of the world of independent, underground and alternative comics. Currently he is working on his second book looking at the fantastical art of Jack Kirby. These are two strands of his work on comics, and a third being comics in children’s culture, which is a natural progression for him since he also teaches children’s literature as an English professor.
Charles explained that as he works with literature, he loved having comics as part of his interdisciplinary practice. After a while he realized that he needed comics to be there for him, a feeling I can certainly relate too and I know a lot of other people who feel the same. Works of sequential art seem to enrapture the mind and the active reading of a comic demands the mind to experience art in a way no other art form can.
But is it an art form? The way that Charles stimulated the mind of the comic lovers in the crowd had us delving into such topics as whether comics can be art. I am sure the talk could have gone on all night and I hope that in the future there is a chance to delve further into the plentiful depths of Charles Hatfield’s mind!
The final speaker of the night is a Lebanese comic artist, based in Beirut. Joumana Medlej is the creator of Malaak, Angel of Peace, who is the heroine of Lebanon’s first superhero comic. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/malaakofpeace?ref=ts or here http://malaakonline.com/ or you can even download the very sleek IPad app, just search Malaak! Working extremely hard, Joumana writes and illustrates all the Malaak stories, which is quite an accomplishment since the artwork is very intricate and beautiful.
Joumana grew up in Beirut during the unfortunate civil wars that Lebanon has faced over the past decades. Joumana remembers the wars and the bombing that resulted and says that when there were bombs that meant no school and she would be stuck indoors. But at these times Joumana learned to draw to pass the time and ward off boredom and all these years later now uses her ability to create the stories of Malaak. Through this she is able to help build Lebanon’s comics culture and to give her country a symbolic angel, Malaak being the Arabic word for angel.
Malaak is a heroine that is referred to as a guardian by night. She helps protect the Lebanese people from rather fierce looking nonhuman adversaries. Joumana did not want to have her character fighting other humans; she did not want to show more terror and violence between people (something real life provides more then enough of). Malaak was born from the nut of a Cedar tree, the cedar tree being a very powerful symbol of Lebanon. The cedar has always been associated with Lebanon and Malaak was born long ago and is as old as her country. This means that she was born before all the politics of Lebanon and the countries surrounding it. Be sure to check out Malaak, Angel of Peace, you can read it online!
Thanks for this wonderful talk Joumana and for sharing your history and the history of your fantastic country with us. You can find some of Joumana’s other work here: https://www.facebook.com/joumanamedlej