Back, exhausted and elated from last week's ICAF and SPX. Since this was the first time I've attended the Small Press Expo while earning a real salary, I brought back quite a few great comics...
• Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art, a Fantagraphics coffee-table retrospective of the great MAD artist and Kurtzman collaborator
• The two most recent issues of The Comics Journal, mostly for the Kurtzman/Elder "Goodman Goes Playboy," the Brubaker interview, and the Dirk Deppey two-parter on Marvel's advance and retreat
• Subatomic and The Supernaturalists by Patrick Neighly and Jorge Heufemann, published by Mad Yak Press (the authors of the indispensible Disinformation Guide to the Invisibles)
• A Louis minicomic from Metaphrog
• Balthazar no. 1 by Tobias Tycho Schalken and Eiland no. 4 by Schalken and Stefan van Dinther. These are true gems; Schalken and van Dinther produce formally innovative, eerily resonant, and meticulously designed comics. The Balthazar book resembles an exhibition catalogue, with a number of art-historical mock-ups (medieval illuminated manuscript, 1930s comic, performance art video installation) and a set of annotations that imply some mysterious medieval religious eugenics movement. Schalken, an ICAF guest, mentioned Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire as an influence, and that alone would have been enough to sell me. He was the second artist that day to cite Nabokov, after the incredibly learned John of Metaphrog, which I take as a good sign for the comics medium. The Eiland artists also earn bonus points because "Tobias Tycho Schalken" sounds, to American ears, like the sort of name that goes along with an undersea headquarters and a plot to blow up the moon.
If I'd had a lick of sense I would also have picked up a couple of Miguelanxo Prado volumes, most likely Streak of Chalk, as I had plenty of opportunities to get them signed. Unfortunately, I had to moderate a long (but rewarding!) R. Sikoryak/Paul Karasik double-bill immediately after the Prado session, and by the time I got around to looking for his comics the NBM booth was sold out and Big Planet was closed. I'll just have to pick them up online and hope I have another chance to meet Prado - he's an entertaining speaker and dinner guest as well as a tremendously talented artist.
I also got the latest issue of the International Journal of Comic Art and a couple of comics that I haven’t been able to find in Nashville, Eddie Campbell’s Batman: Order of the Beasts Elseworlds and Daniel Clowes’s Eightball no. 22, "Ice Haven." And then I left them at the in-laws', so it'll have to be a few months before I join the chorus of bloggers who have already proclaimed "Ice Haven" the single greatest achievement in the history of representational art. (And the accolades aren't stopping there! Look out, Pollack!)
Between ICAF and the Small Press Expo (not to mention time catching up with family and old friends) it was a pretty hectic weekend, but an intensely satisfying one. This year's ICAF had one of the most consistently excellent slates of guest artists and speakers that I can remember (for which all credit goes to my colleagues; I had nothing to do with it), and there's nothing quite like spending a weekend in the company of people who share my interest in the intersection of comics and academics. Where else could I sit around a crowded dinner table with renowned artists and brilliant scholars and talk about the finer points of the Beyonder?