The BBB and my new BFF Chris Ware

Hey dudes.

So a while ago (as in over a year ago) I wrote several blog entries that never saw the light of day, and I thought now might be as appropriate a time as any to dredge them up and slap some makeup on them and parade them around like little bloggy debutantes. The topics are somewhat stale, but in my opinion when cheesy puffs get old they’re actually better.

And wine. Wine also ages well.

Please to enjoy:

So yesterday was a little rainy (kept power, basement a little damp, lots and lots of leftover bottled water if you want any) (this was originally published around the time of Hurricane Sandy), but Saturday in Boston was, like, oh my god you guys. Gorgeous. It was like I walked out of the Back Bay stop holding my dunkin’ donuts coffee in good-times Narnia, with little bluebirds hailing cabs and homeless puppies begging for cigarette butts. It was NICE.

It was also the day of the fourth annual Boston Book Festival (which I missed the Pumpkin Ale Festival to go to, so you know I’m serious about all this literature and whatever). The BBF basically boiled down to two main events for me, which goes to show that I’m not the best reporter ever but I know what I like. At 11 am, Lemony Snicket was making an appearance at the Old South Church, and then at 2:30 in the same venue Gabrielle Bell, Chip Kidd, Charles Burns, and (oh my gooooodddddd I’m still excited) Chris Ware were sharing the stage to talk about something graphic novel oriented.

I got in line for LS at 10 a.m., right in front of a father and his two kids, who were somewhere around 11 and 5.  The crowd was about half teenagers with ill-chosen steampunky outfits (I’m talking about you, green duct tape top hat with goggles girl, you are going to feel really stupid about that in two years) and elementary-school-age kids with their parents. The little girl behind me said to her dad that she liked the eleventh book the best, and someone else in line asked her what that book was called. She said she didn’t remember. I said she should try naming all of them in order and then maybe she would remember, and she looked at me with the sort of half smile you would give a total stranger who had just asked you to do an impossible thing and you weren’t sure whether they were serious.

Should I mention I was alone? The boyfriend had work and I don’t know anyone here yet (at least no one who would be willing to get up at 9 am to go see a mysterious and elusive children’s book writer slash indie musician). I am now accepting friend applications.

The view when they let us through the door was this:

I became excited.

Everything about this was fantastic. Lemony Snicket himself couldn’t make it (WINKY WINK DO YOU GET IT) (DO YOU) but luckily Daniel Handler was there, and guys, he made eye contact with me for like thirty seconds, I swear to God, people were there, they saw it. People were looking back at me like ‘do you know him’ and I was like NO BUT AT THE SAME TIME YES.

He began to read us the entirety of his (OH WHOOPS I MEAN SNICKET’S) new book, Who Could That Be At This Hour?, but then stopped, saying that if he were to read us the whole thing we would surely snatch ourselves bald with grief and the synagogue would be covered in hair (that’s when he made the eye contact).

This was the clearest picture I could get of him, because I swear he was just running all over the place.

I came out of the event more satisfied than I’ve felt about anything in a long time. There was a signing, but I couldn’t exactly afford the new book, and for Lemony Snicket, I was more willing to step back and let the little kids have the signing. When I sniff the possibility of Chris Ware sitting at a table, though, it’s Katie-bar-the-door.*

So I was about third in line for the Ware-Bell-Burns-Kidd talk, and I dragged my boyfriend’s dad and sister along, apologizing the whole time with a sheen of sweat on my forehead for wanting to really just get in line, I know it’s not for an hour but haha, maybe we should get in line though.

We were in the third row, close enough to see the yellow piping on Chip Kidd’s just really adorable blazer. They started late by seventeen minutes, and by the time the lights went down I had identified all of the panelists just sort of milling around, like normal people, by the side of the stage. I could find Charles Burns based on his drawings of himself, minus gross weird inappropriate sweat or hideous growths. I really just can’t tell you how excited I was, you just have to trust me that I was very, very excited.

But this did not start auspiciously. The first panelist to speak was Gabrielle Bell, and from the moment, the very first moment, that she took the podium I remembered who these people really were. They were cartoonists. She was so nervous at first that she didn’t even speak. Her thin hands were shaking, and when she did talk her voice was just all over the place, and what with her enormous (gorgeous, French) eyes she seemed just about to burst into tears. She didn’t say anything about herself, no introduction or explanation of what she was about to do, and started to read a comic about polar bears that was displayed on a big screen for us to follow along.

All cartoonists that I have seen speak (and I’ve seen a few) have claimed to be like this, but none of them have really been this way. They all make a big show out of being crowd-hating introverts, but on a stage in front of people who love them, they glow. Bell was not like this. I could feel everyone in the audience’s heart go out to her–we loved her! We really loved her and wanted her to do well! And by the end of her two-comic reading, she did seem to be doing a little bit better, after a few big laughs (including one very clear snort from an amplified Chris Ware, which made everyone’s day, I imagine especially Bell’s).

Chip Kidd spoke very briefly and charmingly about Batman: Death By Design. He showed slides of the blue pencil drawings for one of the main spreads, then showed every stage between the very first sketches and the final product, which was fantastic. Charles Burns got up after him and said some very strange things about TinTin that I didn’t really follow, plus showed us a little bit of full frontal male nudity, which I guess was a bit of a surprise for the lady who brought her eight year old son sitting in front of me, but really what do you expect if you go to an event where Charles Burns has access to a projector?

And then, then, then. Then. Chris Ware. he talked about Building Stories, one of the most intense and exciting and genre-breaking projects ever conceived in comics. I cried twice.

Let’s talk for a moment about Chris Ware’s self-deprecation. Because can we agree that he needs to quit it? The BBF brochure called him “brilliant,” everyone is frothy with love for him, even I like him and I don’t like things that are sad. Everything he’s ever written is this special brand of sad that just has no bottom and no sides and feels like falling down a hole forever, but I STILL LOVE HIM. But he insists on being the embodiment of zero self-esteem. Why? What’s going on?

He signed my book, and he was so nice that I almost cried again. Maybe I have him on a pedestal.



*Sam claims that I have made this phrase up, but I assure you that it is real.



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