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Blown Covers

I attended the “Blown Covers” lecture in Chicago over the weekend of May 19, 2012.

In a three-day conference featuring a range of events — lectures, conversations, panels, and workshops — cartoonists will come together at the University of Chicago, long a location of word-and-image study, to take stock of their own ground-breaking work and the future of comics. More after the jump.

It was held in an insulated school on the south side of Chicago. Downtown Chicago hosted it’s own version of important meetings with NATO going on, and every step in every direction there were police and security present. Streets were blocked off for miles. This allowed my romantic mind to pretend that all the fuss was for the comickers and their pretentious symposium of comic talks. http://graycentercomicscon.uchicago.edu/

Francoise Mouly, the art (cover) editor for The New Yorker for the past 20 years, presented her experience in a compact manner. She went quickly, but she had to be brief. The subject matter was varied, and the timeline for The New Yorker is very long and the talent deep. She would ask multiple artists for different covers and then choose one and save the others for maybe another time or more appropriate context. Her first blatantly gay-marriage cover was in 1993, which is the current topic going on now.

Not everyone likes a pun, and a double entendre can go either way, but when you have more than one message in something, that is something most people enjoy–the old multiple level trick. Whether it be in pictures or writing or movies or music, if you get the secondary message, you feel like a smart person included in on the in-joke. You could be a New Yorker! She points out the artist and the artist’s intentions on a lot of material, and explains why it was accepted or rejected. Let it be known that she is only the cover editor, and the magazine editor can reject her covers.

She deals with hate mail and occasionally death threats for her time and effort, sometimes from the artists as well as the readers. I was amazed at her capacity to facilitate everything and still be punctual and profound with every cover.

Blown Covers is a book, and it’s a well put-together book, of course. It contains some of the same material that was discussed during the presentation. There is also a companion to the book, the online edition, maintained by Nadja Spiegelman.

The lecture was webcast live, but I am unsure if you can watch it anywhere now. The university posts that recent webcasts will eventually be put up on the site. Pretty good stuff. There was a lot going on with different comicsseurs. Please check out all the webcasts from that website: http://news.uchicago.edu/webcast/comics … practice-3

She brought out some artists at the end to talk about their experiences with creating the cover for The New Yorker. Daniel Clowes, R. Crumb, and Chris Ware had each done the cover a few times, and spoke plainly about what encompasses their efforts.

Here is another Blown Cover pic (I didn’t want to make it too political, but the very nature of The New Yorker cover images are supposed to get a reaction. I don’t know. I do think Joe Sacco went to the protest with a sketch pad):

With the city locked down, only a small group of people made it to the comic symposium. It was a good experience having comics taken seriously. Next time they should schedule a different weekend when the world meeting and protesters aren’t around.