Spain, Final Part
Monday the 8th had me speaking to the University of Granada students about the American comic book market; its origins and current status. Prior to arriving, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation and script, revised it once or twice and then had the titles on my slides translated into Spanish by our kids’ former nanny, Paz. I sent it ahead to Alejandro and Edu for review and both were suitably impressed so I felt good.
The University was considering adding a series of courses on comics so this was a test. They expected only 30 or so people to sign up for the week-long series of lectures but got 80 or so to pay for the privilege.
Edu spoke first, about how to prepare portfolios. The 75 people filling the lecture classroom were silent, absorbing everything. There was a flood of questions afterward. I gather it went well, but without a translator, all Deb and I could do was people watch.
Shortly after 12 it was my turn and everyone filed back in and sat still as I went through the presentation. Edu translated for me and I found myself mentally editing the script down, making it easier for him and compressing details. I had my own flood of questions including the chances for Spanish talent, which discipline might be most in need (to me, good colorists), many questions about comics for women and the chances for women as working professionals, plus we covered new technologies and marketing.
The con itself, though, kicked off Thursday. After the tour of the Alhambra, the Americans and many of the artists and publishers also coming to the con were treated to a get-to-know-you luncheon on an outdoor terrace at our hotel. There we met the first of our student interpreters, on hand to put everyone at ease. When I went to introduce myself, they laughed and said they knew, apparently, looking up the Americans on the net to prepare.
There were three conference rooms with one hosting a series of professionals’ only panels and the other two rooms were for the pros to mix and talk, network and do business. Instead, most congregated at the bar.
The con really runs from Friday to Sunday, 11-8 each day with sections set aside for cos play, video games, crafts, and signatures. The convention center was small and it felt like a small show given the number of booths and yet, it attracts upwards of 40,000 people each year.
The publishers, including American editors and me, all did portfolio review in two hour shifts, aided by student interpreters. People made appointments in advance and last year some 30 people arrived in hopes of positive news. This year it pushed 90 people and most wanted as many as five appointments for maximum commentary. They have to cut off signups prior to the con and limit people to three interviews. I wound up doing four shifts over the first two days and saw some people better suited to the European market, some for children’s books, and really only one or two that might be close to ready for the American market. Some needed a lot of work.
Our interpreters for the most part were ignorant of comics and we were told they drilled for a week and arrived with a comics glossary. They delighted in learning something new and using their talents for something “real”. All felt they gained much from the experience and two were interested enough in the field that I took them shopping after we finished so they could buy some graphic novels to sample.
There was little in the way of programming, just some talks by the Americans that were lightly attended.
The schedule was funny because I would do portfolio reviews from 11-1, wander the show floor, then we’d have a huge group lunch from 2-5 then I’d review from 5-7, walk around a bit then we’d head out for another group meal. Sunday, I wasn’t needed at all and could go see the city.
The emphasis is on the artists so six or seven were seated at a long table and people queued up to get autographs and free sketches (as is the custom in Europe). Writers, such as myself, were not scheduled and I didn’t sign a single autograph all trip. Everyone was polite and friendly so we all had a swell time.
They really knew how to take care of the guests. Every day at 2 or so we’d congregate and head out for a massive luncheon that took nearly three hours. After the show closed at night, we’d all be gathered up and taken once more to a fine dinner. It was during the final group meal on Saturday that I really got to chat with some of the French comics people so that was a treat. But, nothing could compare with the frequent chances to hear stories from Joe Kubert ranging from his early days in comics to the work done at his school of Cartoon Art. A real pleasure.
Our final night, Edu had returned home so we were on our own and with Deb guiding us, we sallied forth into the night. Our first choice couldn’t really seat a group of ten so we kept wandering until Rick Veitch pointed us to a Chinese restaurant which was just fine for one and all.
Our return trip was fortunately unaffected by the closed runway at JFK or the storm which was just passing out of the northeast. Looking back, these were 12 magical days and I am quite thankful for the experiences and opportunity.