As we mentioned it several times last week, it should be no surprise that we attended MoCCA Fest 2011 at the Lexington Avenue Armory this past weekend. We walked the floor, attended panels, and of course, bought lots and lots of comics.
At 12:30pm on Saturday they held the “Sequential Non-fiction” panel, which started a tad late as the previous panel about “Teaching Comics” ran over. The late start was not a problem; moderator Heidi McDonald managed to keep things running smoothly and ended the panel on time. The panelists were Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, Sarah Glidden and Nick Abadzis. I also spotted Lucy Knisley of French Milk in the audience, taking notes (and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one, as a few faces looked familiar).
Nick Bertozzi spoke about his recently-published Lewis & Clark graphic narrative, which was originally intended to be a mini-comic flip book that would read right-to-left in chronicling their journey west, then the reader would flip it around to read left-to-right for their return journey back east! The book ended up being a little too lengthy for that, so what we have instead is a fairly straightforward, 99% accurate account of their travels (Bertozzi admits he had to make dialog up). His next project is Shackleton, which deals with the famous Antarctic explorations of Ernest Shackleton.
The other Nick, Nick Abadzis, went into the origins of his graphic story Laika, about the first dog in space. He was inspired by a BBC article in which it was admitted that Laika did not survive very long on her journey. To create the book he did a lot of research in Russia, including visiting a private museum at the home of Gagarin (presumably Yuri Gagarin, but I’m not certain). The book was offered to several British publishers who were not interested, though one French publisher was. The book would have had its initial publication in French had First Second not made an offer for it. Abadzis is currently working on a book about the lives of his father and father-in-law.
Dean Haspiel went into his collaborations with Harvey Pekar and Jonathan Ames. Comparing the two, he said they were both very different in how they worked. Pekar turns in pages with stick figures and dialog, while Ames, despite being new to comics, understood instinctively to turn in full comic scripts that laid everything out. He also spoke about the origins of his book Cuba: My Revolution, where his friend Inverna Lockpez has been telling him bits and pieces of stories of her life in Cuba, and eventually he told her that she might have a real story to tell.
Of course, Sarah Glidden spoke about How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, and how she started off her career making daily journal comics to get into the habit, and doing the Birthright trip gave her an opportunity to write about a little more substantial. She originally started off making mini-comics about the trip (which she still had on sale at her table), but at a previous MoCCA Fest an editor Vertigo picked them up and asked her if she’d like to do an entire book.
When asked about the things that were most important in creating graphic non-fiction, Abadzis mentioned being balanced (and that his family was complaining he wasn’t), while Glidden cited this as a reason she didn’t like to tell other people’s stories, because she could mess up the facts. Haspiel emphasized it was important to him that he entertain his readers, while Bertozzi said something that is probably true of all the creators on the panel: he wanted a copy of his book in every library.