Comic Arts LA (CALA), the annual festival for independent comics lovers here in Los Angeles, is coming this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8th and 9th, from 10am to 5pm each. This will be the fifth CALA ever, and the fifth that I have attended. I wouldn't miss it! CALA will be held at:
Homenetmen Ararat (Elevate Fitness Complex), 3000 Dolores St. Los Angeles 90065
(This is in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Glendale.) Further information about the venue, travel options, and parking can be found on the CALA website under Location.
CALA, organized by Jen Wang, Angie Wang, and Jake Mumm, is a free, public event that aims to promote (as its website says) "the appreciation of comics, graphic novels, and sequential arts among the broader Los Angeles public." It's WONDERFUL: a friendly, inclusive, diverse space that offers you a chance to interact with great artists whose work will be defining comics for years to come.
I always go to CALA. If you're interested in comics as an art form — not comics-based movies or other media, but comics purely as an artistic and literary form, as an expressive outlet, and as a culture of makers — then CALA will be right up your alley. I always get "schooled" at CALA (and I've been studying comics for a good part of my life). It's one of Los Angeles's great events for independent publishing and art-making. This year's lineup is super-strong: special guest artist Ronald Wimberly, panelists Nalo Hopkinson and Rachelle Cruz, panelists/exhibitors like Yumi Sakugawa, Richie Pope, Julia Kaye, and Molly Knox Ostertag (and many more), plus exhibitors like Robert Goodin, MariNaomi, Sophie Yanow, Malachi Ward, Czap Books, Youth in Decline, and the Center for Cartoon Studies (and, oh, about a hundred others). And who knows what artists unknown to me I'm going to learn about this time?
Plus: CALA is doing this once again, which is awesome:
This Friday: KinderComics's favorites of 2018!
On Thursday evening, March 15, my wife Mich and I were fortunate to attend a smart, intimate, charmingly informal panel discussion at Chevalier’s Books with Jen Wang (The Prince and the Dressmaker, In Real Life), Cory Doctorow (In Real Life, Little Brother), Molly Knox Ostertag (The Witch Boy, Strong Female Protagonist), and Tillie Walden (Spinning, On a Sunbeam). Wow, what a lineup!
Chevalier’s, in L.A.’s Larchmont Village, has been open since 1940, making it the oldest independent bookshop in Los Angeles. We had never been there before—but I expect that we’ll be back! Nice shop, cool space, and welcoming, with real personality and what appeared to be carefully chosen stock (the graphic novel buyer seems to have a definite POV).
We arrived a few minutes late to the discussion, which took place in the children’s alcove, surrounded by books. A few rows of wooden chairs had been set up for the audience, but the space was fairly tight and the crowd small, maybe a double handful of people. Jen Wang served as emcee of sorts, sometimes referring to her phone for questions but mostly letting the conversation float along in an easy, unforced way. Yet the conversation was rich in information and insight, and covered a lot of ground: from writers’ habits (with Doctorow marveling at Anthony Trollope’s famed productivity and self-discipline), to artistic inspirations (movies, immersive theater, theme park rides, music), to elements of craft (layout; scripting versus improvising; research).
The speakers were at times disarmingly honest: Wang confessed that there are times she prefers not to draw, especially when she has recently finished a project as big as The Prince and the Dressmaker. Walden confessed that the response to her memoir, Spinning, has caught her up in its own momentum in ways that impinge on her current work. Ostertag likewise admitted that she worries about the success of one book making her too self-conscious or eager to please in her future work. Walden admitted how tough it could be to field difficult, sometimes heartrending, questions and stories from young readers, especially queer readers in search of advice and assurance (she mentioned that writing a memoir seemed to open her to this kind of response). Doctorow revealed how his fiction-writing is often fueled by anger over political events, and his need to free his social media use from the constant pressure to respond to provoking political news. All showed a keen interest in each other’s work and in sharing process (Ostertag, initially somewhat reserved, seemed to open up when discussing Wang’s new book!).
I loved the way the discussion wandered through big issues of audience, genre, and the depiction of sexuality and gender identity, to minute nuts ‘n’ bolts issues of page design and drawing (comics nerd moments: I just eat those up). All four creators gave me a sense of being extraordinarily busy and productive—every one of them has new irons in the fire, new books forthcoming, and so on. They got on well, unsurprisingly, with a nice collegial vibe (there were jokes about everyone now being in the First Second family, so to speak).
In sum, an amazing panel—and so chill and easygoing, for such an amazing gathering of talents. After the panel, we chatted, then Mich and I bought some books and got ’em signed. I talked up this blog a bit, and informed Molly Ostertag and Tillie Walden that they had been nominated for Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards earlier that same day (they hadn’t heard!). I spoke with Jen Wang and (I think) Jake Mumm about the splendid CALA festival that they help to put on every year. A delightful experience—then I read Ostertag’s The Witch Boy when I got home (because man was I overdue).
Thanks to Chevalier’s for hosting such a strong comics event!
WOW. No sooner do I finish reviewing Jen Wang's splendid new graphic novel, The Prince and the Dressmaker, than I realize that Wang and a panel of other great talents will be discussing the book at Chevalier's Books, Los Angeles's fabled independent bookstore, tomorrow night, Thursday, March 15, at 7:00pm. The details are at Chevalier's site, here (Chevalier's is at 126 North Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90004).
Wang, author of Koko Be Good (2010), co-author, with Cory Doctorow, of In Real Life (2014), and co-founder of the Comic Arts LA festival, will be joined by Doctorow, as well as two other notable comics creators, Molly Knox Ostertag and Tillie Walden.
Doctorow is of course a novelist (author of Little Brother among others), columnist, tech expert and activist, and the co-editor of Boing Boing.
Ostertag is the author of the recent graphic novel The Witch Boy (whose exploration of gender resonates with The Prince and the Dressmaker), co-creator of the graphic novel Shattered Warrior, and co-creator of the ongoing webcomic Strong Female Protagonist.
Walden is author of the recent graphic memoir Spinning (one of 2017's most acclaimed comics) and the webcomic (soon to be graphic novel) On a Sunbeam, as well as the graphic books The End of Summer, I Love This Part, and A City Inside.
This is an incredible gathering of talent. Frankly, it would be hard to imagine a stronger panel than this when it comes to the intersection of children's publishing and graphic novels, small-press and independent comics, women comics creators, and explorations of gender and sexuality in comics. I dearly hope to make this event, which I expect is going to be great!
See Hatfield, comics and children's culture scholar