A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


I went to see Marjane Satrapi at Powell's Books last night, and it was kind of a surreal experience. I haven't yet read her book Persepolis (I picked it up last night), but had heard good things about it, wanted to support a comic book event, and it fit perfectly in between seeing Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow and seeing Carmina Luna play at the Green Door.

Satrapi didn't do a reading, as reading from a grapic novel can be a bit tricky. Instead, she talked about some of the things that lead into her doing the book--including answering "why a comic?" before anyone could ask her, apparently used to it being the first question. That was all perfectly normal and expected. Where it got strange for me was by how well-attended it was--I hadn't seen that large a crowd for anyone but Michael Chabon--and the fact that I didn't recognize a single face.

Let me break it down for you: Portland is a comic book town, in so much as we have a ton of creators here and about four publishers. That said, any attention comic books get in Portland is rare and rationed out sparingly, because in this town, if you don't have a guitar in your hands, you may as well be dead in the street wearing cowboy boots. So, when there is a comic book-related event, it's often underattended and populated with in a usual-suspects manner. Everyone knows each other, there aren't a lot of people coming in from the outside.

So, Satrapi's engagement was a reversal. Here was a large group of people--most of them women, ages ranging from teen to senior citizen--and not a comic book professional among them. Why? How did this happen? Here is a room full of people that comics traditionally can't reach, and no one from the industry was there to check it out? Has the comics industry marginalized Satrapi as a high-brow invader or something? I didn't expect anyone there handing out flyers or anything, but surely as a basic level of market research, just come and look at these faces and try to figure out how you can get one of your books in front of them.

Of course, there was the usual head scratching over this curious drawn thing people were holding. Art Spiegelman and Maus came up more than once, which is no surprise. I was, however, surprised to hear a couple of questions I had never heard before. In relation to Maus, it's normal to hear explanations as to why Spiegelman chose to draw the people as animals, but last night was the first time I had ever heard anyone ask why a cartoonist had chosen not to draw the people as animals. It's also farely common to have someone inquire about the size of the original pages of a comic book, and Satrapi used a rather standard size (around 10" by 17"); however, when she explained this, the woman asking followed up with, "Is that for one page, or for just one 'frame'?" That misconception is new to me. I guess I haven't heard it all.

Current Soundtrack: Graham Coxon, "Billy Hunt;" Starsailor, "Four to the Floor" ten-inch single; Carmina Luna demos

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

1 comment:

Maryanne said...

Persepolis has been getting a lot of attention from book clubs and women's book forums online- that may play into more women being there. It fits in pretty well with some book clubs' elitist attitudes towards books in general- not that Satrapi's book is elitist, but it's a graphic novel "worth reading" if you see what I mean.
That said, I have to agree that someone missed a huge opportunity to spread the word that there are other comics worth reading; that there are a lot of comics that aren't the equivalent trashy romance novels.