Comics all-stars hit Hyde Park this weekend
You only think that traffic jam is due to the NATO conference. Really, it's a bunch of intellectuals and comic-book geeks heading to Hyde Park.
Sure, at President Obama's behest, some world leaders are converging on Chicago this weekend. But they're not the only extremely influential bunch flocking to the city: So are America’s elite sequential-art creators, the best and brightest minds behind a slew of acclaimed graphic novels and literary comics. Among the list of 17 are Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco, Daniel Clowes, R. Crumb, Charles Burns and Lynda Barry. They descend on the South Side this weekend—from Friday, May 18, through Sunday, May 20—for a conference organized by U. of C. professor Hillary Chute, titled Comics: Philosphy and Practice.
I spoke with Chute two weeks ago about the free (but fully registered) conference. Here’s a bit more insight into the gathering that didn’t make it into the print or iPad versions of this week’s TOC.
“I expected it to be popular,” Chute said, “but I didn’t expect it to become full in a number of hours. We hadn’t done any publicity. Chris Ware did a beautiful poster just for the conference [see above], but it wasn’t even out yet. … We could have this conference in a room three times as big as the auditorium in the Logan Center and we could fill it. I didn’t have a sense of how exciting it would be.”
How did Chute assemble this particular league of heavy hitters? Herself an author of a book and numberous articles about comics, she already had a number of close contacts in the field; most notably, she’d worked with Spiegelman as associate editor for MetaMaus. And she was friends with hometown hero Ware before moving to Chicago in 2010; through him, she began hanging out at Quimby’s and met Ivan Brunetti. “These people had all talked to me before, and they trusted me to put on an event that they’d want to be a part of,” she says. Because of their friendships, Ware and Brunetti committed early, and then it just began to flow: “Once some people started saying yes, other people started saying yes too, because they were excited to see those people.”
The only "yes" Chute didn't get was from Persepolis creator Marjane Satrapi, who’s too busy working on a new project overseas to commit. Among the people Chute says she wished she could’ve invited but didn’t, because she had to keep the conference to a manageable size, are Adrian Tomine and Chicago native Nicole Hollander. “It was hard to accommodate everybody,” she says, admitting that she aimed at an old-guard generation of creators. (Ware and Brunetti, both in their early 40s, are the youngest participants.)