craig thompson in london

Last Monday, I went to a Comica Festival‘s talk by comics creator Craig Thompson, moderated by writer and broadcaster Marcel Theroux. After the talk, he signed copies of his new book, Habibi, but the queue was so long that I gave up, and I’ll have to buy it and read it another time. But I was impressed by the way Craig took time to talk with each person while he drew them a lovely picture, so I didn’t really mind, it was nice seeing him connecting with people.

Here are my notes from the talk, held in a room right against the brick wall of an old church called St Albans.

I’d been so curious to hear Craig talk about his work, ever since his comic Blankets was one of three graphic novels that got me back into comics, after writing them off as either newspaper humour strips (which I thought I would never been funny enough to make myself) or the kinds of superhero stuff I found very irrelevant. (The other two books were Gemma Bovary by Posy Simmonds and Fluffy by Simone Lia.) What I liked about Blankets was Craig’s obvious love of line, that he wasn’t afraid to tackle the cringy, churchy stuff from his childhood, and I think I also just found it very romantic. Blankets gets a lot of mixed responses – my sister couldn’t stand it and gave it back – but everyone who’s read it seems to have a very strong view, no one’s indifferent, which I think means the book has done something right.

My studio mate, Gary, loves Craig’s book, Goodbye, Chunky Rice and wishes he’d kept making books like that, but I think my favourite so far is his Carnet de Voyage. It’s such a beautiful travel diary, and I was really inspired to make more of an effort to learn how to use my brush pen after reading that. I went on a trip to very similar places, in France and Morocco, and my drawings weren’t half as good. But Craig does get a bit miserable in the book, and I realised that the only way to really draw a good travel sketchbook is to travel alone. Which is rather lonely, but possibly worth it, if I get a gorgeous, publishable book at the end of it. There’s no way I’m going to find people who are going to walk down a street with me, then suddenly stop and wait while I spent two hours drawing on a random street corner. When I went to China last year with my family and drew my China travel comic, most of my pages were either drawn on the bus (which doesn’t make for even lines) or late at night in the hotel, when I had to draw from memory. So it was a wonderful souvenir, and the point of the trip wasn’t to have a book, it was to see my family, so that wasn’t a problem. But I always do have Carnet de Voyage in mind while I travel, making me work just a bit harder to keep my travel diary up to date.

Here you can see one of Craig’s pages from Habibi and how much he’s inspired by Arabic writing and ornate patterns. I look forward to reading it.

And here’s the lovely Comica Festival team! They are doing amazing things for comics in London, these people rock: designer Peter Stanbury, festival coordinator Megan Donnolley and comics guru Paul Gravett, along with Josh Palmano (not pictured) from Gosh! Comics, who sold the books. Thanks for all your hard work!

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