Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Moss, Ghosts, and Comics 

This past weekend I was in the warm, Spanish moss-covered town of Savannah, Georgia, home to one of the premiere art schools in the country. The Savannah College of Art and Design held it's yearly Artists' Forum, and I was one of the visiting lecturers. Even though I'd rather talk about comics storytelling than almost anything, I thought it might be more useful to the students if I covered other areas such as storyboarding and how to publish your own book. I'll happily share this information with you too, if you fly me somewhere nice and feed me fatty foods all weekend like SCAD did.

Some of the first friends I made in the comics industry were there, artist/writer Mark Schultz and his wife Denise. Mark is going to be teaching at SCAD for ten weeks this year, so those kids are in for a treat. Old pals from back in North Carolina were also guests: Scott Hampton, George Pratt and Tommy Lee Edwards. Tommy dressed better than everyone else, George suckered us with tall tales, and Scott showed us some butt-kicking art from his new horror anthology Spookhouse, coming out from IDW. Apparently, I was the inspiration for that name, though my suggestion was that it be "Scott Hampton's Spookhouse" with a little picture of Scott in the corner ala the old Boris Karloff comics from Charlton. Or was it Gold Key? Speaking of painters, the formidable Mark Chiarello was also a guest, speaking to the kids as an editor as well as creator. For those who wonder when he's going to be in print again, he's doing more painted cards honoring the old Negro Leagues of baseball, so that's coming up before long.

Jill and I got in some quality time with Linda Medley, one of the best cartoonists working today. You've read Castle Waiting, right? And I got to meet yet another art hero of mine, David Mazzuchelli. Though he's been in the role of teacher most recently, he's also working in comics again, producing a large graphic novel that we'll get to see in a year or two. There'll be more cool two-color stories as in Rubber Blanket, which is something I'd like to take a stab at as well. SCAD also brought back some of their talented alumni, Chris Brunner and Nick Dragotta. Nick is working on an adaptation of John Henry that everyone was abuzz about but I never got to see. Cover artist Jon Foster was also new to me, but now I'll track down everything he's done.

I didn't get out of the classroom much, but Saturday afternoon Bob Pendarvis took a group of us out to to the famous Bonaventure Cemetery, which you might remember John Cusack visiting in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There I saw the creepy grave of Gracie--which has a lifesize statue of the little girl from a century earlier. Of course this sidetrip was prompted by lots of ghost stories at dinner the night before. It's hard not to tell them there, Savannah just looks like the most haunted place on the planet. Some of the stories told I'd go as far to call outright lies, but these are artists full of rich food, and that's what happens. My favorite was one Linda told of taking a picture of Mike Mignola sitting on Francis, a large shrouded angel tombstone. When her polaroid developed, there were two cloudy trails encircling Mike and the statue. Solve that one, Hellboy!

I particularly enjoyed watching artists I've respected for years making goofy faces at my daughter to entertain her. Allie liked the presence of horses all over town, it was the first time she'd seen any close up. Sweet tea was in full effect everywhere, just in case you didn't know you were in the South. The Sequential Art school is loaded with promising students who are way ahead of the game simply by not making excuses during portfolio review. They asked good questions, and I hope I gave good answers. You'll be seeing a number of them in your comics in coming years. Thanks to department Chair John Lowe for bringing us all out!


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