Edinburgh International Book Festival Part Six

A comics news article

Bam, Pow, Crunch

It’s absurd how many times I’ve almost been completely decimated by a car here in Scotland. Apparently, looking both ways when you cross the street is a deeply rooted survival function that is ingrained in muscle memory, as I’m deciding right now.

Also, science. Also, I’m an idiot.

I look left when the cars come from the right, I look right when cars come from the left, it can really only spell certain doom for this American werewolf in Edinburgh.

Style > Substance

Most of these book panel things start with some sort of reading from the source material, but with comics, that isn’t really possible. I’m sure it’s been done before, but Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen decided to open their Young Avengers panel with a reading nonetheless. With Kieron reading from his tablet -- though he admitted he hadn’t even looked at this script since he’d sent it -- Jamie placed images from the first issue on the overhead monitor, displaying them for the audience to see. The result was something entirely new and cool and befitting for a book like Young Avengers that constantly pushes to be new and different.

The coolest thing about this panel was the in-depth look at the comics process, something most readers will be delighted to know that Jamie McKelvie is heavily involved in. There seems to be a modern perception that writers are always steering the ships of these books, but it was clear here that that isn’t the case. McKelvie pointed out instances where he’d outright rejected suggestions in the script and looked past strange inconsistencies (such as a panel in the script that stipulated a character be smiling while her back was turned). The coolest part of the panel was showing how McKelvie turned the double-page spread from issue four into an isometric diagram -- entirely his idea. He used 3D modeling software to design the layout and completed the rest of it from there. The back and forth in these two’s artistic process was present throughout, and it was a pleasure to see just how much influence an artist can have on a book.

Gillen and McKelvie readily complimented Marvel, but they acted like two guys expecting to be dicked over. Neither had really ever worked for DC, nor experienced that company’s recent history of dickery, but these two were constantly pushing the envelope on what Marvel would allow. They get away with most of it, they say, but the one thing they couldn’t show was underage characters drinking alcohol or doing anything illegal. “Except punching people repeatedly,” remarked McKelvie as he rolled his eyes.

Future Shock

Perhaps at this point my own mood is starting to seep into how I'm perceiving these panels. I'm sort of tired. I've been pounding coffee and pretending like somehow that’s a meal.... That's not a meal, self.

Come on. I think many people fall guilty to not understanding how much humans project their emotions. People tend to think that if they're upset, it' the people around them or the situation that's making them unhappy, but truthfully, it’s most likely something internal that they're projecting. Studies show that couples who sleep more do better. Whatever.

Either way, I was stoked about the 2000 AD panel, which included Dan Abnett, Warren Pleece, Jim Murray, and Robbie Morrison, chaired by former 2000 AD editor David Bishop. The only 2000 AD strip I've ever read is “Zenith”, but I loved that strip and have always been a fan of the creators that contributed to some of 2000 AD's seminal works.

That said, I found this panel to be somewhat dry. The creators seems to respond to some great questions by David with one word answers -- huh? A lack of diversity was glaringly apparent. The panel was four old white guys. Four old white British guys. Maybe that’s it, maybe the whole thing was just too British for me, which would be a first here. In Munich, people always pointed out that I was American, but not one person has done that here, even though there are few other Americans, and I'm sure my voice instantly condemns me as a Yank.

The most exciting stories at a book festival are of banned books. Illegality! Intrigue! Mystery! Authors on the run! Warren Pleece had one of his works completely pulped and destroyed, which is totally totally awesome. I’m tempted to say that it’s badass, but I don’t say things like that. True Faith by Garth Ennis is now happily back in print, but it became banned because someone associated with the work thought it would be funny to send a controversial religious work to some religious organizations to stir something up. Yeah, that backfired.

Monsters

After hearing four old white men sort of drone on, it was delightfully fun to see two older women and one younger one have a hilarious time. This panel was called, “Writing Under the Influence,” which I should have known was a weird sort of pun about what influenced these writers, but again, idiotness. I’ll shamefully admit that I only went to this panel because I thought it was about writing while on drugs. Yeah, shut up. Either way, this panel was great fun and I’m happy I went.

It was fun and hilarious, but I didn’t give two shits about the subject matter. They just talked about monsters the whole time, which I didn’t care about. Eventually they started delving in the metaphorical meanings behind monsters, though, which I was down for. An interesting factoid is that zombies in their present form have really only existed since the 1960s, something Valerie Martin attributed to the Holocaust, pointing out similarities between Night of the Living Dead and The Diary of Anne Frank.    

The panelists, Naomi Alderman and Valerie Martin, were chaired by the magnificent Margaret Atwood whose deadpan humor made the panel worth going to. It’s possible that that may have just been the way she talked… But I swear everyone else in the crowd was laughing at her jokes too, not just the one stupid American kid with the Aziz Ansari smile on his face the whole time.

Edinburgh wraps up tomorrow for me. Stay tuned for my impending meltdown and more Neil Gaiman, who sits comfortably in the primetime slot to discuss his magnum opus, Sandman. I’m psyched.

- Tyler Gross

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