I drove down to RI and then hopped in the “hippie van” with the Tundii, Jeff and Pat, to go out to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA for the opening day of the LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel. When we got there about 7:30 pm, the Matt, Paula and Nate, aka The Goddamn Batman, met up with us at the hotel that we were splittng two rooms at and we went out for eats at at Mexican restaurant. We had missed the pre-opening walk through that the Yahoos had been invited to, but perhaps one of the guys that was there will give us a recap. . .
After some tasty Mexican food, we just crashed back at the hotel. With no plans for the morning other then going to breakfast after waking up.
So while we were waiting for our breakfast at the restaurant formerly known as Alice’s Restuarant, Nate goes: “Dave just walked by.” No one wanted to jump up and go talk to him, as he was prolly walking back to his hotel which was just right down the street. Less then 5 minutes later, guess who walked in? Yep, Dave Sim. Handshakes all around and then he sat down between Nate and myself and ordered a decaf coffee. The main topic of dicussion was the black suit Dave was wearing. As he had thought the Red Lion Inn where he was staying had a dress code of a jacket. So he was going to wear a blazer along with a pair of jeans. But nope, no jeans allowed. So a black suit and a comfy pair of sneakers. Nope, no sneakers allowed. So Dave as dressed in his black suit with shiny pointy shoes that reminded me of Cerebus’ black shiny pointy shoes in Guys:
Food was brought out and finished, and off we went. Dave was going back to his room for prayer time, but Jeff would pick him up and bring him to the show in a bit. The show was a couple minutes from the restuarant and Dave’s hotel, and was back off this small little country road. It sat on top of a small hill and overlooked a small valley below. The some of the leaves on the trees were tenaciously holding on, giving us a glimpse of the fall foliage for which the Berkshires are famous. Yes, the Norman Rockwell Museum is in the Berkshire area of Massachusetts, almost on the border with New York.
We paid our $12.50 to get in, except Paula who had a student discount, and we started looking at the Norman Rockwell paintings. Which were beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I came to see comic book art. Wondering where it was located I started walking back towards the back of the museum. The museum is laid out in a big 3 by 3 grid: three rooms wide and three rooms deep. I went through the first room in the center, and when I got to the second room I could see the sign in the third room for the LitGraphic show. I entered and to my right was five pieces from the Pride of Baghdad by Niko Henrichon. They were amazing. The book itself is gorgeous, but as usual, when confronted by the original size comic art of 11″ X 17″ I was just floored.
Right beside Niko’s pieces were five pieces from Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore. Fantastic. Overall, there are pieces by 24 different comics artists on exhibit. Which will be ongoing through May 26, 2008. One of the pieces that moved me the most was by Sue Coe from her Sheep of Fools graphic novel. There was one page, larger then standard comic art, it measured approximately 2 by 3 feet if I had to estimate, and was black and white. The page showed a huge cargo ship in a fierce ocean storm with a fire on board the ship. The men were in lifeboats moving away from the ship while on the ship we could see cages filled with trapped sheep. Sheep were on the bow of the ship and in the water as well. I won’t get any more descriptive then that, as seeing the original page made my belly turn. Quite amazing when an artist can do that.
One of the other amazing artists with work on display that I was exposed to for the first time was Barron Storey. They had some of his original journals there plus some other work. Being a fan of Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, and Kent Williams, it was amazing to see the work of the artist that influenced them.
Then I left the first room and turned into the room to the right. Only to see the cover to Church & State I staring back at me. In all, Dave and Gerhard had 9 pieces there:
- Church & State 1 cover: a 22″ x 34″ piece. Amazing to see close up. I had never seen the woman grabbing her breasts with the guy staring at her (it is on the back of the cover) until I spent some time staring at wonder at this piece.
- Form & Void page 492, and the double page spread of page 489 & 490.
- Jaka’s Story cover: another 22″x 34″ piece. You could see the blue lines for the placement of the spine of the book and the front and back covers. Looking even closer you could see a redish-tanish stain that dripped down the front of the cover, right between young Jaka and Nurse. John L later told me that Dave had stated that when he went down to get the artwork, he found that some mouse droppings had landed on this cover.
- Jaka’s Story page 79: Young Jaka after she fell. Looking at the original art you can see the text is just a paste up of typed text, but the S looks hand drawn. And the well known border tape makes an appearance.
- Jaka’s Story pages 108 & 109: Where Rick realized just who “Fred” really is.
- The Last Day page 230: Cerebus going into the light.
- Jaka’s Story pages 462 & 463, when Rick finds out from Mrs Thatcher what Jaka has done.
- Jaka’s Story pages
One of the other amazing pieces to see were 49 wooden blocks from Lynd Ward’s graphic novel “Gods’ Man” from 1929. They took up one entire wall. And so did a Will Eisner story, seven pages of the story “Baxter’s Perfect Crime”. I hope I didn’t audible gasp when I saw the metal staples holding the titles for the pages of the Eisner story to the art board. I guess when your choice is staples, tape or glue, staples will pass the test of time the best – and these ones were still holding up after 50 years. I had to laugh when I saw how they matted one of the Robert Crumb pages from Zap #12: the top right hand word balloon was covered up with the matte. Intentionally.
Around 3pm Dave had to take off to get back to the hotel for prayer time, so he hopped in the car with Lenny, and the rest of the Yahoos got into the hippievan. Lenny had to pick Dave up about 3:40 or so, but the rest of us were going to have some eats. Jeff T had talked to John L and his posse, who had just pulled into the parking lot was we were getting ready to leave. They would stay and look at the exhibit as they had already eaten.
As we were eating, Lenny realized that, oh shit, it was actually 4pm and he was late to pick up Dave. So he took off with his hot tea (to go!) and we continued to eat our lunch/dinner. By the time we got back to the museum, Dave, Lenny and John L & crew were no where to be seen. I went outside to look for John’s car, but it wasn’t out front anywhere. Jeff T checked the back and didn’t see them parked out there either. Umm. Not finding them we wondered where Lenny and Dave had gone off to. Jeff went off looking for him and never showed back up. Nate came back from his record (the musical kind) searching and stated that they were prolly downstairs in the archives which is what Dave had wanted to see. So he started heading downstairs.
Now the museum was technically closed to the public and the staff was getting it ready for the opening to start at 6:30 pm, it was only about 5:15 pm now. But Nate just walked through the foyer downstairs and no one bothered him so the rest of us trailed behind him. And yup, Dave, Lenny and Jeff T were downstairs with a museum employee and someone that looked like Terry Moore (and yes, later I found out it was Terry). The employee showed us around the Norman Rockwell Museum’s archives, where they host all of his fan mail, articles, magazines with his covers, etc. He stated the pictures had all been digitalized and put into a database, and the originals were in a freezer for storage. Later when I was talking to the museum curator she stated that they wanted to get the database online so others could view them also.
After viewing the archives, the Yahoos hung out with Dave in the room downstairs. Martin, one of the curators of the exhibit, came down and told us that the food was all out and things were going to be starting. I was walking around and saw someone that looked really familar standing by Tundis. Umm. I gave him the “don”t I know you look.” I walked up and said Dan? Indeed it was: Dan Parker had shown up. The last time we had met was at a SPACE some couple of years ago.
Some yummy snacks and some opening statements by the museum curator and Peter Kuper, the show was officially opened. It was a little strange wandering around looking at the comic art and the Norman Rockwell originals with comic creators and museum members. I made a point to track down Terry Moore and say thanks for Strangers in Paradise, and how much I enjoyed it. Robyn Moore showed up and Terry introduced us. He was disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures in the gallery sections of the museum for fear of copyright infringement. As we were standing right by the SiP pieces I said he should just stand in front of his own artwork, and then it wouldn’t be a problem.
Then I kept looking for Howard Cruise, but he was tied up with other comic creators and I didn’t want to interrupt him. Until Nate came by and asked me if I knew what Howard looked like. So I gave him a short description and we went on the hunt for Mr Cruise. We found him talking to Marc Hempel. Just then Matt came by and said they were getting all the Yahoos together to take a picture in front of the Church and State cover. Nate and I look at each other and decided to get the two creators signatures before heading over to the picture taking. I got to thank Mr Cruise for Stuck Rubber Baby and tell him how much I enjoyed it. He looked at Marc and jokingly said he didn’t know how to feel about being thanked for work that was 20 years old. Nate got his poster signed by both as his silver pen used the last of its ink.
We went over to the Cerebus art and stared some more at the Church & State cover. Someone was pointing at something on it (I think the funny looking smiley faces on it) when a booming voice behind us said “Don’t touch the artwork.” We turned around to see Dave laughing at us:
I managed to snap a picture of everyone looking at it before the museum photographer came into the room. I had asked him if he could snap a picture using my camera also, as a group picture would be excellent, and getting everyone together is always . . .fun. Pictures were taken, and someone came back to tell us that the museum was closing. So we all headed out to the foyer. The staff was taking down what they had just put up a few hours ago. People were still mingling around, and I sat down on a bench with Paula, as I was getting a bit tired of standing.
A few minutes later Dave comes up and says this is where I had been hiding, he had wanted to say goodbye before he took off to dinner with some other comic creators. I got to shake his hand and got a hug instead. I was a bit surprised: a hug I questioningly said. Dave said yeah, he was never too sure nowadays and just joking around proceeded to give me a very strong handshake:
(picture by Lenny)
He asked if I was still riding the motorcycle, and I said the season was pretty much over as it was getting too cold in the morning to be riding in as my cut off was 32 degrees F: I didn’t want to slide on any ice on the road. I continued to say that with the riding season over I’ll be able to start back up on the archives again. Dave just smiled and said that was where he was leading with that question. Dave was pulled away by Martin who was trying to wrangle him to dinner. So we said our goodbyes and then after a few minutes we all left as well. Dan, Nate and John L & crew had already left so the Tundii, Dows, Lenny and myself headed back to the hotel. We sat around and talked for a bit before Lenny took off for the trip back to the city.
The rest of us stayed the night and went back to the restaurant formerly known as Alice’s Restaurant for breakfast the following day. Then we too said our goodbyes. At least until SPACE on March 1st next year.