Thoughts on the New Yorker Festival [comics and colbert]

By: Y · October 5, 2008

I had the distinct pleasure of attending two events at the New Yorker Festival yesterday. I saw a talk called Comics 101 by Art Spiegelman, and an interview of Stephen Colbert by Ariel Levy. I won’t summarize the whole talks, but I want to discuss some small thoughts I had.

Spiegelman’s talk was an hour long version of the history of comics as seen through his eyes. He’s been with the New Yorker for some time, and is the author of Maus.

Spiegelman said that he thinks that the graphic novel has a short shelf life as significant type of work. He made the point that comics started out as comic strips in newspapers, and comics eventually grew to encompass comic books as well.

Originally comic books were just reprinted compilations of comic strips. But eventually, comic books were written as full stories. Then the graphic novel developed as a type of work. However, like comic books started as reprinted compilations of comic strips, graphic novels were reprinted compilations of comic books.

Then eventually, graphic novels were works in and of themselves. But Spiegelman made the point that graphic novels won’t be around as significant (and won’t continue being written as frequently as, say novels) because they just take too long. Spiegelman said that there is some good comics being made on the internet, and that some people are finding it as a jumping off point for graphic novels.

But I would make an additional point, which is that the comic strip is making a resurgence within the internet. Artists like Nedroid, Kate Beaton, XKCD, or many others that were at SPX (which I hope E and LD will write about) publish primarily in strip form.

While I love Graphic Novels and Comic Books, there is something awesome and powerful about a 4 panel comic. Comics are hard to write (that’s what Spiegelman said), and I am glad that the strip form is making a comeback. Comics are a great medium, and there is something pleasing about the rhythm and flow of a four panel comic that will never lose its appeal. Comic strips will be around for a long time, and it is one way that the internet is helping out the art form. (Please stop trying to make comic books ‘readable’ on the internet, by the way. I don’t care what kind of cool animation you have to make it look like a page is turning, I don’t care).

So the other thing I attended was an interview of Stephen Colbert…out of character. God this was awesome. AWESOME.

The interview covered a lot of topics (sorry, E, no Exit 57 discussion). The more interesting of these were Colbert’s construction of his character, and his role as a possible ‘crusader’.

At one point, Ariel Levy asked him about what it was like to speak truth to power, and Colbert disagreed with the premise of the question. He said that he tries to focus exclusively on the jokes, because if he focuses on pursuing an agenda, his show would suck.

Colbert said that he views his show as constructing a false reality to highlight the absurdity of reality, in opposition to the Daily Show, which he says he views as deconstructing reality. By the end of the night, he agreed that he didn’t speak truth to power, but instead spoke ‘truthiness to power’. I thought that was a good line.

Oh, and he said the only time he was truly afraid of breaking character was when Jane Fonda sat on his lap.

Later tonight (or tomorrow), Religulous review!

Filed under: Comics,Geek Chic,TV

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