Through Concentrated Breath

making images from memory

A Short Day at CALA

11 December 2015 by Rey Armenteros

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Held in theĀ art space, Think Tank Gallery, in the Fashion District of Los Angeles, CALA is a comic book event that brings together some of the best alternative comics creators. I went in and explored the inspiring work of dozens of creators. It immediately brought imagery that I sought to use in my own work.

Having met Robert Goodin at the Long Beach Comic Con in September, once again, I passed by to talk about The Kurdles. When I discovered Farel Dalrymple was there, I approached his table to give him my thoughts on The Wrenchies, which I happened to have finished just a couple of days before. I wanted to talk to Ryan-Cecil Smith about his work, about living in Japan, and about Tim at the Deconstructing Comics podcast, but he had stepped out. Making it a point to go back and see him later, I stepped into the presentation hall to see the discussion with Jaime Hernandez.

For me, the feature event of the whole program was the talk that Jaime Hernandez was going to give. After the presenter asked him questions about his work, the floor opened to questions from the audience, and I was slowly confounded by how no one acknowledged his status in the field. As Jaime was asked question after question about his working methods, I wondered what the new generation knew about the older comics. Here we had someone who was to alternative comics what Shakespeare was to English Literature. Along with Wendy Pini and Dave Sim and Jaime’sĀ brother, Gilbert, Jaime was one of a half a dozen creators that made the alternative scene come to life when there was nothing else on the map but corporate product. It was not the land of plenty we have around us today. If not for them, we may not have been sitting in that art space partaking of this fine venue of artistic creation.

In the end, a question occurred to me and I asked about the layout he had been using in recent years with the eight-panel grid (which made me no better than anybody else, since what I really wanted to do was give him a standing ovation). In the layout he had been using in The New Stories, I was reading into it things like Alex Toth’s last issue of Hot Wheels and some of the theories that Frank Santoro has brought up about losing the center in certain comic book page formations. But Jaime simply answered that he needed more panels per page when there was more dialogue, which is what he needed during the Hopey and Maggie scenes. Whenever the action returned, he went back to six panels. In hindsight, Jaime felt that it was not fair since Maggie and Hopey were not populating much of the action scenes lately, so they were only ever showed from midsection up.

Since no one commended him, I took the time after the convention panel to approach and tell him how much of an inspiration he was, and I recounted my first Love and Rockets experience (Love and Rockets #3) and how much of a game-changer that was – how much of a revelation in the world of comics. I shook his hand, and when I went back onto the convention floor to speak to Ryan-Cecil Smith, I changed my mind and found that this was the perfect note to end on. I went out onto the pavement and found that I was genuinely joyful, almost as if I didn’t know why.

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