Blood, Sweat & Twitter: One Woman Paul Pope fandom? Bitches, please
Good friend of the blog and semi-committal comics reader Camden had the, what, dumb luck?, no, unique opportunity to see Paul Pope talk about his craft during spring break. So of course we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have her share with our readers here something of her experience. What her piece here seems to get at it is how Paul Pope has a certain something, a bit of the rock star, almost, about him that sets him apart from other comics artists. What she doesn't mention is how she had to be talked into ditching her dad's girlfriend's middle school musical to go see Paul Pope. She also doesn't mention the octopus drawing she commissioned for me. -d
I had the absolute privilege of seeing Paul Pope speak at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, which is where I live in real life. San Francisco Bay Area, not the Cartoon Art Museum, although the Cartoon Art Museum is a real treat and I do wish I had been less starstruck by His Popeliness to wander around a bit more, as they had some really cool stuff on display.
Now, you must understand where I come, pulphopefully speaking. I have been a fan of Paul Pope for about a year. David gave me a copy of Heavy Liquid to read on a plane. I think I finished it before my plane even left the airport. It was a magical moment for me. Later after I expressed my enjoyment of Heavy Liquid in several exclamation-laced sentences, David handed me 100% which I of course adored with the passion of a thousand burning suns and thus my love for Paul Pope was solidified for all eternity. I love the man and his work and though I have no background whatsoever in illustration or comics, I think his storytelling is phenomenal.
So like any good fangirl after her first fannish epiphany, I googled him, put his blogspot on my Google reader, added him on Flickr and called it a day. Later realizing that his blogspot is one of the least informative sources on all things Pulphope, at least in terms of his actual Goings On, I set up a Google alert which sent me emails every day containing extensive articles about Pope John Paul II and the occasional article casually using Paul Pope’s name in reference to something that invariably had very little to do with him. One time an actual interview with him came up! That was real exciting. Another time MTV referenced his twitter! So I added him to my Twitter feed and promptly forgot about it. Then I cut the alert email, because it was annoying.
This entire process took about thirty minutes, not counting the time I took, one day, to go back, starry-eyed, through his flickr. I merely wanted to make sure I got up-to-date information on whatever he happened to be putting out or where he might be going and signing stuff or what have you, since he is not a man who seems to make many formal appearances and who does not rapidly produce work, at least new comics. I also wanted a peek inside that magnificent brain of his, having so very little knowledge of him. I’m an English major prone to close-reading and obsessive analyzing and the only thing I have ever learned is that too much information is never enough. Twitter, Flickr, and a blog? That’s me not even trying.
Anyway, I received an email from The Cartoon Art Museum the day before the event telling me that the actual Paul Pope would be in MY STATE talking about HIS COMICS and I flipped.
I was disappointed in the talk, sort of. Forty-five minutes of talking (split between Pope and Dr Michael B Johnson talking and an audience Q&A) was never going to be enough for me, and certainly did not satisfy my desire to know more. Nevertheless, I was pleased with what I got. Johnson obviously knows Pope well and had me scrawling down illegible notes in one of my school books regarding Pope’s answers. They covered a fair bit of the artist's history, which I do feel most people could have gotten had they spent more than thirty minutes on the internet looking for tidbits of his life. I was content to learn about this part of his life though, given I’ve heard all of one interview with him. It was an interesting interview to bear witness to, and I enjoyed it, honest. It just wasn’t long enough.
However, they opened the talk with a brief poll of the audience. Who here is involved with the creation of comics (writing, drawing, etc)? At least half the audience. Who here is involved with projects around comics (apparently this means movies)? The other half of the audience. Even the surly-looking bro in the front row was an artist. I sat in my corner of the room, clutching my stupid books and thinking great, here we go, an entire talk about the industry, something I care very little about except in the context of how the industry affects the art which in Paul Pope’s case, as I learned that evening, is very little for everything between THB and Batman Year 100, and then again after the publication of Batman 100. (At this point in his career, the man is basically unstoppable. And he knows it.) But maybe there’ll be something of interest?
No. Take a crowd of mostly young and hip artists and comics dudes who are precisely the age group to which the iPhone is marketed and the first Q&A is a question about what brushes Pope uses. Um, what? He’s answered that question like a million times on twitter, dude. Or at least once and I’m sure that question has come up before. He suffered a few other questions about his art – do you thumbnail, what kind of paper do you use, what kind of ink do you use, what would you change about your art if you could start from the beginning – before I finally managed to steel myself.
I raised my hand in a sea of seemingly informed Paul Pope fans and I inquired politely as to what the fuck Shakedown actually is and what is he doing there and oh my god Paul Pope and burlesque how perfect etc, and a man sitting near me asked, “what burlesque are you talking about?”
Apparently the rest of the crowd looked fairly mystified as well and a quick explanation was in order. It is not, Paul the Illustrious said, him doing burlesque. (“Oh damn,” said half the crowd sadly, including me.) It is a show that he helped to organize with his girlfriend who is a burlesque artist. I was moved to tears, he said, at a burlesque show I went to, and I wanted to give back to this community that inspired me.
YOU’RE SO GREAT OH MY GOD I said in my head. The Q&A session moved on while I hung back, shocked – shocked! – at the ignorance of these young hip comics peeps around me. Dude next to me had a website for his comics. This other guy used ebay to buy Pulphope swag. Clearly an internet savvy crowd, as anyone over the age of two is wont to be. And yet they’d never heard of the Shakedown shows? Were they stupid? Did they just not pay attention? Was everyone here a pretender and I alone was the only true Paul Pope fangirl? Was I, in fact, the only Paul Pope stalker in the room?
Impossible. I’ve never even read all of THB. I read like half an issue once and got distracted by pasta. But Shakedown is all over his blog and his twitter and check out sheer amount of scans and photos of his art for Shakedown on his flickr. His enthusiasm for Shakedown, whatever it may be, is impossible to miss even if you visit his blog a mere once a month.
So what gives, dudes? A twenty-one year old with no independent interest in comics outside of Kate Beaton should not be more informed than you, actual comics creators with decades of knowledge, on the goings-and-comings of Paul Pope. Everyone who attended the event – and there were quite a few, standing room only – was clearly a fan. So what’s with the ignorance? Is it willful? That stupid misled fan desire to keep the creative separate from the man? But Paul Pope himself talked about “skingrafting [his] identity” onto the character of Batman in Batman Year 100 and anyone with eyes knows that it is utterly impossible to get away from Paul Pope in Paul Pope’s work. Furthermore, Paul Pope produces too little work that is so immediately difficult to get hold of that it strikes me as utterly stupid not to devote a little time and energy into keeping up with him. Particularly in something that is so obviously important and interesting and exciting to him.
Plus, it’s burlesque. Paul Pope and burlesque.
So come on, motherfuckers, get it together.