The line was long for the Literary Arts Stage at 3:45 PM on Sunday to see Ivam Brunetti ("Misery Loves Comedy"), Daniel Clowes ("Ghost World"), and Adrian Tomine ("Optic Nerve") — three of the most talented, celebrated, and controversial alternative comics writers-artists chat among themselves and answer some good and some starkly uninformed questions from the audience.
Which brings up another thing about Bumbershoot: I have read all these guys' stuff for years and wouldn't think to bother them with queries about the significance between "real" literature and "graphic novels" (if the New Yorker is publishing several pages of new comics fairly regularly, maybe you're just illiterate for not knowing more about it by now), which they can't help but gently mock, BUT it is nice to see neophytes working this shit out for themselves. Like watching legions of MTV babies go nuts over Magnetic Fields a few years ago, Bumbershoot will learn you quickly that we can't keep the good stuff for ourselves.
But to the actual event, this was of course thrilling for the packed house to see three of the most artful, darkly comedic, and literate of current underground comic artists converse about how lonely it is to do what they do, how they hang out with each other and give each other inspiration, why Hollywood just doesn't get it in spite of all the superhero movies, and to completely advise everyone else against doing what they do "unless they absolutely feel they have to."
For those that popped in and saw the chat, and wonder where to begin, Brunetti's Fantagraphics anthology "Misery Loves Comedy" collects his mordantly riotous issues of "Schizo" into one blockbuster of entertaining and exquisitely rendered mental illness; Clowes' original comics of "Ghost World" have been re-collected in a beautiful new volume, much of it re-drawn, and combined with the script and notes from the inspiring movie of a few years back; and Tomine's various graphic novels based on his title "Optic Nerve" have the grace and eloquence of the best Russian short story writers. All this evolution of the form couldn't stop Brunetti from making recurrent tit jokes, but you had to be there to understand that was part of the irony.