Since Raina Telegmeier and Dave Roman primarily make comics for younger readers, any event with the two of them will be focused more on that audience. The event yesterday at One More Page Books in Arlington was no exception, but I also think the adults that tagged along were just as charmed by these two (if they weren’t before, they are now). I don’t know who wouldn’t adore them after seeing them in action. They are great ambassadors for comics — both in terms of making them and reaching a new audience of all ages.
Billed as an opportunity to “interview” the two, the children were given “press passes” and allowed to sit in chairs marked “press.” This was a cute move by One More Page Books and I do think it helped the children feel more confident about interacting with Telegmeier and Roman.
The event began with having children in the audience share reading duties with the two creators in performing chapters of their comics. This is always fun and the children (with help from both Telegmeier and Roman) were impressive young actors.
Telegmeier then demonstrated drawing facial expressions, taking suggestions from the audience. She makes it look incredibly easy and fun. Roman also did a couple, although he was a bit apprehensive at first (jokes were made that it wasn’t going to turn into a “Dave versus Raina” battle of who could draw better) but there was also a playful ease to his drawings. He was given “disgusted” as his prompt, which quickly became a kid eating a plate of blue food and disliking it.
After that, the children (and adults!) got to ask questions. The children asked great questions and were genuinely interested in what Telegmeier and Roman had to say. In fact, I’d say these children asked better questions than the ones that get asked at most Q&As during panels. I actually learned quite a bit.
One of the first questions was “What is the best thing and the worst thing about making comics?” Both creators like meeting their readers and that comics has allowed them to connect with people and make friends. Both agreed that the worst part about it is how long it takes to make comics. Although they worked on the books off and on, they said that Smile and Astronaut Academy each took five years to complete, and then jokes were made about how quickly they can be read). They are both doing comics full-time now, though (in their “studio” which is also known as their “living room”) so they said their books should not take as long.
A couple of girls asked about X-Men: Misfits and one girl seemed really heartbroken when they informed her that the sequel was never going to happen (especially after she was told that Rogue and Jubilee were set to appear in it). Probably the best part of this discussion was Roman describing shoujo manga as being “sparkly” to those who didn’t know what it was.
I know that the publisher folding is the reason the sequel never got published, but I think so many people seemed not realize there was an audience for X-Men: Misfits. The audience for that book was right there.
These children loved these comics and excited to talk to these creators about them. One girl remarked that her friend gave her Smile (at a Girl Scout camp!) days after she got her braces and now she and her friends pass the book around (she also had an obviously well-loved, well-read copy with her).
Telegmeier was asked about her Eisner (and then later, we asked why she just doesn’t carry it around with her all the time). She said she’s still riding the high.
As a final note, Roman showed one of his Astronaut Elementary minicomics to the audience, telling them that if they want to make comics, they don’t have to wait for a publisher — they can do it themselves. I like that he made that point. One of the things I love most about comics is that it’s open to just about anyone.
Afterwards, the pair signed copies of their books and took plenty of photos with the attendees. Everyone seemed to have fun, and the staff of One More Page Books let the event wrap up naturally. No one was rushed through the line and everyone got to have their moment with Telgemeier and Roman.
If you’re in the DC area and missed last night’s event, they pair will be back in area for Small Press Expo next month. Stop by and buy their comics.
I am glad I got to see them before that. It was a fun night.
One More Page Books has some photos up on Facebook (see if you can spot me!). I have a few on Flickr (I used some of them in this post).