The eighth annual Brooklyn Book Festival will open September 22 on the Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza with an expanded presence for comics and graphic novel artists who will be featured on comics-focused panels and throughout all the Festival’s literary programming. Highlighted by a public conversation between acclaimed cartoonists Art Speigelman and Jules Feiffer, the festival will feature appearances from such noted comics creators as Faith Erin Hicks, R. Kikuo Johnson, Rutu Modan, Francoise Mouly, Jeff Smith, Mariam Katin, Ben Katchor, Lucy Knisley, Ricardo Liniers, Raina Telgemier and many others.
This year for the first time a cartoonist, Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings, Summer Blonde), will be among the authors featured with a BBF bookmark circulated throughout the festival. The show will also boast an increased number of comics vendors exhibiting in the plaza including DC Comics, SelfMadHero, Toon Books, Uncivilized Books, Cartoon Books, NBM and Secret Acres, joining regular vendors like Drawn & Quarterly, PictureBox and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. This year the comics and graphic novel programming also has its own tumblr account.
Meg Lemke, chair of the BBF comics committee, credited the growing presence of comics in the programming on working closely with publishers, starting early and polite persistence and also credited the members of the BBF comics committee. “Our success pulling in bigger names has been about building relationships and being persistent. We have wonderful publishers,” she said, pointing to a regular vendor/exhibitor like Drawn & Quarterly and to Fantagraphics, which is based in Seattle, Lemke’s home town.
“The festival has always included comics and graphic novels,” Lemke said, “but I made the pitch three years ago to the literary council to make them a bigger presence. I basically said "We should respect comics as a literary medium that crosses genre, integrate them throughout our programs, as well as feature some “all comics” panels, and take them seriously.”
This year’s Brooklyn Book Festival will again feature comics creators on comics panels as well as on panels featuring a variety of literary themes. Among noted panels are The Faces of Brooklyn, featuring novelist Pete Hamill (The Christmas Kid), Adelle Waldman (The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.) and Adrian Tomine; and Lost and Found: The Journey Begins at Home with travel writer Jean-Marie Blas de Robles (Where Tigers are at Home) and Austrian comics artist Ulli Lust (Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life).
Comics focused panels include The World (According to Cartoonists): Border Crossing Comics featuring Tomine, Rutu Modan (The Property), Dash Shaw (New School) and David Prudhomme (Rebetiko). And Art Speigelman (Co-Mix) and Jules Feiffer (Out of Line: The Art of Jules Feiffer) in Conversation, will feature the two Pulitzer prize winners discussing the impact, history and development of the comics medium.
Panels and programming will be spread around a number of venues including the main stage in the plaza and nearby venues at the Brooklyn Historical Society and St. Francis Auditorium. Comics events will also be featured in the week before the festival opens with “Book End” events held at Brooklyn bookstores and comics shops including a Fantagraphics Book Party at Bergen Street Comics, and a party for Art Speigelman’s new book, Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps (D&Q), at Greenlight Bookstore.
This year’s comics programming was organized by the Brooklyn Book Festival comics committee which includes the chair, Meg Lemke, Columbia University graphic novel librarian Karen Green, comics artist Matt Madden and this reporter, who will be moderating the panel, The Future: Big New Books In Comics Sci-Fi with Jeff Smith (RASL), Paul Pope (One Trick Rip-Off) and Faith Erin Hicks (Last of Us).
Lemke said that “while it's old news that ‘comics aren't just for kids’ there's definitely still skeptical literary readers who haven't yet been woo-ed, but should be, and a lot of those folks line up at BBF. They buy books and now they'll buy comic books. This year we have Adrian Tomine on a panel with novelists Pete Hamill and Adelle Waldman; and cartoonist Lucy Knisley (Relish: My Life in the Kitchen) talking cooking with chef star Eddie Huang. It's going to be great.”