A big part of Toonfest are the presentations given by the guests of honor. There were two rounds of these; the first on Friday were for high school and college art students, and the second on Saturday were for the general public. It was fascinating to hear all the presenters tell their personal stories about working in comics and show some of their drawing technique. The art students were hand picked by their respective teachers and bussed in from all over the area - some riding as for long as two hours just to get there.
Here's a small recap:
First was Stan Goldberg of Archie Comics. I hate to refer to him that way because, as important as his contributions to the Archie franchise have been, the man is a giant in the industry of comic books and illustration. In a career that spans over 50 years, Mr. Goldberg has held important positions at both DC Comics, Marvel Comics and also spent 15 years drawing Millie the Model. I could use the rest of this space simply to list his accomplishments!
Stan gave a terrific presentation describing the various facets of his career, including getting his start in the business at the ripe age of 16. Something pretty impossible to do nowdays.
A word about the pictures - my digital camera did a dismal job capturing the presentations which is why many of these are dark. Later I switched to good old fashioned 35 mm. And I was unable to get a single decent picture of Dr. Allen that day. You'll see him later in other posts.
Stan reflecting on his career
Stan drawing Archie.
Next up was John. He told the story of his 14 year journey to syndication with King Features, (which you can find archived in his lab notes and also in issues 4, 5 & 6 of Stay Tooned magazine) and how the characters evolved through the development period. He also threw in several humorous anecdotes including a couple involving Halloween costumes for our oldest son who was the original inspiration for Edison.
There were a few issues with the drawing pad :-)
This is Edison without his glasses. The syndicate insisted on a complete redraw of Edison, stating that he needed to look more like a kid and not a middle aged man with a combover. They also insisted his glasses made him look too nerdy. Feeling the glasses were crucial to Edison's character, John fought to have them reinstated.
And here is a version of him before his makeover.
After a break for lunch, we heard from Dr. Robin Allan, Disney historian and author of the book "Walt Disney and Europe". Dr. Allan gave a charming presentation detailing the years long journey of researching and publishing his book. He faced many hurdles in his research, not the least of which was the fact that the Disney Company steadfastly denied Dr. Allan permission to use a single Disney illustration in the book! It turns out the ultimate way around this was to pursue the research as a doctoral candidate. A doctoral thesis, since it is not for publication, can use the images without permission. Eventually, after reviewing the thesis, the folks at Disney relented and allowed the book to be published.
Next we heard from Guy Gilchrist who currently does the syndicated strip Nancy. Guy is another of those folks who has been working in the comics business for many years. In addition to his work on Nancy, he does a panel strip called Today's Dogg, and spent several years working for Jim Henson drawing the muppets. He is also an accomplished children's book author (his children's books have won at least 2 NCS awards) songwriter and recording artist. Talk about multi talented!
Guy talked about leaving home at 14 and is another who was working in the business at 16. His presentation was probably the most "teacherly" in that he spent much of his time drawing and explaining the process of building figures from the inside out and manipulating them in three dimensions.
Finally, came Marcus Hamilton who draws Dennis the Menace. I was partially aware of his story of taking over the strip from Hank Ketchum, having read it in an issue of Cartoonist Profiles, but had no idea what a godsend getting the Dennis gig was for Marcus. It is such an inspiring story that I would like to devote an entire post just to that. Hopefully sometime in the next two weeks. In short, Marcus was a top level illustrator with several magazine covers (including the Saturday Evening Post) to his credit when the illustration work started to veer away from hand drawn pieces to computer generated images. At an incredibly low point in his life he landed the chance to work with Mr. Ketchum and take over the daily drawing of Dennis The Menace. (The Sundays are the work of Ron Ferdinand)
(I couldn't resist the irony of the gentlemen in this shot)
Mr. Hamilton gave a wonderful presentation in powerpoint that summed up his personal career, the career of Hank Ketchum and the evolution of Dennis.
After the presentations, all the guests assembled on the stage for Q & A.
If there was a theme to the event, I would have to say it was perseverance! Each of these gentleman spent years following their dreams and making a career in comics a reality - a career that can have long odds and be pretty daunting.
It was inspiring to hear their stories, to say the least.
Next installment: The Toonfest Parade and Plaque Ceremonies.