By far, the most rewarding gigs I've been involved in with the Cartoonistas are the library appearances we do. And yesterday's gig at the Whittier Public Library was no exception.
Bonnie Weber, Head Librarian for Children's Services, and her staff were absolutely exemplary in taking care of us. I may have written this before, but library staffs respect and appreciate the talent that performs at their facilities. So right off the top we were already enjoying our appearance there in t he Nixon Room (named after Whittier resident and the former President!). I was joined by Cartoonistas Jim Lujan, Raul Aguirre and Grasiela Rodriguez (although for reasons unknown she sat and enjoyed the show from the audience seats!!).
One thing about the library gigs is that you get the perfect crowd, kids aged from 8-12. They're at that age where they go along for the show (as long as you're entertaining!) and are still open to speaking up and sharing. It's always great to see parents attending with their kids because you know they're spending some quality time together enjoying the performance.
Among the attendees was a young man whose been a fan of my work since he was 16 (he's now 20), when he first joined the Message Board I used to host on my El Muerto website. I actually met him in person last year when I was up in Portland at the Stumptown Comics Fest. This time he happened to be in Los Angeles on vacation with family and was able to make it to this event. There was young kid who was familiar with El Muerto via the local comics shop GEEKS, where my comics and DVD sold. (Maybe now he'll go back and buy them!)
What do we actually do at these gigs? Lots! I started with an intro about how the Cartoonistas formed and talked of my own childhood growing up in Whittier and as a kid using the Library to study the Norse mythology I first discovered in Marvel Comic's THOR. I started with an interactive comic making project. I told the kids we would make a one page, four panel comic book with Lollipop Kid (easy to draw, you see!). I started with the Kid walking down the street and via the suggestions from the audience, the Kid found a shiny penny on the floor, got swallowed by a dragon, and then was spit out because he was orange flavored! I don't think I'm gonna create the next Jack Kirby with these exercises, but it's fun hearing the kids contribute elements to the creation of a simple story.
Jim (above) dazzled the crowd with his trademark 'Doodle Challenge'. He asks a kid to scribble a doodle on a piece of paper, the trickier the better, and then he makes a drawing out of it. He's amazingly good making really clever choices with his drawings, and his rapport with the kids is fantastic. These prove really popular every time.
Raul, in his debut library appearance as a Cartoonista, talked to the kids about his work in animation for such studios such as Disney, and also gave the kids some quick lessons in cartooning.
This guy's not only amazingly talented in his drawing, but he's also a master at communicating with the audience and playing back and forth with the kids. He drew the Hulk eating a burrito, and was bantering with this little kid, David, about the drawing. David told us he was the 'best green colorer', so Raul asked him to color the drawing! That kid was awesome. Probably about 6 or 7, but with a real vocal and expressive way about him.
At the end of our 2 hours (and boy what a workout it is to be 'on' the full time!) we auction off our artwork and doodle for the kids.
One lucky young lady won Raul's Punisher art, and she actually wanted it! One kid won a Wolverine I drew, but traded it for the Muerto drawing another kid has won! That made me feel really good. I also got requests to draw Venom, Cyclops, Black-suit Spider-Man, the Flash and my two favorites: a rabbit (!) and....the Planter's Peanut dude!?!
Raul's debut performance in a library gig was a grand slam. The kids loved it, we loved it, and Mr' Aguirre himself loved it. The fact that his lovely and creative wife was there was icing on the cake. A Cartoonistas salute to the Aguirre's, the Diego and Frida for our times! And thanks to the Whittier Library, the parents and kids who showed up, and my friends in the Cartoonistas for this great day.