This past Saturday I attended the fundraiser event for the upcoming LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL and the event turned out to be an even more pleasant experience than I could have imagined. My gratitude to author Reyna Grande for inviting me to participate, and to the LBFF and Pan American Bank for putting on such a wonderful event.
The fundraiser was held at the Pan American Bank in East Los Angeles. Jesse Torres, the CEO, was very generous in hosting the event. This bank really does live up to the phrase 'serving it's community'. Banks today are seemingly perceived as despicable as Hollywood studios and lawyers, but the Pan American Bank seems to really keep their focus on servicing their patrons and the community at large. Their sponsorship of art and literature is welcome evidence of that.
Bank CEO Jesse Torres. We're standing in front of a painting that's part of a small exhibit they currently have in the bank.
Front of the bank (from their Facebook page)
Some of the bank's permanent art on display. Plus all the goodies for the silent auction.
I wish I had taken more photos, but sometimes I just get so caught up in the moment of participating in the event and meeting people that I forget to get my Jimmy Olsen on! The inside lobby had tables for authors and other exhibitors. The area immediately outside the bank, leading to the parking lot, had a huge tent set up, where the majority of the events took place, such as author interviews and readings. You can see more pics of the event at this Facebook photo page.
Among the exhibitors on hand was TIA CHUCHA'S CULTURAL CENTER & BOOKSTORE. I've actually exhibited in a group art show there some years ago, so it was nice seeing them again. They sold my comics, and the other author's books, at their table.
Philip Victor, comic book writer. I had met Philip some years ago, and he actually suggested to the festival organizers to invite me onboard for the fundraiser. Thanks Philip!
It wouldn't be an LA Latino event without Lalo Alcaraz, the creator of the newspaper strip LA CUCARACHA. I've known Lalo for years now, and he never ceases to amaze me with his escapades. He was actually at another event prior to this one!
Like any event I attend, there's always a vibrant kaleidoscope of experiences. Also attending the event was Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer of comics, film and television. His comic book series, THE MIDDLEMAN, was turned into an ABC television series. A few years back I was on a Writer's Guild panel with Javier, so we spent some time catching up and talking shop. He's adapted several comics as screenplays, and one thing I was reminded of in talking with him was just how lucky I had it working with a small, independent company for the El Muerto film. His tales of Hollywood studio development hell certainly don't sound like the experiences I had in the indie film world! (Although, for the uninitiated, even a small film company comes with the occasional headache and heartburn...)
Among other folks I met was a librarian for a local University who bought my comics for her library's collection. And I also met the director of a company that offers webinars, so we talked about me perhaps teaching on online comics workshop. A funny situation that happened was a fan walked up to me, waving, "Hi Javier!". Of course, I didn't recognize him, but he reminded, in a good-natured tease, "You haven't added me as a friend on Facebook for a year!".
Well, from there we hit it off just fine. And I can now report to the entire internet audience that Anthony and I are now officially Facebook Friends!
There was a great surprise later in the evening. For about an hour or so they held an author's panel, with all 20 or so attending writers and artists being given short interviews. At the end of the interviews, we were each presented with Certificates of Recognition from city, state and even Congressional representatives. These were in recognition for our support of the Latino Book Festival and our individual efforts as creative people in the community. After 12 years as a self-published comic creator, and considering everything I've done and been involved with, this felt really good to receive. Especially since it was completely unexpected.
From Supervisor Gloria Molina, of the County of Los Angeles:
Two from Sacramento. From State Senator Ronald Calderon and Speaker of the Assembly John Perez:
And U.S. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano:
I just love seeing the Congressional logo, my name and 'Comic Books' on the same certificate! I guess there's more to comics than "Bam! Pow! Ka-Blam!". I'm glad they wrote 'comics' too, not 'graphic novelist' (hate that word) or 'sequential pictorial narratives' or some other artsy fartsy word some writers and artists try to prop up. I make floppy, stapled comic books, folks!
Seriously though, these were very nice to receive. Thanks to the Latino Book Festival for arranging these for us, and to the various representatives for awarding these. Sure, it's not like they all read my comics and say 'Give that guy an award!'. But it is recognition for our work as artists who give our time and efforts to instilling some creativity and imagination in others.
Over the last 12 years, I've spent the majority of my time in comics trying to sell my books and artwork, promoting my name and my brand (because one becomes a self-publisher primarily to sell one's work directly). But I've also spent lots of time, once I realized the value it gives to others, talking to students and teaching kids about art and comics and showing them the value of expressing themselves through comics. Like I told me friend Irma at dinner that evening, I look as these certificates as a nod to some of the educational things I've been doing since I published my first comic back in 1998.
My only question is: Was the President too busy running the country to sign a certificate for a comic book guy?! Sheesh!
Well, maybe next time.... :)