For Larry Reid, Fantagraphics’ resident curator, comics are a way of documenting history.
Locally, for instance, Reid points to the 1990s grunge movement.
“Seattle had wonderfully talented cartoonists to help chronicle the movement and disseminate information prior to the growth of the Internet,” he remembered. “Comic books were a way the grunge era was disseminated … Comics played an important role in the synchronicity of the city.”
Reid also remembers the initial allure of the first Fantagraphics book he saw in the early 1980s. It was black and white, called “Love and Rockets,” and foreshadowed contemporary ideals about modern society.
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Fantagraphics Follies, a talk-show-themed showcase of Seattle cartoonists, will take Bumbershoot’s Words & Ideas stage at 6 p.m. Saturday. Attendees can meet the cartoonists after the hourlong show, which Reid will host.
Graphic storyteller Jim Woodring, winner of The Stranger’s 2010 Genius Award, will draw an illustration on “paper with a pedigree” using a 7-foot pen onstage while the rest of the show plays out.
Woodring described cartooning as a literary-art form.
“Sometimes things are difficult to describe with words or symbols that have already been used,” Woodring said. “Being a cartoonist allows me to create my own vocabulary.”
Other acts include Ellen Forney, who will discuss her book “Marbles;” Eroyn Franklin, who will perform a shadow-puppet show; and Kelly Froh’s multimedia comedy act. Inspired by an episode of the Steve Allen Show, Danny Bland will read from his new Fantagraphics novel, “In Case We Die,” accompanied on piano by Steve Fisk. Musical interludes from Peter Bagge’s “Can You Imagine?” will be interspersed between Reid’s interviews with cartoonists.
Reid emphasized the opportunity to meet artists who have contributed so much to Seattle’s cultural environment. Cartoonists are often underappreciated, marginalized or stigmatized.
“We lose sight of the fact sometimes that [comics] have played such an important role in people’s understanding of their environment,” he said.
As a boy in the 1950s growing up with comic books, Reid can barely fathom that he now works for Seattle’s most reputable comic-book company.
“I pinch myself daily in a bruised arm,” Reid said.
His goal is for the audience to laugh and enjoy themselves and, at the same time, take away a sense of the artists’ innovation.
It’s not every day cartoonists have the ability to reflect their work in a performing-arts venue.
“In that context I think it will provide an interesting, unique glimpse into the artists’ creative processes,” Reid explained.
Hannah Leone: firstname.lastname@example.org