On display in Museum Meermanno in The Hague right now: a great exhibition of 200 years of Dutch comics! Ever since I helped putting Dutch Comics History online on Lambiek.net, the subject has been a bit of a hobby of mine. So I was very pleased and honored when the museum asked me to draw a magazine to accompany the exhibition. It’s become a 40-page comic book, relating the history of Dutch comics mostly through several children of the past, who tell which comic they like best and why. The book is for sale only at the museum, as long as the expo lasts, which is until January 12, 2014. But here’s a bit of a preview:
I also made a short VideoScribe (in Dutch) with a few of the old comics and children from the book. Click on the picture to see it on YouTube:
Yesterday, I did a book signing at comic store The Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, and it was a great experience. The store is small but very complete, and they set me up a nice little corner with both of my books, Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics and Science: a Discovery in Comics.
The right part of this picture was taken by Clay Fernald, who did a great interview with me that was published only hours before on DigBoston.com. I think it had some effect, since people came in steadily and I had some great conversations and signed quite a number of books.
In between, Yiri and I had nice conversations with the store owner, Tony, who told us that the store’s name is actually the title from a Ray Bradbury story from 1948 – it was adapted as a comic and published in EC Comics’ Weird Fantasy in 1953. This comic was the first that the original founder of the store ever read. Tony showed us the comic, and I think it’s a great story. There’s some wise words words about science in it that I thought I’d include here:
Yiri and I also had time to start a double-comic, but we didn’t quite finish it:
We really enjoyed our hours in the store – thank you Tony and crew for inviting us! We hope to be back some day!
Yesterday, we were at the Brooklyn Book Festival, which was awesome: great weather, lots of people, lots of sales. Here I am with the merchandise:
In the first few hours, before it got really busy, Yiri and I drew this comic:
The figure with us behind the booth is our beloved publisher, Terry Nantier. The character visiting the booth is NarcissMan, one of Yiri’s creations.
We’re having a blast here in the States. Our next stop will be in Boston next Wednesday, at marvelous Harvard Square comic store The Million Year Picnic.
On Friday we’ll be back in Brooklyn, at the esteemed Bergen Street Comics. They made a really nice announcement, which is featured everywhere, even on Times Square I think.
Last weekend, Yiri and I attended the SPX comics convention in Washington DC, where we met our publisher Terry Nantier for the first time, and also fellow NBM authors Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman. Together, we manned the NBM booth, conveniently placed close to the entrance, and had a great time meeting fans and selling books. Science: a Discovery in Comics was received very well, and Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics was even sold out by the end of Sunday!
Yiri and I gave out free “Double Dutch” mini-comics – a collection of the collaborative jam-comics we have done together lately (and also some we did with colleagues Floris Oudshoorn and Ingi Jensson). This proved a great way to introduce ourselves and to trade for some very nice mini-comics by others.
In between “business” on Saturday, I got to make some double-comics with Brent:
On Sunday, we were joined by Matt Aucoin, whose Double Think mini-comics I really enjoy. Yiri and I first met him through Streetpass, a connecting feature on our Nintendo 3DS game console – so one of the comics we made features the Nintendo (there were a LOT around during the expo!):
SPX was the first stop on our American Book Tour, and it couldn’t have been better!
More adventure to come!
In July, I went to Oxford Summer School and attended a course about the human brain – it still resonates with me, and somehow, consciously or subconsciously, these “brain”-drawings keep popping up in the comics I made since.
For magazine Open Deur I did an illustration about music – including the route musical sensation takes throughout our brain…
Meanwhile I’m working on a comic about inspiration, for magazine Speling, and this is how I depicted the ideas streaming into my mind (always while taking a bath)…
And this is an excerpt from the comic for student magazine H/Link, about performance anxiety:
So it’s not a big surprise that when Terry Nantier of NBM Publishing asked me to do a drawing they can make into a print to go with bigger orders, this is (part of) what I came up with:
The print is called The Science of Making Comics, and will be available with orders from $30.
I’m sure they’ll be available at SPX in Washington next week, where I’ll be signing my books Science: a Discovery in Comics and Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics – so if you’re curious about the print (or the books), drop by our booth at G1-2!
Science: a Discovery in Comics has officially hit the stores and it’s time to officially promote it, with an official Promotional Tour! Margreet and Yiri are coming to the USA, and here are the dates and places:
September 14-15: SPX, Washington, table G1-2 (NBM Publishing)
September 22: the Brooklyn Book Festival, NBM Publishing booth
September 25: the Million Year Picnic, Cambridge – book signing
September 27: Bergen St. Comics, Brooklyn, NY – book signing & bubbly!
Margreet will be available for interviews or other public appearances – just contact NBM Publishing for more info.
Readers of my blog will know that I’m a big fan of writer Neil Gaiman – from his Sandman in the nineties, which was a huge influence in my decision to try to make the leap into a life in comics, to his Calendar of Tales last Spring, on which I collaborated; and now there’s his new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, for which he’s making a grand final Signing Tour. Yesterday, he was in a bookstore in Rotterdam, and my husband and I went there to listen to him being interviewed and have our books signed.
(Photo by Snuggly Oranges)
When Neil came in everyone applauded, and interviewer Marcel van Driel started a relaxed, funny & informative conversation with him. Despite the fact that Neil must have told the same things over and over again in the past weeks, he was very involved and attentive and witty. I tried to sketch him, and failed miserably:
Then I tried not to capture him realistically, but get a bit of his posture and demeanor in a more caricaturized drawing, and also failed at that:
So eventually I decided to go full caricature, and came up with this, which did not totally fail, I think – but judge for yourself:
After the interview, the signing started. In the past weeks, Neil has signed for audiences of over a thousand people – fortunately, here were “only” about 200 people. Yiri and I waited until the very last to get our stuff signed (and made jokes about “The Author at the End of the Line”). I was surprised, impressed and delighted that after 2 hours of signing, Neil Gaiman is still able to direct all of his attention to the person in front of him, and be interested, courteous and, well, charming. I hate getting all fan-girly, star-struck and nervous, but Neil makes it really easy to connect with him – in fact, he made me feel like he’s just a human being; well, a human being endowed with awesome superpowers, but a human being nonetheless. I think. (Although I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s Something Completely Different from Another Dimension either).
I asked Neil to sign my “winning” drawing for the July tale of his Calendar of Tales, and he said some really nice things about it, and I gave him prints of all the calendar-drawings I did and a copy of our new book, Science: A Discovery in Comics.
And then he said: “Do you want a hug?” And I said: “Yes please!”.
I have no photo of that moment. It was a very private and intimate moment between me, Neil Gaiman and my husband Yiri, who was standing aside and had been supporting me all evening and prevented me from nervously running away from this whole encounter a few times.
But I do have this, and the impression that, apart from being a talented writer whose work I find inspiring, Neil Gaiman is also a very nice person – and honestly, people with talent who are also nice make this world a much better place.
Yes, that’s THREE publications of my work that are coming out this month! The first is of course Science: a Discovery in Comics which is available now (even though the official presentation date is in September, when I’ll be in the US at the SPX festival to sign and celebrate) – I got my copies in yesterday so I know now that it’s REAL! The publication is beautiful again, thank you NBM! I love the hardcover, and the endsheets – and this is the first official publication that’s lettered with my own computerized blockletter font. I think it looks great, but please judge for yourself.
At the same time, the Portuguese edition of Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics is underway – it will be presented at the International Book Fair in Rio de Janeiro at the end of this month. This publication has a whole new cover, which looks like this:
When on holiday in Christ Church, Oxford, I attended the course ‘Human Memory and the Brain’, tutored by professor Gillie McNeill, who did an excellent job in making the subject matter both digestible and enjoyable. I drew a whole bunch of cartoons during class – something I would be chided for in high school but which is encouraged now, fortunately!
When we memorize things, for example a telephone number, our brain can use a variety of strategies.
It may visualize the thing it wants to remember, which is called iconic memory:
Or we may repeat the thing we want to remember with our inner voice, which is called echoic memory:
Also, we can remember something by the way it feels to the touch, which is called tactile memory:
A whole different kind of memory is the way in which we store how we physically do things, such as riding a bike. This is called procedural memory or muscle memory:
Of course we talked about famous brain scientists, such as dr. Pavlov, who experimented with his own dogs, conditioning them to salivate when they heard a bell ring, which they had come to associate with dinner being served:
Then we also looked at how the brain is actually built. I didn’t know that the biggest part is actually like a crumpled up sheet – if you could unfold it the brain would look like a weird-shaped balloon, something like this:
The thalamus is where all the information from our eyes, ears, nose, taste and touch goes first, before it’s sent on to other parts of the brain where we make actual sense of it:
A huge role in memory is played by the hippocampus, which is called like that because it looks a bit like a seahorse:
The brain is made of nerve cells called neurons, which process and transmit information in the form of electrical currents:
Each neuron is in touch with huge numbers of other neurons, each passing on information:
The place where neurons almost connect is called the synaps. Here the information is transmitted in the form of neurotransmitters, which are received by receptors in the membrane of the next neuron:
I also learned that it is a myth that the brain has a fixed number of neurons and that we lose millions of them every day as we get older – in fact, every day our brain makes new neurons! We can stimulate the growing of new neurons by getting new information in, in other words: by learning in the broadest sense of the word.
Here are some things that are recommended if you want to keep your brain healthy:
(Stuff like eating fish – omega 3 – is actually a bit overrated, although it can’t hurt either)
And oh! I almost forgot! SLEEP is very good for the brain too, as it needs that down time to process all the input and embed memories.
This finally gives me a scientific excuse for my habit of sleeping in late and taking catnaps in the afternoon.
Another important thing about the brain, that I didn’t make a cartoon of, is that it is fueled by sugar – and if it’s low on that, IT WILL EAT YOUR MUSCLE TISSUE! It won’t touch any of your fat reserves, no, it goes straight to where you keep your physical strength. So if you consider something drastic like crash dieting: DON’T. You’re just undermining yourself and your ability to think straight.
In short: what you need to do to keep a healthy brain is learn, sleep and eat your breakfast.
My husband and I have returned from a wonderful two weeks in Oxford, England. We took part in the Oxford Experience, a summer school program based in Christ Church, one of Oxford’s most famous colleges.
The buildings are probably best known for the movies that were (partly) shot here, such as Brideshead Revisited, The Golden Compass and the first three Harry Potter movies. Especially the awesome sixteenth century staircase leading up to Hall is a great location, and I tried to catch some of its lines and dimensions in a drawing, which took me three sessions to complete! That’s probably the longest I’ve ever taken over a single drawing – and I even left out quite a lot of detail.
I don’t often make drawings like this, I’m more used to my cartoony style. But the Christ Church architecture just really caught me – and it’s a great excuse to sit in one place for an hour or so and take it all in. This is a view in Christ Church Cathedral, where I attended a great trumpet concert:
All throughout Christ Church there are bowler-hatted men and women to herd the tourists into their specified routes. They are ever friendly and impeccably dressed:
The first week, we attended a course about Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which was written here. Our tutor was expert Edward Wakeling, collector, consultant, researcher, and writer on all things Carroll – not only a very knowledgeable man, but also immensely entertaining, full of riddles and jokes. I drew him as the Mad Hatter, with lots of references to the book and its writer:
The class consisted of a very international crowd – people from Australia, USA, Japan and Canada. After five days of total Alice-immersion, we were all inhabitants of Wonderland:
In the second week, we took part in the course ‘Human Memory and the Brain’, by neuroscientist prof. Gillie McNeill, who was as wise as she was enthusiastic. For another five days, we learned all about brain structure, history of brain studies, different types of memory and things you can do to keep your mind healthy (taking a course in the Oxford Experience was one of them). I made a whole bunch of cartoons during this class, which I will put up later – here’s a little preview:
At the end of our studies, we enjoyed a great formal Farewell – starting with drinks in the Cathedral Garden and ending with an amazing dinner in Hall, during which we received our certificates and heard some speeches about the Oxford Experiences and former Christ Church students (the college boasts twelve British prime ministers!). This is what we looked like in our snazzy outfits, against the centuries-old background:
Now it’s back to “normal” life, and anticipating the publication date of Science: a Discovery in Comics, which is not far off anymore…!