Towards the Stage II: Live Nude Cartoonist

“Live Comics Readings? What are you talking about? How does that even work?”

Well, hypothetical reader, I’m glad you asked. And might I add, you look lovely today. That shawl is positively ravishing on you.

A live comics performance can be pretty much anything you want it to be, as far as I’m concerned. But the version that I practice and am most familiar with is one that involves 

  1. Projected images from the comics page (usually a slide show built from single panels)
  2. Live voice acting (usually by the author)
  3. Occasionally sound effects, either live or prerecorded.

If you draw comics–and if you’re reading this, you probably do–you should try doing a live reading sometime. They’re a fun and largely painless way of experiencing the work from a different perspective, and they’re great for boosting sales at conventions–as well as reaching new readers.

I’ve been quite fortunate to have been invited to perform my own and Sophie’s work at a variety of conventions up and down the East Coast. I’ve seen people perform everything from autobio strips about teaching to retellings of Greek mythology to bonkers superhero books to historical retellings of snake smuggling. There’ve been a couple that have really stood out to me though.

The Intergalactic Nemesis is an Austin-based (represent) live comics reading project that has gained considerable traction in the past 5-10 years, having toured These United States and beyond. The format is similar to what I want for Büer’s Kiss: A trio of voice actors in front of a screen, acting out the parts of the comic’s characters in a configuration vaguely reminiscent of  Olde Tyme Radio Serials. I’ve not experienced the comic as an object separate from the performance, but the art was solidly mainstream and competently done. 

On the other end of the production spectrum is a live reading I saw the uncanny Tom Hart give at SPACE in the after hours readings at Kafe Keroac a year or two ago. Those unfamiliar with Hart’s work are heartily recommended to remedy that deficiency post haste. Hart read from his memoir Rosalie Lightning when I saw him at SPACE last year. I’ve never been a huge fan of autobio comics–it’s often too difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in that genre (and, as with most things, it is primarily chaff)–but Rosalie Lightning is masterful. The book concerns Hart’s loss of his daughter, which is some heavy shit, articulated masterfully and impactfully by Hart’s expert hand. The drawing is simple, at times almost naive, instantly relatable. The storytelling functions similarly: Hart relates the facts and says how he and his wife feel about them (not great). The book is powerful stuff, an unpretentious, unassuming meditation on grief. Hart’s performance is what sold me, though. There were no bells, no whistles, just Hart, a screen, a microphone, and his pain. I felt raw afterwards–I’m not ashamed to say that I cried quite a bit despite the comparatively staid emotional response I’d had to the preceding readings.

I want Büer’s Kiss to fall somewhere between those two performances. I’m not a brave enough creator to share my personal life as honestly as Hart does, but I’m not terribly interested in producing something as poppy or nostalgicas Intergalactic Nemesis. I want polish, but some dings here and there. I want to leave my audience entertained, but with limgering questions and unease. 

Can I pull that off? I’ll let you know in April.

Till next time.

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