It was a little bit of an odd day, in some ways.
I just haven’t gotten much information about what the event was going to be. It was in Kristiansand, in Norway, and it was a small comics festival, this was their very first year, called Stribefeber!
Which means, I think, Strip Fever, with a bit of a dialectic twang, I am told.
It seemed more of an intellectual process than a convention. It was held in a cinema, there were many documentaries, and lectures by local people involved with comics, and a few creators of comics in Norwegian.
My understanding was that because I was already going to be at a con nearby the following week, my hosts of that event, RAPTUS, reached out to this new con to ask if they would like me to attend that event and stay a couple days in Kristiansand.
Which I was happy to do, we’d get to see more of Norway. So we flew a short flight down in the morning, and I thought I was just supposed to be there for a panel, but then they said, okay, first you have a ninety minute lecture at three o’clock.
Somehow, this information didn’t get to me in advance. I am a little nervous about public speaking still. This was an audience that spoke primarily Norwegian. It was NINETY MINUTES. Most of them had never read or even seen my work. And it was an intellectual examination of comics. And I had no prep time at all. YOW!
I was a bit nervous. I have traveled all over the world talking about comics, but never to a place where they don’t know who Wonder Woman is or who I am. This made me a bit concerned!
I needn’t have worried. I got up to talk, the audience was incredibly polite and attentive, and there were some scattered fans among the group. I talked candidly about breaking in, about my feeling alienated as a female comics reader and later a female comics writer, I talked about some personal things with total strangers in another country and they were lovely.
Some guy jumped onstage and started asking very intricate and complex questions about DC stuff, he was great, but I had no idea why he jumped up during my lecture. It turns out that that was scheduled but I hadn’t been made aware of it so it threw me off a bit. Very nice man, very intense and knowledgeable.
Then they did a panel about superheroes in Norway…they really haven’t caught on here. Comics sell in huge numbers, but they are almost all humor comics. Donald Duck seems to rule all, we saw several people reading them on the plane and the comics are EVERYWHERE.
But distribution for DC and Marvel has been spotty and scattered and they simply have not caught on EXCEPT as trade paperbacks. The biggest store we went to had way more Vertigo titles than DC superheroes.
So they did this panel, half in English, for me to participate, and then I was done and they continued in Norwegian.
I thought it all went very well, but that most all these people had no idea who I was and so it may have been a little odd for the audience.
Then I sat down in the front area as I had promised to sign some books for a wonderful librarian reader (Hi, Tina!) and very shortly, something kind of cool happened.
I was suddenly surrounded by young people, many of whom were readers of my work, very familiar with American comics, and ALL of them wanted to write or draw comics. Many were cosplayers. Some worked in comics shops.
THESE ARE MY PEEPS.
This was absolutely lovely. I looked at cosplay photos, I looked at sketchbooks and tried to give helpful criticism, I gave advice on writing and how to stay focused, I listened and we talked and it was absolutely wonderful. These young people, mostly women, were smart and gorgeous and kind and talented and I found it tremendously exciting that the comics bug has bit them so hard that they all were sketching and writing and wanting to MAKE COMICS.
Some were shy and some were forward but even though we are separated by thousands of miles and borders and language and experience, we had that thing, that shared love, that you sometimes see when people who don’t speak the same language start dancing to the same song.
I can’t express how happy this made me. Would I love it if the next big wave of amazing comics creators were a bunch of adorable, funny, talented girls from a Norway coastal town?
YES, I WOULD.
Comics, I love you.
Comics READERS, I love you even more.