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Oh hey. remember ELCAF?: Yeah you do, just barely. Here's what we did.

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{Sometimes you want to wait until your website works until posting a fun blog post and then it's a LEETLE longer than you expected and anyway thanks for having us, England.}

Sure, they always tell you about the gruel and how it's grey and rainy, but I'm pretty sure they're just trying to keep London for the Londoners or something, because the whole time we were there, the sun was shining down on us, the food was great, and the people were incredibly kind. Above is the first sighting I made of the ELCAF environs. I'm still not sure if this was a weird dry joke (and I'll never google it, you can't make me) but apparently these big circles look out over a giant drum filled with gas that changes size depending on how much gas people in England are using for cooking? Writing it out ten days after someone explained it to me, this makes even less sense than expected, and it's certainly less funny. Anyway, the Oval Space is somewhere on the other side of this canal, right behind that big metal structure.

And before I launch into the rest of the blog post, I want to take a moment of sincerity and say how exciting it was to go to England and discover a festival that was so fully formed, with its own identity, aesthetic, and audience - this was especially impressive given that the show was only in its third year, a veritable infant relative to North American institutions like SPX, TCAF, and SDCC. We were thrilled to have the chance to attend, and it was so wonderful to find out that there was such a strong, previously untapped, community in London's East End.

Moving on!

Our first day in town, somewhat bedraggled from the glory of a transatlantic red-eye flight, Chris and I trotted down to meet with our lovely British distributors, the good people of PGUK. They took us out to lunch at a French restaurant and serenaded us with gentle English accents. Here we have a jetlagged me, Cathy, Alex, Anjali, and Julian. It was really nice to catch up with them about book culture in the UK and our forthcoming titles.

Then it was off to explore the bookstores of London!

First we hit the WHS Smith en route to the Tube station, where they had a mystifying categorization system for their titles (but maybe better than all of ours?). For those of you not familiar, WHS Smith appears to be a fair and equal mixture of Grand & Toy, Barnes & Noble, and your local corner store. It being office staffer Alex's birthday that very day, I seriously considered buying her a singing card that featured a CD of all the hits from her year of birth, but I couldn't remember what year she was born, so she just got a tiny plastic lizard. Sorry Alex!

Then I headed off to Foyles, whose newly renovated flagship location had re-opened THAT DAY as it turned out. I was dumbstruck by how beautiful the space was.

Of course, it didn't hurt that one of the first things I saw upon arrival was a big stack of The WORN Archive, lined up all pretty in their fashion and art book section.

Or that I subsequently spotted their Moomin wrapping paper!

And when I headed up to their comics section, which was located on the fiction floor, I was even more thrilled to spot (face-out!) books by familiar names like Mimi Pond, Marc Bell, and Guy Delisle.

But mostly, what got me was that the whole space felt like a beautiful five-storey modern art museum except it was filled with people buying good books. Can you spot the Building Stories in the frame? Chris O and I had parted ways at this point, but I raved so much about it that he actually stopped in later in the week, and reporting back on his visit, the first thing he said was "and there were just copies of Building Stories everywhere in the shop!" It's always very heartening to see a company committing to a (breathtakingly beautiful) physical space for selling physical books.

After that, I visited Ye Olde Forbidden Planet, who have been carrying our books for years and years and years.

And I'll admit to finding this entry in the "strip books" genre quite entertaining. Can't quite see what I mean?

Ah yes, there it is. Anyway, after indulging in a few debates about which steampunk book the customer was looking for, I continued on my merry way to visit Gosh!


Gosh is one of our very favorite comics shops to work with and when I walked in the door, I could see why. Look how purty it is! Look at those stacks and stacks of face out titles! And all this not even taking into consideration their friendly and enthusiastic staffers, or the owner, Josh, who we embarrassingly failed to photograph, but who was a wonderful host to us during our time in London, and who may or may not be Chris Oliveros's alter-ego, because their lives have taken such bizarrely similar paths.

Other items one might wish to consider when nominating Gosh as London's Most Awesome Comics Shop:

1) They have a Calvin & Hobbes sandwich board!

2) They were displaying copies of our own Jessica Campbell's Oily Zine!

3) A staff member (Steve? I was very jet-lagged at this point) told me "Oh yeah, when we heard you guys were coming to town, I thought 'Oh, we should make sure their books are on display' and then I looked around and realized they all already were." Words that warm a publisher's heart!

Anyway, if you go to London, you know what to do, dear reader...

At this point, I headed home to get my beauty rest, because the next day, I was off to visit the lovely people of It's Nice That!


We here at D+Q are avid readers of It's NIce That and so it was pretty exciting to go hang out in their Haggerston studio for a little while and feel... well, JUST LIKE at home in the D+Q office. Mostly silent space? Check! Tons of fun-looking packages arriving all the time? Check! Lots of people intently working on their own projects? Check! Backyard that leads out onto a canal complete with baby goslings? Ch... Awwwww.

But anyway, they actually had a creative conference going on the following day, so I felt especially lucky that they took a little time to gossip with yours truly. Here's Liv Siddall, one of the core members of the team, and BFF with John Lennon.

And here's James Cartwright, who is an INT editor and who runs their wonderful Printed Pages magazine. Not sure why we ended up with photos of them separately instead of together, but ca y est. Together, they convinced me that Jarvis Cocker is still a REALLY BIG DEAL in England (I think they used the words "national treasure"), and we schemed about forthcoming D+Q awesomeness (unrelated to Jarvis Cocker). Also, they recommended a few more bookstores to me, and so off I toddled.

Of course, the bookstore they recommended was so cool that I was nervous to take photos in it! This is the Artwords Bookshop on Broadway Market, full of crazy smart art books and cool looking magazines. Fortunately the clerk stepped away for a second, because what's that? Just You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack hanging out next to the cash in primo territory. I honestly think they had copies of Jetpack in e-v-e-r-y bookstore I saw in England. <3

Sometimes you rent an AirBnB thinking "oh great, now we won't have to pay for WiFi" and then when you arrive the internet works, but less than an hour after sweet post-flight internet access, you get a horrific error message and your host is in Oman, and you can't use the internet at your AirBnB for the next five days. So Ann? When we expense these beers, please believe me that we tried!

So it turns out this will be a little bit of a theme: I have a theory that British people have a penchant for queueing. Waiting in line to drop my baggage off for a flight at 4 am, I asked someone, "Are you waiting to check in for Brussels?" and they said, "Oh I don't know! Maybe! I'm just queueing." So, in honor of that guy, here's a queue waiting for the *LIBRARY* to open. Needless to say, Chris and I were dreadfully charmed by this.

We passed that delightful queue en route to meet this even more delightful line-up of comics all-stars. Hello Seth, Anouk Ricard, Tom Gauld, and Chris O! Sorry I'm a terrible photographer - I think the lunch was pretty good at least.

Then we wandered over to Tom's beautiful studio. Here he is showing us some cool new project... oh wait no, he's giving us directions on how to get to our next destination (sorry/thanks Tom). Note: on this visit we discovered that Tom draws flat on a desk! No fancy slanted drawing table necessary, he'll just use that desk his Mac is sitting on.

Also, could this be any more perfect? In his studio, Tom has a little display of grey lego robots(!) he built. They made me so happy.

Next it was off to the Nobrow shop! Shhhh Anouk totally wanted to be in this photo, I swear! We rehearsed the teenager on vacation with her embarrassing mom look for a while...

If you're still reading this unbearably long post, the Nobrow shop (RIP - London, you harsh mistress), was just all the things a person would want it to be: beautiful, hard-to-find books and weird tiny plastic animals.

That night, undaunted by a faulty knee or the instructions to "enter through the alley under the bridge" Anouk and I wandered over to the ELCAF opening party. Jesse Moynihan, who I also failed to photograph, was way more punk than us though - he flew in from LA, arriving Friday afternoon, after having gotten into a bike accident the day before, and then came out to party Friday night. This photo has 150% failed to catch the charm of the rooftop bar ELCAF found for us. Sorry ELCAF, thanks for hosting us!

 

Look, I didn't mean to capture a thousand photos of Chris and he's probably hating this. I just thought you should know we got a Full English breakfast at the Worker's Cafe before heading off to work at ELCAF. It seemed important.

The hit of the show for us was undoubtedly Benson's Cuckoos. This fine human got THREE copies and then told me Benson's Cuckoos was the whole reason she came to the show! I can only assume the yellow of her belt, earrings, and nails was planned to match the book cover.

Speaking of, here's Anouk's panel. Moderator Robert Hanks is obscured by someone's head (oops), but I heard he did a great job! People were thrilled to hear Anouk talk. Nobrow translator Judith, in the white shirt here, was incredibly kind to step in as an interpreter last minute.

One of our first visitors of the day was Julian Ball of PGUK - he came by to wish us well and to offer a few tips: "The currency here is the pound, the word 'pants' means 'underwear', and 'sweaters' are 'jumpers'." JK, he came by to scope out the competition er, see what's cool and new.

{I swear, I'm a bad photographer but not this bad. It's not my fault the space had the biggest most beautiful windows a person could imagine and that every photo of a person standing in front of those windows is a hazy mess. Here's what the actual space looked like, day-of. D+Q is in bottom right-hand corner, facing out on floor-to-ceiling windows:

Photo swiped from the Nobrow site. I loved the hand-crafted feeling of the show and the space.}

Before the show got too crazy, Chris and I took a second to walk around and admire the quality of the exhibitors.

And who did we find but Angus Cargill of Faber & Faber and his lovely colleague whose name I've forgotten (look, it's now been a full month since ELCAF, I'm sorry... Rachel?)! Faber & Faber publishes Adrian Tomine in the UK; they are also responsible for those fine-looking editions of Jar of Fools and Marble Season you see on the table and are glowing supporters of their authors. It was lovely to meet him. Angus is giving us his best Huey face here.

And here are two of the festival organizers, Ligaya Salazar and Sam Arthur. Ligaya and Sam (and the not pictured Joana Filipe, as well as the whole Nobrow team) did a great job of welcoming us and our authors.

They also did a great job of bringing in the crowd. Continuing on that tangent about queueing: I was pleasantly shocked to come out of the show to go check out Anouk's panel, and discover a queue halfway down the block of excited comics fans, waiting to come peruse ELCAF wares. The lineup was there from about 11 am until about half an hour from close.

{Side note: that banner you see, with Chris Ware's ELCAF logo emblazoned on it? A local convict sporting an actual ankle monitor did that. A fine draftsman, at that!}

And then it was back inside for the epic, extremely patient Seth and Chris Ware signing (talk about a queue!). Both these gentlemen are real pros, gracious and friendly with their fans at all times. People were absolutely T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D to meet them.

Finally, though, Seth had to be whisked away for his panel with Paul Gravett, which was a full house. I am never happier than when I get to hear a good Seth anecdote about his time as a goth. I couldn't stick around for the whole talk, but I got this gem: "When I got ready to move to the big city, I packed two things: my leather gauntlets and my trench coat." I love listening to a room full of people roar at Seth's jokes.

Back at the booth, this young woman came up and asked which Chester Brown book she should pick. The man to her right then spent all of ten minutes explaining why Louis Riel was the better choice. She went with Paying For It. After all these years, "a Canadian rebel who was a touchstone for the cultural and societal concerns of the time" can't compete with a comic-strip memoir about being a john.

Meanwhile, back in the interview room, Chris Ware was presenting to a standing-room only crowd of awed attendees. I was still running around, so I didn't get to take a good long listen to what Chris was saying sadly, but I did note down this gem of a line: "Everyone has one really good story in them - the story of their life." Listening to Chris talk always makes me feel like I've learned things about life. I know this was a highlight of the show for a lot of people.

And then it was off to dinner, with the Wares, Tom, Anouk, Seth, and Jon McNaught.

We were so delighted to get to hang out with Marnie and Clara Ware. I like this photo because I think it's got a good diversity of facial expressions in it. (That's what photos are for, right?) Marnie and I got some good garden talk in, as she has recently spearheaded a campaign to create a community garden at the Chicago Public School where she works. Clara got some good drawing in -- comics professionals, look out!

And just like that, our British stay was over. Thanks to everyone who came by the booth, to our authors, and to ELCAF for giving us such a mighty fine excuse to come visit.