Wizard reviews Anders Nilsen and Gabrielle Bell's MoCCA panel

“Creators Gabrielle Bell and Anders Nilsen talk about their latest Drawn and Quarterly releases and the events that inspired them” / Wizard / Brian Warmoth / June 25, 2007

Two Drawn and Quarterly creators stepped up to the microphone to discuss their work Saturday at the 2007 MoCCA Art Festival. Both of their comics grew out of relationships, but the differences between the endings that inspired their stories, and the styles and personalities behind them, marked the wide spectrum of perspectives at work at one of comics’ largest indie publishers.

Seeming shy and a little giggly, writer-artist Gabrielle Bell, who was accompanied by fellow D&Q creator Anders Nilsen, presented a reading from her recent diary-style comic Lucky. She let the comic, and an enlisted friend, handle her stories’ loud noises and climactic moments of peril.

Bell showcased a story from Lucky #2 entitled “My Affliction,” which fantastically depicted a series of whimsically romantic relationships strung together and rhythmically punctuated by her main character being left behind to stumble upon someone new and begin another infatuation. The creator said that the story sprang from a major breakup.

“I would write one page a day and I would make it up as I went along,” Bell explained. “I used my dreams. Then, when I finished it, I re-did the whole thing just to make it have more continuity. I put in some foreshadowing, jokes and things like that.”

She referred to her first drafts of the comics as a “dress rehearsal,” which laid the groundwork for her rewrite, which extended the entire process to about 40 days by the time she concluded the book.

Nilsen followed Bell’s cheerfully optimistic romp with more sobering and contemplative slideshow, balancing out the panel with a look at his graphic novel Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, which collects letters, photos and other memories of his fiancée Cheryl, who died after a bout with cancer in 2005.

“The book is more or less a document of our life together,” he described, showing pictures and reading from correspondence he included.

Nilsen also showed scenes from his comic Big Questions, which he said he hopes to see collected later this year. The images consisted of satellite photos of the Earth that Nilsen captioned with drawings and text.

Both creators fielded questions following their readings about their work and backgrounds, including the value of formal education in their careers. “Gabrielle and I come from two different backgrounds in regards to that, because I did go to art school and did some comics in undergrad,” Nilsen responded. “[I found] that the instructors were very supportive of doing [comics], but they had very little to offer, so I ended up dropping out and doing it on my own.”

“You’re on your own,” Bell smiled. “It is changing,” she added, citing programs that are spouting up in art schools around the country.

Bell also responded to one audience member who noticed the looser lines she used in Lucky. Anders revealed that Bell had in fact done the book left-handed, “which is why the drawings are wobbly,” she added. “I had an injury at the time. It worked out well because it was shaky, but it was consistently shaky, whereas my right-handed drawing is slick but not as consistent,” Bell explained. Clearly, the lack of a functioning right hand didn’t stifle her creativity.

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