Destinations: Barcelona Comic Shops

Barcelona has great comic shops. Like, really great. In the brief time I was there, I had time to visit three—they were all located in beautiful buildings in incredibly charming parts of town. From what I could tell, they had all done well to carve out relative niches in the scene, giving visitors reason to see them all.

Norma Comics

I was drawn into this store by the Corto Maltese cardboard cutout perched on a balcony on the the third floor of the exterior. He was joined by two other characters that I was unfamiliar with—one manga, one fantasy—but oddly enough, the tactic worked. From the outside I could see that the space was big, so I was sure that I would find something interesting. And I did. While the independent section was minimal (but well-chosen), it was full of great selections from artists from around the world. The space was well-balanced between larger European albums, reprints of mainstream American comics, toys, and even a section devoted to selling original comic art. Not exactly my kind of store (and my Spanish is non-existent), but hey, I walked away with this charming little Marion Fayolle book, something that I’ve been interested in for quite some time. So yeah, while there’s probably something for everyone, it’s more geared to the Spanish audience. Nonetheless, definitely worth the visit.

Norma Comics. Barcelona, Spain.

Norma Comics. Barcelona, Spain.

norma_int

Norma Comics. Barcelona, Spain.

norma_art

Norma Comics. Barcelona, Spain.

 

Freaks

The Freaks comics shop is the midpoint in what is an impressive run of three Freaks media stores, the other two specializing in DVDs and art books. While this shop had a little bit of mainstream stuff (appropriately relegated to a tiny back room), the independent stuff is on full display here. Comprising two long center tables, the first focused on original Spanish books and Spanish-language reprints of foreign works. Regrettably, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to take notes, but I did have enough time to drool over these gorgeous Prison Pit reprints. The second table had an impressive selection of non-Spanish indie stuff from all over—Kuš, Drawn and Quarterly, First Second, Fantagraphics, No Brow, etc.—so a must stop for anyone, especially you.

 

Freaks. Barcelona, Spain.

Freaks. Barcelona, Spain.

freaks_int

Freaks. Barcelona, Spain.

prison pit

Pudridero 1 & 2. Published by Fulgencio Pimentel.

 

Fatbottom Llibreria Grafica

When asked where in Spain I could buy books by fellow Maison des Auteurs residents Los Bravù, they replied with this. With barely a barcode in the entire store, the entire emphasis is on small press. You could easily lose an entire day browsing, so I chose the easy way out and asked the owner to pick works by his favorite Spanish artists, and threw in some Decadence (U.K.) stuff for good measure. They have an amazing website too, by the way.

Fattbom Llibreria Grafica. Barcelona, Spain.

Fatbottom Llibreria Grafica. Barcelona, Spain.

fatbottom_int

Fatbottom Llibrairia Grafica. Barcelona, Spain.

fatbottom_haul

My Fatbottom haul.

For quick reference to all of the above-mentioned spots, check out the itinerary section of the blog.

 

Just Landed: First Impressions of Angoulême

Wow. When I had conceived the Comics Vacation (Comics + Travel + Everything In Between) blog, this was exactly the kind of opportunity I had in mind; however, I wasn’t sure what this opportunity would look like at the time, or if I would actually manage to pull it off. In terms of thematic scope, this trip hits all of the key criteria.

So what am I doing here exactly? How did this all come about? Here’s the story, in brief.

I like comics. I like European comics, and I especially like French comics. After discovering les bande dessinées a number of years ago, I’ve been collecting and reading them, entertaining the notion of one day being fluent enough to translate them professionally. In my undergraduate studies I minored in French, optimistic that this background would one day serve a higher purpose. In my current course of study, publishing, I’ve been searching to collect a wealth of experiences to reflect my interests and skills, to differentiate myself as an aspiring comics publishing professional. My French skills are less than awesome, and conventional wisdom says immersion is absolutely necessary; I’ve always had it in mind that I would study in France.

After a successful summer internship with Fantagraphics Books in Seattle, I began to research opportunities abroad. I wrote a cover letter and C.V. en français and sent it out to seven small and large publishers in Toulouse, Angoulême, Paris, and Brussels. Of those messages sent, I received five very polite rejection letters.

A few weeks after I sent the last of the letters, I received an email from cartoonist Jessica Abel. Jessica is on extended residency at La Maison des Auteurs, a comics cultural institution in Angoulême, and had received my contact info from one of the very publishers to decline. After a couple of weeks of discussion of expectations and abilities, it was set. I would intern for her for three months, doing production and marketing on her forthcoming graphic novel Out on the Wire: Subtitle TBD (Crown Publishing Group, August 2015), and to a lesser extent, Trish Trash: Rollergirl sur Mars (Dargaud, January 2015), her first original French language album to be released at the upcoming 42nd annual Festival International de Bande Dessinée (FIBD).

stroll

A short and beautiful stroll.

LMdA

La Maison des Auteurs.

Jessica_studio

The artist and her studio.

After two months of planning and twenty-seven hours of travel, I was in my new home in Angoulême on Tuesday, January 6th. The next day I went in to La Maison des Auteurs for a short orientation. The facility, a short and beautiful walk through Angoulême’s centre-ville, is classy, modern, and industrious—clearly a place to get work done. I said hello to Matt Madden, Jessica’s husband, fellow resident, and co-author of the Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics (First Second) series of how-to textbooks, as well as his celebrated 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style and many others. I took my short and beautiful stroll home through the old-world feel of Angoulême, into the maison-charantais-style house I now call home. Little did I know that during my brief few hours out, everything had changed.

I spent the remainder of the night glued to the television watching news of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. With all of the context to consider, I was slow to come to my own conclusion. There are so many perspectives to consider: the cartoonist, the patriot, the ex-patriot, the radical Muslim, the French Muslim, etc.; and the implications are many: free speech, terrorism, religion, racism, satire. It’s only been four days as I write this, and I’m overwhelmed and confused as I collect an ever-growing number of articles and commentary to contribute to a later post. Only a mere days after the event, and the FIBD has already announced the creation of a new award: “the prix Charlie de liberté d’éxpression.”

The next day the studio was eerie calm. I began work on Out on the Wire, and naturally, that was great. I ate lunch with Jessica and Matt, and after work, Jessica gave me a brief walking tour before treating me to dinner. But excited as I was, the air was still heavy, and it was odd to feel excitement at such a somber time. And today, without really knowing why, I marched with an estimated 20,000 people in a marche citoyenne. As the sun sets on my first week here, it has already been an experience that I will never forget.