It's always Africa-Hot here in Madrid in August, but it's still my favorite month, because with most Madrileños away on vacation, I feel as though I've got the entire city to myself. The last few months have been nuts in Spain, the nation's economic woes closing in tight around most everyone I know. But what else is new?
I finished my Claude McKay comic for Verso's upcoming anthology, "The Bohemians," and am hard at work on a 15 page companion piece about the pioneering dancers Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus.
"African-American Classics," the comics anthology of great poems and short stories by Black authors, that I helped to create for Graphic Classics continues to receive critical raves and if you haven't got your copy by now, I strongly urge you to get one quick! You won't be sorry! Publisher Tom Pomplun has also reprinted my adaptation of "The Bottle Imp" for his updated edition of the collected works of Robert Louis Stevenson. You can find out more about both books at the Graphic Classics site.
Speaking of sites, my own website (lancetooks.com) has apparently fallen by the wayside... I paid for the domain name, but after ten long years of putting up with the host (Powweb, who always acted as if they were doing me some grand favor when cashing the many checks I sent them over the last decade)... the site's in limbo. Watch this space... perhaps the page will return as something more entertaining and practical.
I acted in my third short film this year in May. Entitled "Perfect Families," it was made in 48 hours for a contest that we didn't win... (What can I say... A group of expats before an all-Spanish jury) ...but it was so much fun to make and you can watch it right here and judge for yourself! I acted in another film called "The Underkraken" which is still being edited, and yet another called "La Dulce Voz," which I'll share when the link's available.
The most amazing experience I had this year was hands down the work I did for Icontur, an English-Language school in Jaca, Spain. Located in Aragon, in the Pyrenees mountains on the French border, the school hired me as a performing Storyteller, a job I was probably born to do. Working the entire month of July, it was the first time I've had to wake up at a respectable hour in the twenty-first century! I was thrilled to be working alongside an able team of educators... when I think about it, I've been working alone on my comics for more than a decade and I've really missed being part of a project with other creative folks, something I haven't done since my days at MTV Animation in the year 2000. This blog entry is illustrated with drawings from a very creative month... only the first five above are by yours truly... the rest below are all done by my students!
I retold Aesop's classic fables, twice in the morning, then held a comics workshop in the afternoon. My kids, between the ages of six and seventeen were with very few exceptions, talented and fun to work with, and they treated me like royalty... especially after word spread that I'd worked with Madonna and with Marvel Comics. In my cartooning class I'd choose a theme, cover the blackboard in drawings and invite the kids to copy them or create something better from their own imaginations. I was confident that most would choose the latter, because every adult artist that I know envies the unbridled creativity that only children possess.
One student in particular, Alejandra from Galicia, showed a precocious talent that I hope she'll continue to nurture within herself... if she does, I bet one day she'll be the greatest cartoonist who ever lived!
A highlight of the program for me, and for many students as well, was the series called "Strange Animals," in which each kid would choose the names of a pair of animals (in English), which I would "mashup" on the board into an entirely new creature. The students would then create their own hybrid animals, which were ten times better (funnier, more creative) than anything I could come up with on my own.
I'll never forget the experience of spending a month in the presence of such a wonderful group of children. I'll admit that I had it a lot easier than the other teachers... I neither administered language tests nor wrote reports... and though I've always respected teachers and the difficult work they do, I now view them with a more profound admiration.
The final sketches are caricatures of their teacher... I appreciate that they chose to slim me down a bit for art's sake.
Soooo.... after completing my Dancers comic at the end of the month, it's back to work on my original graphic novel, "Thug Midwife" in September, just in time for my milestone (choke) fiftieth birthday celebration on the fifteenth. Soon after, in October I'm returning to my native New York City for the first time in over five years! I hope I'll see you there!
Stay cool, stay fed, stay employed!