See you soon, and keep an eye out for the December Ramsay newsletter comic - I've got something a bit special coming up.
November's been off to such a busy start, I forgot to post my Ramsay newsletter comic for the month! Here you go! It's in three parts because the text is kind of small, and dividing the image up seems to help with the resolution.
If you'd like to listen to Bochum (you know you want to, now), here's a link to the song on Youtube. Enjoy!
See you soon, and keep an eye out for the December Ramsay newsletter comic - I've got something a bit special coming up.
My Word on the Street Festival story begins with Eric Dyck, Lethbridge-based comics creator and community builder. He makes comics as fast as the good people of Lethbridge can read them. His monthly Drink & Draw with Eric Dyck at Lethbridge's Owl Acoustic Lounge brings out doodlers of all ages.
Eric's historically-inspired comics about local happenings are putting independent comics on the radar of readers who might otherwise never know about this fast-growing field. But Lethbridge is far from a one-comic town. It seems that there are a few other big local comics supporters, such as retailer Kapow! Comics, for example. And apparently the Lethbridge Public Library has a particularly big and wonderful collection of comics. No wonder Eric feels so much at home in this town!
Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, I don't think independent comics had much representation at literary festivals. But in 2017, indie comics have a growing audience, as witnessed by events like last week's CXC Expo in Columbus, Ohio, as well as homegrown festivals like Winnipeg's Prairie Comics Festival and Calgary's Panel One Comic Creator Festival. Readers are interested in this medium!
Still, though, there are probably some old-fashioned folks who think the comics makers and readers should stay at their own designated festivals where they belong. Not so Lethbridge's annual Word on the Street Festival. This year the festival played host to a whole day's worth of comics conversations, featuring Panel One's Erin Millar; Svetlana Chmakova talking publishing illustrated books with Yen Press; Halli Lilburn and Ryan Jason Allen Willert talking colouring books; and of course the Lethbridge-inspired work of Eric Dyck.
I was so excited to be invited to come down and join in the comics conversations at WOTS. Anybody who's seen my work can tell that I like drawing pictures, but here's a little-known fact: I'm much more interested in the words. It's the story that drives everything else. So thanks, WOTS Lethbridge, for including me among your talented writers this year!
My favourite part of this event was the conversation between the writers themselves. Not just comics creator shop talk - although I do love that - but I also had the chance to talk with, and listen to, a few YA fiction writers. Teenager books are one of my favourite subjects, and Tom Ryan's casual E. L. Konigsburg reference was a highlight of my last evening! Where else do I find people who know about this stuff??
Here are some pictures I took. Scroll over them to see the captions. The best picture's at the bottom!
And a highlight from the weekend: watching a couple of iconic Canadian authors, Joy Kogawa and Louise Bernice Halfe, devour a boatload of sushi at Lethbridge's O-Sho Sushi. An amazing end to an amazing weekend!
Well, I haven't had much time for blogging this summer, but I'm back now to post this month's Ramsay newsletter comic, and talk about coffee shops while I'm at it!
Without further ado, here's the Ramsay comic, featuring the story of the 3 Sams and some news about a local event that's happening later TODAY! Read fast, and then head over to Caffe Rosso in Ramsay for the birthday celebration!
Learn more about Sam Mendoza's inspiring small business DITRO here.
So that was coffee shop #1. But just as I was posting this, I realized I have another coffee shop story too. One of the reasons I wasn't posting things online earlier this summer is because I took a trip to Germany, and while I was there, I visited the good old Cafe Extrablatt in Mainz.
For the past 10 years, Caffe Rosso in Calgary has been my neighbourhood go-to place for coffee, comraderie, and the place where I sit and get my work done. But before that, it was Cafe Extrablatt.
I used to be a flight attendant on Air Canada's Calgary-Frankfurt route, and every week for years I'd fly to Frankfurt and spend a day in Mainz (just outside Frankfurt) before heading back. On my layovers, I invariably headed to the Cafe Extrablatt to sit and write and draw and try to scheme up ideas for how I'd ever be able to stop flying and make my living doing something creative and artsy. In fact, the image from my blog header is from this old comic I wrote there.
Well, after a while the manager, Farid, noticed me drawing all the time and asked me if I'd draw a restaurant menu on their chalkboard. This turned into a good arrangement for all: chalk drawings for Extrablatt and a free meal for me!
I haven't been to Mainz for about five years, but when I went to Germany this summer with my son, we stayed in Mainz for one night and strolled past the old coffee shop in the main square. Imagine my amazement when I noticed an old chalk drawing menu was still up on their wall!! Here's a picture (courtesy of my son, who missed the top half of the chalkboard - but you get the idea).
I drew that picture in 2002 -- what's it still doing up there!!??
Anyway, I'm raising my coffee cup to both these good old coffee shops, Extrablatt and Rosso, while I drink my coffee this morning. And if you need another cup of coffee, here's an old blog post about my adventures drawing a picture of "a day in the life" at the Coventry Hills Good Earth Coffeehouse here in Calgary. And here's a page about coffee from my old drawing book, too, from back when I lived in Toronto a really long time ago. That's another story.
So, I wrote about what I'd be bringing to this year's Calgary Expo, but I saved my favourite thing for last. Every year the Expo produces a limited edition Artbook filled with work by a whole bunch of awesome contributors. Most people draw (beautiful) splash pages, but you know me, I just can't draw pictures unless there's a story. So I'm the one who always draws those weird autobiographical text-filled strips about my real-life adventures.
Last year, the Artbook theme was "Fairy Tales and Classic Monsters," which inspired me to write a strip about my experience with post-partum depression. I felt like that was going to be a tricky subject to follow up. Imagine my surprise when, this year, the theme was (again!??) ""Fairy Tales and Classic Monters!" (Why, Calgary Expo??) Anyway, this year I took that theme and picked a new focus.
It's Canada's sesquicentennial - our 150th birthday! That's the theme I'm excited about this year! So, I decided to draw some storytellers who are shaping the fairy tales, stories, and legends of this country. This was a random sampling of people I ran into in my neighbourhood, along with a few famous folks and a couple of tall tale tellers into the mix.
- Stuart McLean, revered Canadian storyteller;
- Northrop Frye, revered Canadian unscrambler of what stories are and how they're told;
- Ken Cameron, local storyteller whom I (luckily) ran into at Caffe Rosso just before I wrote this, and who gave me some ideas about what to write! (Another local storyteller, Barb Pederson, was there too, actually. Sorry Barb, I didn't draw you, but I appreciated hearing your ideas!)
- Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, Canadian story-distorters (and yes, Pat really lived 3 doors down from me, long ago)
- The iconic Baba, CKUA's master storyteller, whose friendly voice has been spinning tales for so many Albertans through the radio waves for many years...
- Polarman, a recently-retired real-life superhero whom I met in Iqaluit long ago, and who's the recent subject of SESQUI, another sesquicentennial project.
- I'm honoured that my neighbour Nolene, whose inspiring story I recently wrote about in my Ramsay comic strip, gave me permission to include her on this list of storytellers. It's been a privilege for me to hear from her a little bit about her experience of discovering her Indigenous roots. The stories she's been telling me, and the ancient learnings she's been absorbing from her cultural community, are by no means "fairy tales," or "tall tales," by the way. These are real stories that are a necessary part of the story of Canada's 150th, despite the fact that some of them are sad stories. I wanted to include Nolene in here, because learning about stories like hers has been important to me in understanding what Canada really means, and could mean in the future.
Ok, that's all for now - time to go!
I'm going to post this without any links because I'm out of time, but I'll add them in soon! See you at the Expo!
Well, folks, it's time for another Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, that behemoth of pop culture that descends upon Calgary at the end of April every year. You can find me in Artist Alley at table R12!
This will be my sixth year as an exhibitor, but you can't really count last year. A few days before the Expo, I bumped my head and ended up with a concussion. I missed the Expo, but at least I wrote a comic about getting a concussion (which you can get from me at the Expo, this year!)
What else am I bringing to the Expo this year?
I organized a panel on contemporary Canadian indie comics, featuring this amazing lineup of panelists:
Julia Smith & Sean Carleton of the Graphic History Collective (and it's their first time at the Expo, so be nice to them); Eric Dyck from Lethbridge; and Hope Nicholson, all the way from Winnipeg!
This is happening on Saturday, April 29th at 1:15, so please come and talk to us about the local comics scene where you live.
That brings me to my next NEW thing.
I'm working on a little comics strip about the Calgary/Alberta indie comics scene for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (which is pretty darn exciting for me, for a few reasons).
This project is the reason I decided to organize the panel mentioned above. I mean, I could write about my actual experience of the Calgary indie comics scene since I got involved, and this would be it:
I am really looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on this subject. Even if you can't make it to the panel, if you have some great insights about the evolving indie comics scene in this town (or around Alberta), please come and talk to me at the Expo or send me a tweet @calgaryhester! I'd love to hear what you think.
I'm also bringing ONE OTHER new thing to the Calgary Expo, and that's my contribution to this year's Expo Artbook. But I'll have to keep you in suspense just a little bit longer before I post that out. Stay tuned! And if you are coming to the show, remember... wear comfy shoes and bring water!
It's about time for me to post this comic, my April strip for the Ramsay newsletter. April's more than halfway over!
I've been writing about Mayor Nenshi's initiative, 3 Things for Canada. I chose three acts of service that I wanted to do for Canada this year, and of course all of them have something to do with comics. In a previous blog post, I mentioned the first of my 3 Things: I've been working on organizing a panel discussion at the Calgary Comics Expo about Canadian independent comics. That's coming up soon, on April 29th. You can read about it here!
My second thing is something I've been doing for a while already in 2017: writing comics about inspiring things happening in my own community. I'm looking for true stories about people who are helping Canada to be a country to be proud of. This kind of started with my Ramsay comic strip in December 2016 when I wrote about "why we need neighbours," and I'll be looking for opportunities to keep writing about this throughout the year.
When I heard this story from my neighbour Nolene, who works at the Ginger Group, I thought it was just the kind of thing I wanted to write about. She was gracious enough to let me turn it into a comic. Here you go!
So here's the 1st of my 3 Things for Canada: I pitched a panel about independent Canadian comics to the Calgary Comics Expo, and it's happening!
I'm really interested in comics that are being created and published right here in Canada, and even more if they're about Canadian stories. Right here in Calgary, there's a growing independent scene, ranging from old-timers like Damian Willcox (sorry, Damian! Guess I should probably say "creators of long-standing status" or something more dignified...) to new movements like Panel One, an independent creators' collective established in 2016.
I've been thinking a lot about contemporary comics in Canada (and in Calgary in particular), since I read back in 2016 that the Canadian Society for the Study of Comics had put out a call for papers on "The Young Canadians." They were asking, "What's happened in Canadian comics in recent years?"
I'm definitely not an expert on this subject, but I'm interested in how my own local scene has been evolving. And I thought the Calgary Expo seemed like the perfect place to have a discussion about this. So, that's part of the reason why I thought this panel might be a good idea. I am looking forward to listening and learning!
If you're coming to the Expo this year, I really hope you'll come out to hear this conversation. Right now, the Expo website still hasn't posted its programming info, but when it does, this is where you'll be able to find it. In the meantime, here's some information about our panel!
When: Saturday, April 29th, 1:15 PM - 2 PM
Julia Smith & Sean Carleton
Founded in 2008, the Graphic History Collective (GHC) is a group of activists, artists, writers, and researchers passionate about comics, history and social change.
We produce alternative histories - people's histories - in an accessible format to help people understand the historical roots of contemporary social issues.
Our comics show that you don't need a cape and a pair of tights to change the world.
Adding a splash of colour to our panel (and I'm not only referring to this lovely Twitter avatar picture by Jenn St. Onge that I lifted from Hope's Twitter account), Hope Nicholson will be joining us at the Calgary Expo!
Hope publishes Bedside Press out of Winnipeg and she's also putting together a pretty amazing independent comics event in Winnipeg this year, the Prairie Comics Festival on May 6 - 7, which I've been wishing I could attend! Maybe next year!
I am so pleased that Eric Dyck from Lethbridge is coming up to join in this conversation. His comics about history and real life in Lethbridge (and elsewhere in Canada) are beautiful, funny, and informative. I think that I'd call what Eric is doing, "comics journalism." Does he think that's what he's doing??? This is one of the things I want to talk about in the panel. Come and find out!
Geek Girl Gathering organizer, techie, artist, and wearer of many hats, Stephanie Chan will be moderating our panel!
And if you’re in the category of folks who had no idea that this was even a thing, well, then clearly this is the place you need to be, to find out more! Either way, we hope you’ll come!
When I drew this comic a week or two ago, I decided to write about an initiative launched recently by our Mayor Naheed Nenshi as part of Canada's 150th anniversary celebration (otherwise known as our sesquicentennial). You can read about "3 Things for Canada" in the comic strip below (and click on the link to see the website for this project. This is something you'll want to be part of!).
But right now "3 Things for Canada" feels like a small contribution to make, to a country that needs much more. Last night,six people were killed in a terrorist attack at a mosque in Quebec City.
Just prior to this tragic event, I had been heartened to see Canada's politicians, almost without exception, asserting Canada's commitment to a diverse and inclusive society, one that welcomes refugees regardless of faith or ethnicity, in contrast to Donald Trump's recent Executive Order. Here are just a couple of statements I was proud to see:
My heart doesn’t break because I am Muslim.
My heart breaks because I am human.
Today, it is easy to feel the darkness of the world.
I know that it can feel like the world is broken and that we are helpless to fix it. But we are not helpless.
Every single one of us can heal the world. It starts in our own communities and with our own hearts and hands. Every single one of us has the power to create the light we so desperately need in times like these.
And so it is our responsibility today to take action. Actions that not only heal our community, but make it stronger. Actions that, at their core, bring us together.
Meet and know all your neighbours, host a community pot luck, donate to organizations that support refugees and immigrants and our communities, volunteer for events to celebrate who we are as a diverse and multicultural and pluralistic nation.
First, a little history about how this got started - with 3 Things for Calgary.
Ramsay Newsletter Comic, February 2017
There couldn't be a better time for this project.
Over the past five years or so, I've been writing a comic strip that runs in my monthly community newsletter. This is just something I've done for fun, because I was inspired by the people, places and stories in my neighbourhood. It was a way to give back.
One thing you find out really fast by getting involved in your neighbourhood, is that there are lots of different opinions about everything. I love how, despite this, people can co-exist peacefully and respectfully, right next door to each other.
I've been proud to be part of this group of diverse and respectful people. And so I've really tried to keep my own two cents out of the Ramsay newsletter comic. Far be it from me, to foist my opinion on the neighbours, in a volunteer-run publication that is meant to keep us connected!
A couple of times, I couldn't resist raising issues that I felt were important, both to me personally, as well as to our community. Once, I wrote about how I couldn't find a house for sale that could accommodate a multigenerational living arrangement (this strip received more comments than any other I've written); and another time, I wrote about the importance of volunteering with our local School Council.
That's still what I want. But this month, I had to write about my fear of what's happening in the United States as the world watches the unprecedented period of "transition" following Donald Trump's presidential victory on November 8th , 2016.
I hope it might spark some conversations - maybe even motivate people to reach out, in their own networks, for answers to the questions they have. And if people think I'm absolutely wrong about my take on this - I hope those people will talk about it, think about it, do something about it, too! If neighbours are getting connected, my art is doing its job.
By the way, independent comics creators all over the world are using their medium to share stories about what's happening in America right now. Take a look at what Alison Bechdel is doing; Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman are putting together an important project too. (If you know about any other comics that are being written about this, I'd love to hear - especially if they're Canadian!)
"If you cannot be brave... be kind."
"You still have your freedom, so use it. There are many groups organizing for both resistance and subsistence, but we are heading into dark times, and you need to be your own light. Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned. Protect the vulnerable and encourage the afraid. If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind."
I have a few more thoughts about this, so look for another post very soon, with some ideas about what neighbours can do next. Until then: be kind, to yourself and to your neighbours, too.
Graphic recorder based in Calgary. I like local stories. I write comics when I have free time. And I leave eraser shavings everywhere I go.
Looking for a
I also have an (old) website which features a lot of my (old) work. Look out, it's a bit clunky and a few of the links need updating, but there are still a few interesting things there:
3 Things For Canada
Calgary Flood Diary
Calgary Is Awesome
Carra Artist In Residence
City Hall 101
How We Met
Multi Generational Housing
Soul Of The City
The Drawing Book
Some nice things people said about my work:
“If Breitkreuz and Foong [founders of the Calgary Comics & Entertainment Expo] represent the Type-A side of Calgary's self-publishing community, Hester may be the community's right brain.” – Tom Babin, FFWD Magazine
“…A strong graphic style similar to other autobiographically-inclined Canadian cartoonists like Chester Brown and Julie Doucet.” – Gilbert Bouchard, Edmonton Journal
The 23rd Story: an indie comics creator's tales of life in Calgary