The Olympian

Cartoonists share artistic creations: Comics festival spotlights complex visions

By Molly Gilmore | For the Olympian Published June 05, 2008

Michel Gagne will be one of the featured guests at the seventh annual Olympia Comics Festival this weekend. But Gagne, the creator of two ongoing comics, wouldn't describe himself as a comics artist.

Olympia Comics Festival

What: The seventh annual festival spotlights work by alternative and small-press cartoonists from the Northwest and beyond.

When: The Cartoonists Expo is from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and the stage show is 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: The expo is at The Vault, 425 Franklin St. S.E., Olympia, and the show is at the Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia.

Tickets: The expo is free; $1 donation is suggested for the show.

More information: 360-705-3050 or

Perhaps that's not surprising.

Gagne of Bellingham has done ani mation for movies from "An American Tail" to "Ratatouille," self-pub lished books, created trading cards and is developing a video game.

How would he categorize himself?

"I'm an artist," he said.

Gagne, along with Jeffrey Brown, who is known for his candid autobiographical accounts of failed relationships, and Jim Woodring, who draws comics about a strange creature in a stranger world, will be featured at Saturday's gathering.

Last year's event drew about 1,000 people, said festival director Chelsea Baker of Danger Room Comics.

The Saturday evening stage show will include interviews with special guest artists, slide shows and a look at some comics that are "so terrible you can't help laughing," Baker said.

"We'll also have a Break Up with Jeffrey Brown contest," she said. "He draws comics about how he dates these girls and they break his heart. We'll have volunteers from the audience come up on stage and find some humorous or humiliating way to break up with him. It's going to be really funny, I think."

Visitors also can enjoy an exhibit of comics art in Capitol Theater's mezzanine. The expo in the afternoon includes interviews, tables of comics and zines, a panel discussion on the history of zines in Olympia and another on silent comics.

Silent comics? They simply are comics without the word balloons, said Gagne, who will speak on that panel along with Woodring.

Gagne's "The Saga of Rex" is a se rial published annually in Random House's "Flight" anthology.

Silent comics are an additional challenge when it comes to relating complex concepts, the artist said.

"It leaves more to the reader's imagination," he said. "I'm dealing with some v ery complex ideas with my 'Saga of Rex' comics, and sometimes I wish I could use words to make my point.

"You have to do everything through pantomime, so your acting has to be a little stronger."


Animators use the term to refer to how their characters behave, he said. "I call it acting for comics as well, but I'm not sure if that's the proper term."

Gagne often does special-effects animation for films, which also involves conveying concepts without words. For "Ratatouille," about a rat who loves to cook, he was the "taste visualization designer."

"In the movie, there are two sequences where the characters visualize tastes," he said. "Remy tastes the strawberry, and these fireworks come off it."

The sequences can be seen on Gagne's Web site,, as can a lot of his other work.

The site's drawings, from "Insanely Twisted Rabbits" to fanciful aliens, could take a long time to explore.

"There are almost 6,000 pages on the Web site," Gagne said. "I have been working on it for almost seven years now."

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