I didn’t really expect to get much out of this weekend. When Brian Ludwick, friend since Primal Screen and now a professor at Indiana University, called us up last summer and asked us if we would be interested in speaking at this year’s VisionFest, I accepted mainly because it was a chance to visit him and his wife Nina in their new surroundings. I knew I would have to come up with a presentation for the students all the way back in January, but personal feelings and circumstances made preparing it a last-minute ordeal. As Scott and I plowed through the particulars at Apple Bagels the Sunday before, I was getting more and more weary of the whole idea. Lately I had been wondering where my life was going and what I expected out of it, and that put me in a strange place to be telling students how they should sort things out. I knew the keynote speaker was going to be John Canemaker, an author I deeply admire who has written some of the best books on animation I own, and it was intimidating to be uncertain of how much I was accomplishing and yet perform under the scrutiny of a man whose influence is real and well-established.
It was a long flight early Thursday morning that lasted until mid-afternoon. Durwin Talon, former SCAD professor turned chair of the Informatics department at Indiana University greeted us warmly and told us we had one more to wait for. After a short wait we were introduced to Matt Wagner, just in from Portland. The name stirred up some memories from my mainstream comic reading past but in this business there are a lot of creators, pencilers and inkers; names sometimes get mixed up in my mind. Matt is larger than life, his laughter is powerful and infectious, and his broad shoulders and goatee remind me of something I can’t quite place. Only later, when I listened to him tell us about what he had been working on lately did I begin to realize that I was talking with the man who created Mage and Grendel. Although not a regular reader of mainstream comics I recognized the weight of Matt’s name in the comic industry, and I’m impressed by his cheerful demeanor and friendly, easy-going nature. Over the course of the weekend I learn that he’s also a great cook and a hilarious jokester. And of course, he bears more than a passing resemblance to Mage.