BY JEN VAUGHN – This past weekend, The Beat left the wet and mountainous regions of the East Coast for the wet and mountainous regions of the West Coast to revel in the majestic small press show that is Stumptown Comics Festival. Having recently moved from the Doubletree Hotel to the Oregon Convention Center, more artists and cartoonists would be to showcase their work for eager audiences.
The weekend started out right with an trip to Dark Horse Comics and despite their rather bad week were gracious enough to let Inkstuds interview-extraodinaire Robin McConnell and I have a look around. Robin and Paul Chadwick’s Concrete stopped chatting for a moment to pose.
Awarded the night before Stumptown to an excellent mini-comic artist, the Maisie Kukoc Award this year went to Damien Jay who phoned into Guapo to accept this beautiful plushie by the veritable Claire Sanders.
The Friday before the show featured more parties than actual people tabling at the convention! From Guapo Comics to Oni’s several night engagement, Top Shelf party to Drink and Draw Like a Lady there was no lack of available gossip and booze. I’m sure I missed a mixer held in the back of a marscapone-and-crepe food cart but you can’t be everywhere at once. Thank God that town runs on coffee.
Not a single ray of sunshine broke through the cloud belt as cartoonists and fans walked ’round and ’round the Oregon Convention Center (past the National Fencing Competition and some Mind, Body and Soul expo) to Stumptown. With the return of Indigo Kelleigh as the convention organizer, attendees enjoyed the wide aisles of the exhibit hall and too many good panels to actually attend them all.
The energy was high as attendees filed in being greeted by Camilla d’Errico’s front and center display of a gorgeous new book called Femina & Fauna. But the serendipitous joy for attendees resided in the handmade work of the self-publishing creators.
Jen Tong, Brooklyn cartoonist, entranced Portlanders with her rainbow screen prints with no fewer than five color separations.
BT Livermore of Portland facial hair fame, former Robopocalypse Collective and NOW Banner Year Press sold his beardy comic books and mustache wax (Gin and Tonic being the big hit of the show).
The World-Building Panel was packed with top-notch creators like Carla Speed McNeil, Barry Deutch, Evan Dahm, Kel MacDonald, Larry Marder, and Jenn Manley Lee. Apparently, there was a little confusion because a few panelists never received word they of their involvement but communication will get better as the event continues grow. Next year the exhibit hall will expand allowing for almost double the amount of space.
Barry Deutsch‘s excellent comic about Mirka, an Orthodox Jewish girl destined to fight trolls and not just knit, purl, knit.
Director Indigo Kelleigh made the rounds to the tables setting a higher bar than I have ever seen at a convention. Tabling for the Center for Cartoon Studies, I experienced first-hand the volunteers stopping by almost every hour to check on me. Volunteer coordinator, Dave Wood, made sure to speak to everyone multiple times and to the delight of many dressed up as the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. Speaking of Doctor Who, Bill Mudron’s prints shone in the fluorescent light like a damn lighthouse on the shores of nerdery. A friend mentioned that is just the way of a small press show and I hope this kind of courtesy and caring continues at Stumptown. Having attended and tabled the Portland Zine Symposium many times, it may just be an Oregon thing.
The number of Canadians should not be surprising but a clear Vancouver contingent descended upon Stumptown with their excellent work. From Brandon Graham to Cloudscape Comics to Emily Carroll, it’s reason enough to pack up and leave the States.
Sydney More and Jeff Ellis of Cloudscape Comics
The awards held at the Jupiter and followed by an art battle attracted a crowd so large that the air was thick with the smell of cologne and deodorant. Only one of the awards winners showed up to claim their prize. Maybe it is representative of the face they gave away REAL awards instead of the fun and completely unrelated trophies bought from Goodwill. Nothing says You’ve Got Talent like a 3rd place Extemporaneous Speech Award with the words ‘BEST ANTHOLOGY’ scrawled on it.
Luckily, karaoke at the Galaxy RIGHT across the street started the real Saturday night fever. It is quite obvious that cartoonists are just better at karaoke than everyone else, marketing director of Top Shelf Leigh Walton expressed. Leigh himself killed the night with a rendition of Oingo Boingo. Douglas Wolk, Rachel Edidin, Zack Soto and his lady, Krista, moved crowds something terrible. The only thing we lacked was a Ted Naifeh and a Laura Hudson!
Here Fantagraphics Marketing guru, Jacq Cohen, serenades Fantagraphics designer Tony Ong. If only he was more moved.
Sunday’s show started a good two hours later and that was still to early for some people by the looks of their empty tables. Inkstuds podcast host and interviewer, Robin McConnell, juggled three panels in a row that day. In a conversation with Sarah Glidden, it became obvious that many of her readers are the best kind, the ones who pour over each panel, taking twice as long to read How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less than they would a prose novel. Glidden spoke on journalism and the beauty of drawing in areas where cameras are outlawed such as the Iraq border.
Robin McConnell and Sarah Glidden: serious stuff.
Molly Crabapple also created live art at her booth much to the delight of little kids and us adult kids.
One other set of cartoonists I wish lived close by included Irish creator Cliodhna Lyons, Ellen Lindner and Sarah McIntyre (BEAT writer Matthew Murray may have interviewed McIntyre before!) from the UK. Lyons worked on animated film Brendan and the Secret of the Kells (2009) and her new comics including Comic Foodpedia and Underground were a MUST HAVE!
The weekend ended with an impromptu dead dog party with a bunch of lovely people from Periscope Studio. Cartoonists Dylan Meconis, Erika Moen, Steve Lieber and Bill Mudron as well as Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin sat on the floor ooohhing and aahhhing over the original Finder pages Carla Speed McNeil brought over.
Director Indigo Kelleigh stated attendance reached over 3,100 for the comics festival this year, a small amount of growth given the change in venue. Rumors of doubling the size of the space flew around but Indy said Stumptown would probably sit tight one more year on the size. He plans to stay on as director for at least two more years and we salute that.
Aside from meeting new friends and getting new comics, conventions are great for professional networking like Oni’s George Rohac and Jen Vaughn demonstrate below.
A very hearty and heartfelt thank you to the city of Portland for tolerating me for four days straight and for being so damn gracious at my Stumptown Comics Festival. I am definitely coming again next year!
Jen Vaughn drank a fantastic latte and ate a Texas-fire kolache at the Happy Sparrow while in Portland. Check it out.