Today was truly a magical day. Partner blogger McBone sent me the above image of a perfectly good discarded couch on the streets of East Lansing, Michigan. Then, on my ride home, I was confronted with the unprecedented sight of two discarded couches in a row:Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a day. But the world continues to prove itself a wondrous place.
When I went to college, I knew I wanted to draw a comic strip for the school paper. My sophmore year, I figured out what that strip would be: Atticus and Glen, the story of a tentative freshman (Glen) and the wise old squirrel who lived on campus his whole life (Atticus).
Although the set-up owed a lot to Calvin and Hobbes, the topics I covered were very much Oberlin. Co-ops, bicycles, vegetarianism, the ubiquitous English major, and of course race, gender, and class politics. My senior year, knowing I would leave Atticus and Glen in Oberlin, I wanted to make one big story before I ended the strip. The result was a seventeen page comic book I wrote and drew during winter term called The Inevitable Atticus & Glen. In another nod to Calvin and Hobbes, I gave the title a totally misleading prefix. There was nothing inevitable about the book; I willed this into exitance just like the rest of the strip.
The Inevitable Atticus & Glen was my first foray into self-publishing. The other cartoonist on campus, Alec Longstreth, was a huge self-publishing fan and would go on to make the long-running Phase 7 comic series. I was a bit more reluctant. I would be more than happy to do all the creative work and let some big publisher take on the unenviable task of producing, marketing, and selling. In the small world of Oberlin, and in the slightly bigger but still small world of non-superhero comics, there aren’t many publishers willing to do this. Self-publishing for me, then, was inevitable.
I took my pages to the college print shop, knowing nothing about putting a book together. They took my original art, photocopied it, and produced 100 booklets. The cost was low enough that I didn’t bother charging for the books. With the help of my friend Charlotte, we distributed the books across campus. I included a note imploring people to share; I wanted everyone to at least have a chance to read my masterpiece.
Now, for the first time, I’m making The Inevitable Atticus & Glen available to the world. You can read it below, or for the price of one dollar, you can have a PDF. Purists take note: I cleaned up the art a bit to make it more legible and less embarrassing. I have not added Jar Jar Binks, nor have I made Han shoot second.
After a slight drought, including one sighting of a chair which did not qualify for this blog, I walked by this beautiful creature on the Reed campus today. I was with Katie, otherwise I might have chalked this up to a fever dream. She let me borrow her phone to snap this picture, making sure I got the wicker side. I’m not sure where this couch originated (a professor’s nap couch?) but am certain it has already been snapped up. That’s just the way things go at Reed.
As my plane descended, I looked out at the layer of smog over Anaheim. Although I am not repelled by Los Angeles as many of my friends are, I found this view to be somewhat disconcerting. My first two conventions of the year, Emerald City in Seattle and Linework NW in Portland, were surrounded by the colors green and blue. WonderCon would be set in my mind as brown and tan.
Coming from the southwest, these are not necessarily bad color associations. I consider the desert to be a clean place. Even though I’ve lived in Portland for eight years, I still find the lush environment to be strange, alien. You don’t have to fight for life in the Pacific Northwest. In the desert, everything is hard-won.
That turned out to be a metaphor for the convention itself. There was no shortage of attendees (I later read that WonderCon sold out of badges), but sales were not correspondingly high. It was a good show for me saleswise, but not stellar. In the desert, life is hard-won.
When I work harder for each sale, it makes me appreciate the connection with the reader. Somehow, in the midst of the hubbub and hullaballoo of a large convention center, in the shadow of Disneyland, people told me that my books were terrific. That counts as a minor miracle, I think.
The best part of the convention was spending time with cartoonists. Alec and Greg and I ate at a Hawaiian restaurant, where we talked about how few people Alec wants to see on Facebook (about ten) and how many cats I’ve seen on my rides home (up to eight). Kevin Woody took me to Downtown Disney since I didn’t go into the park itself. “Have you heard of Downtown Disney?” I asked. “I live in Southern California. I’ve heard of Downtown Disney,” he replied. He advised me not to get into the cult of pin-trading.
I also met a guy who works at Warner Bros. He asked me to do a little signmaking in exchange for DVDs. My first work for Warner Bros. was this sign, advertising the guy who wrote Die Hard:
In Portland, you meet graphic designers, web designers, baristas, and guys like me who do whatever pays the bills and ends at 5. In Anaheim, I met people who work for Disney, Sony, Paramount, and Universal animation departments. I tried my best not to say the words gosh, golly, or gee-willikers, but I think they could read the expression on my face.
I’m not entirely sure if I’ll return to WonderCon next year. It was certainly a well-run show, and I got a good experience out of it. Maybe it was that layer of smog sitting over everything. If Disney can find a way to lift that cloud, I’ll definitely be back.
Hey, what are you doing this weekend? Are you going to WonderCon?
We should totally hang out. I’ll be in the Small Press section, table 88.
Stop by when you’re sick of Mickey and Donald.
After Stumptown Comics Fest ended last year, there was a Portland-sized hole in a lot of cartoonist’s lives. How could we dare call Portland “ComicsTown USA” (trademark pending) without an independent comics show?
A new group of organizers, including Francois Vigneault and Zack Soto, raced to fill this gap. Linework NW had its first run last weekend. Held in a funky dance hall, Norse Hall, Linework crammed in about 100 cartoonists with barely enough room for attendees. And I mean just barely. The first three hours of the show, there was hardly room to move from table to table. Stumptown, in its last couple of years, moved to the convention center. Rather than increase attendance, however, the cavernous space seemed to make the dwindling crowds even more noticeable. Linework proved that, if you hold an indie comics show in a poorly-ventilated, cramped environment, people will come. Perhaps there is something to be said about our need to be closer to each other, especially if we share such quaint predilections as drawing funny pictures on paper then printing them in small batches. Whatever the reason, Linework was a rousing success.
I’m going to contradict myself now by saying I hope they can find a slightly slightly larger venue next year, if only to fit in a few more tables. I’d love it if my friends in far off places could come. With space so tight this year, it was a minor miracle I was asked to exhibit. This is one of the main issues I see with conventions this year: the number of tables is not keeping pace with the increasing number of cartoonists applying. The talent is not thinning, either. It’s getting harder to get into even what I considered a sure thing a year or two ago. Don’t mistake this for a call for gigantic comics conventions across the country – that, I think, would result in a lot of sparsely attended events. We might consider, however, at least one very large indie comics show. To be clear: I am not volunteering to organize.
I was especially glad to table next to Reid one more time. He’ll be leaving the comics scene for nature and science illustration in the fall. I’ve dubbed this the Reid Psaltis Victory Tour ’14.
At the end of the show, Francois declared that, like James Bond, “Linework will return.” I hope to be there when it does.
The result of their efforts: Linework NW, a one-day show featuring the comic stylings of titans such as Study Group (feat. Farel Dalrymple), Magnetic North (feat. Reid Psaltis), and Tugboat Press. Somehow they let me sneak in there, an oversight which I’m sure will be rectified in future events.
If you want to see me in Portland this year, here is your chance! Linework NW is a free event, so stop by and gawk at the incredibly personable cartoonists housed within Norse Hall this Saturday from 2-9pm.
Seattle brought the rain this year, as promised. It also brought a much bigger convention than last year. The crowds swelled first thing Friday at 10am and didn’t ease until Sunday afternoon. Even the absence of Captain Picard this year didn’t keep fans at home. It seems that a bunch of indie cartoonists can be a draw unto themselves. (Excuse the pun.)
My sometimes-tablemate Reid is doing his convention victory lap this year. He has been accepted into a fancy college for science illustration and will trade his cartoonist brush for an illustration brush this fall. (They are actually the same brush.) We honored our shared history by taking lots of photos of our table decorations and ourselves.
What could possibly top a three day convention high? Only the 39th President of the United States!
Jimmy Carter came to Elliott Bay Books on Monday to sign his latest book, A Call to Action. I, along with a few hundred old hippies, waited amiably in line for the chance to meet one of our greatest Commanders in Chief. As readers of this here blog can attest, I’m a big fan of President Carter. Since I was wearing my Carter t-shirt, I got interviewed for a local paper. Unfortunately I take a lousy picture, and it turns out I was semi-incoherent after meeting my hero.
On our way home, Reid took me to the best pizza joint in Olympia, Washington: Old School Pizzeria. It wins at delicious thin crust pizza and at being a time machine to 1986. Most importantly, it features a mural of all the superheroes you could ever need in a dicey situation. I felt very safe eating at Old School.
That about does it for the first convention of 2014. Next up: Linework NW right here in Portland, Oregon!