Once again I’m headed to the Tucson Comic-Con, my hometown show. This is also my last show of the year, wrapping up a really good season.
You can find me at table D7, between Henry Barajas and Mike Esham & Jacob Breckenridge.
See you this weekend!
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!
Stumptown Comics Fest was the first comic convention I ever attended, way back in 2009. One year later, it was the first comic convention I tabled at. Located that year in the Lloyd Center Doubletree ballroom (really one floor of a parking garage with carpet installed), Stumptown set the tone for me for how comic conventions should be. It was packed with interesting people, some of whom I now proudly call my friends. It taught me about trading the comic I made for another comic somebody else made. I met famous cartoonists, who mingled with us self-published nobodies and didn’t even complain about our smell.Was Stumptown perfect? Heck no! Cartoonists love to complain as much (if not more) as other people. But I’ve come to realize that the “faults” of a show can also give it character. Make it special, even. MoCCA is held in a century-old armory that is stuffy in even the best weather conditions. Emerald City promoted Patrick Stewart every day for nearly a year but failed to mention all the cool kids in Artist Alley. SPX’s website crashed the second it was open to the public. In the end, these bumps bring us together, or at least give us fodder for in-convention sketches to pass around.
The last few years it was pretty clear that the directors of Stumptown had lost interest in the show. I can’t blame them for wanting to move on. Organizing a comic convention every year can be sweaty thankless work. If you’re not 100% into it, you shouldn’t force yourself. Having the mantle of Stumptown hanging over your head, while dreading the angry tweets from indie cartoonists if it doesn’t go well, is no way to live your life. Better no Stumptown than a Stumptown everybody hates.
I’m sorry to see Stumptown go, but am forever grateful for the world it opened to me. My path in comics would be quite different had Stumptown not existed. To use a handy metaphor, Stumptown is my George Bailey.