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WonderCon, VanCAF, CAKE 2016

Although I still have a great time at every comic convention, I find myself with less and less to say about each. This year I’m grouping my first three shows in a single, easily-digested post. This is not to diminish my experience at each. If you met me at one of these shows, you saw that I was excited to be there. It really is a thrill each and every time. There’s the first hour of increasing worry that this will be the first show at which nobody buys anything from me. Then there’s the lunch rush. Then, from maybe 1-3pm, is when I get my most sales. I have to say, there is no caffeine as effective as selling my comics. It is a feeling that never gets old. For the rest of the afternoon I’m passing out postcards and trying to remain upbeat and engaged. By the end of the day I’m exhausted. I’ve been talking to my neighbors a bit more and looking forward to dinner. The close of the day is a mixed emotion: I’m thinking back over all the funny, interesting conversations I’ve had, ready to not be on my feet anymore, but also a bit sad to see it over. Fortunately, there is always another day and another show. So here’s to the first three of the year, and to San Diego coming in July.
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meet me in Chicago

This weekend, you can meet me in Chicago for CAKE!
The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo will be held at the Center on Halsted and is FREE to the public. Chicagoland friends, stop on by.
I will have the brand new Falling Rock National Park #6, the Dinosaur Coloring Book (which was a huge hit at WonderCon), and of course all the back issues in case you need to get caught up.
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See you June 11 & 12!

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the milkman of human kindness

As of today, I can go to my grave with absolutely no regrets.

My friend and partner blogger Slider K Shaftacular is a big man. Big in size (clocking in at 7’2” and a ripped 330 lbs soaking wet) and big of heart. I have never sung a song for him at a festival in his honor, but I would if given the opportunity.

In 2002 Slider wrote a novel. He poured his 22-year-old soul onto the page and then sent it to his most trusted friends. I am proud to say I was on that list. What happened next haunted me every day until just recently.

Slider sent the book as a series of Word files. I had a small computer and no way to print 300 pages. It came down to me sitting at the computer, trying to enjoy my friend’s soul. I couldn’t get past the third chapter. Slider, to his everlasting credit, did not prod me about the book. By simply not telling him I never read his book, we both understood implicitly that I was a failure of a friend without having to actually say the words.

Longtime readers of this blog have probably inferred that I love technology. Not only does technology make life easier, it makes life better. I have every Falling Rock strip I ever made on my phone just because I like to see how my work can be stored and accessed as easily as The Beatles’ entire catalog.

It occurred to me recently that I could read just about anything on my kindle. As long as I have a digital file, I can convert it and upload. Somewhere in my lizard brain, a connection was made. I dug up Slider’s book (fortunately my packrat tendencies extend into the digital realm) and converted it to kindle’s file type. This all sounds very exciting – I know. I include it in this blog entry not for padding but as a matter of historical record. At long last, I could read Slider’s book with ease and comfort.

And read I did! Right after I finished the Tom Perotta book I was into at the time.

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Hitler’s Milkman is the story of one man’s life as told by other people. Some, like his son, know him quite well. Others, like the young artist who sketches him before he abruptly leaves the coffee shop, don’t even know his name. It is a life story as written by a man who just graduated college and can’t wait to begin his own.

My favorite chapters chronicled the man’s gig as a night janitor at the courthouse and his teenage job at a retail stockroom. The former rang true due to Slider’s own reminiscences of his days working night shift at a hospital (he is now Dr. Slider, so working long hours late at night are well behind him. Ho ho ho). The latter, because most of us have had to work bad jobs for small pay while corporate stooges berate us for our perceived shortcomings.

There is a very sweet chapter near the end in which the man sells two valuable baseball cards to a card shop. The book is at its strongest when the narrator of the chapter has a small but meaningful exchange with the man, even if they only meet briefly. When a simple transaction, the exchange of goods for legal tender, can be spiritually meaningful, the book becomes more than a series of connected short stories.

What interests me most about the book now is that I can listen to Slider as a younger man, before marriage and career and kids. He was calling his swing. Better than merely laying all this out in an email, he wrote a book. A funny, sweet, and clumsy projection of what may be.

Now that I have finished Slider’s first novel, our friendship is secure. It was a bit touch-and-go there for the past decade. I only hope that, when he writes his second, I will be more prompt with my attentions.
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autobiography Blog comic con

C.A.K.E.land

And lo, another comic convention has come to pass. The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo took place at the Columbia College campus in lovely (sunny, windy) downtown Chicago.

The man you see stoically trotting towards the entrance is none other than Greg Means, mastermind of Tugboat Press and all-around good guy.  Greg is a fellow Portlander and it was good to see him in this far flung locale.

The Midwest! It has been a few years since I was last here.  I had almost forgotten about the oppressive muggy heat and the friendly generous natives.  I stayed with my college drinking buddy Charlotte, her husband Ed, and their two cats.  Duck (pictured below) is the nice one.  Squishy, the mean one, I only glimpsed once.  I asked what would happen if I put my hand near him.  I was told, there will be blood.
CAKE itself was a laugh and two halves. My tablemate Reid and I scored a totally sweet spot right next to the entrance. We were lucky enough to be standing beside my wonderwall Kenan and his tablemates, Betsey and Penina.  Just around the corner you could find Chicagoland resident Tyrell Cannon (yes that is his real name), who next year will be sharing a table with me at [SPOILER ALERT] Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

I was lucky enough to be standing next to the coolest kids at the con.

CAKE was my first comic convention not on a coast.  This made it doubly special, since my first convention in the midst of the country was also my most successful since the first year I began going to conventions.  It makes me giddy to think of all the folks who are now reading Falling Rock, Jack Ketch, and Tomb of the Zombies (not to mention my foldy comics).  Thank you, Chicago, for making me feel so welcome.  Thank you also to the tireless organizers, without whom CAKE would not have been the hit it was in its very first year.
If you’d like to see more CAKE next year, I suggest patronizing Quimby’s comic book shop either online or in person.  I was finally able to visit that fine shop and found myself overwhelmed with the selection and presentation of low- and high-brow literature.  I would also suggest checking out the impressive list of exhibitors CAKE brought to the (metaphorical and literal) table.

It was an excellent, but altogether too brief, excursion into the White City.  I hope to be back next year.

The train that took me to the airport that took me home.
Smokey accompanies me to every convention since I picked him up outside Arcata, California.

Why else was I excited to be in Chicago during this election year?

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Blog friday robot

friday robots

This weekend I’ll be in Chicago at CAKE! Friday Robots are, of course, going with me for the ride…

This is probably as close as I’ll get to collaborating with Jeff Tweedy.

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autobiography Blog comic con

CAKE this weekend!

A gentle reminder to all of you in the greater Chicagoland area: I’ll be exhibiting at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo this weekend! CAKE seeks to answer the question, Is there a greater force for good than Neil Brideau? Neil and his posse of comics friends have truly made something special.  I can’t wait to come be a part of the very first CAKE.
Take a gander at this amazing list of artists! I will be found at table 79, nice and cozy next to the creator of the Foldy Comic, Kenan Rubenstein. Come on down Saturday or Sunday. It’ll be worth your trip. I promise not all the comics there will be as staggeringly depressing as some Chicago cartoonists’.

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Blog comic reviews

best autograph ever

I have been fortunate enough to get a number of my favorite cartoonists’ autographs.  I am by no means an autograph hound, or autograph seeker, or autograph fanatic.  If I’m at a convention where, say, Craig Thompson is signing his latest book, for sure I’ll get his John Hancock.  But I’m not going to track him down on the streets of Portland and throw the hefty tome at his right hand in the hopes he will spontaneously sign it.

 

Cartoonists are, as a general rule, nice people.  This attribute, along with a few other circumstances, created a perfect storm of sorts to get me my favorite autograph.   James Kochalka, (who is now Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont!), was in Chicago signing a little book he co-wrote with Craig Thompson.  My friend Charlotte was kind enough to stop by the comics shop and get James to sign the book for me.  I hadn’t had the chance to meet James and he was (and still is) one of my favorite cartoonists.  Wondering why?  Go read American Elf, then report back to me.

 

Charlotte arrived at the shop late and the signing was winding down.  James and Craig were nice (there’s that word again) enough to sign the book despite their exhaustion and massive hand cramping.  James was so tired, in fact, that he signed the book to himself, from me.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on when I got this book in the mail:

Once I did figure it out, I loved it.  I have many autographs of other cartoonists, but so far I only have one autograph of myself written by another cartoonist.

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Blog comic comic con

the onion av club review

see-america-first-brown-paper-low The first review of See America First! has been published, by no less than the venerable AV Club: COMICS PANEL April 23, 2010 (scroll down to find it). This is my second Chicago connection in a matter of weeks; my stock in the Windy City is apparently on the rise.see-america-first-powellsA full recap of Stumptown Comics Fest is on the way! Stay tuned.

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Blog comic book

time out, chicago

Holy smokes!
Time Out Chicago went to Quimby’s Bookstore to talk about zines for the first annual Chicago Zine Fest, and Welcome to Falling Rock National Park got a prominent mention!

Thanks go to Quimby’s employee and fellow Stumptown alum Neil Brideau for foisting my comic into the picture. I also have to thank my Chicago Street Team for keeping Falling Rock in stock at that venerable comic shop.

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chin up, chicago

So you lost your Olympic bid, Chicago. You’re the laughingstock of the entire world! No, I’m kidding. Lots of cities weren’t even in the running for the 2016 Olympics. My home state of Arizona has never hosted the Olympic Games, ever. It should be an honor just to be nominated (even though you have to nominate yourself).

Think of all the great stuff Chicago has that Arizona doesn’t.

Sufjan Stevens made an entire album about Illinois. He says he’s going to get to all the states, but there’s no way this will happen. He is never getting to Arizona, for example.

Chicago just impeached its Governor. So what? Arizona elected a racist who eliminated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday for the entire state. Arizona wasn’t even a slave state, but it sure made the rest of the country think we were walking around the desert in pointy white hoods. He was impeached after about a year in office.

A couple governors later, Fife Symington was arrested by the FBI for extortion, making false financial statements, and bank fraud. He was thrown in the clink, thus ending his governorship. (He was later pardoned by President Clinton because one time Fife saved Bill from drowning in a river. True story.)

Oh, and John McCain? He was one of the Keating Five, a group of US Senators who were accused of defrauding the government.

Chicago’s political corruption may be legendary, but Arizona’s corruption is somehow more repulsive to me.

Other things Chicago has that Arizona doesn’t:

-a river that runs all year round, not just for two days in August
-a downtown that attracts not just business but tourists, TV shows and movies
-humidity (although this may not be such a great thing for the Summer Games)
-baseball that can be played outdoors, not in an airconditioned dome
-Wilco
-ties to two of the best Presidents
-“Chicago Style Pizza”

So you see, Chicagoans, you’ve got nothing to cry about. Don’t shed a tear for the lost Olympics. Just look at your friends to the Southwest and see how good you’ve got it.

Oh, but the Diamondbacks did win the World Series this century and the Cubs still haven’t. I’m not pointing any fingers, but maybe you should blame the Cubs for this one.