autobiography Blog comic con

SPX 2012

There is no better feeling than setting up a table of comics within spitting distance of our nation’s capitol. Just think: President Obama could waltz into the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center and see my work! The chances of this happening were small (and in fact it did not happen) but were much greater than at any other show I have ever exhibited at.
I was able to stop by the Prez’ house on my way out of town. Barack was not in (I tried knocking) but I did get to see the Presidential Beehive, so nobody can say I went away empty handed. My hands were full of honey, which is okay because I paid for those bees.
This was my first SPX, and I could not have been happier with the outcome. Sure, I’d heard success stories from my friends. My tablemate Reid told me of the year he sold 40 foldy comics. Kenan, always the optimist, recalls how he had “a great show, which for anybody else would be considered a mediocre show.” Neil, never one to kiss and tell, considers SPX the best show that he doesn’t help organize. These stories aside, there is no better way to experience a good show than to actually be at a good show.

The view from my table

SPX convention floor

SPX helped me rack up a few new personal achievements. I sold a book to a man from the Department of the Interior and I was interviewed for National Geographic’s website. I had my second-best show saleswise after ComicCon. I got to meet one or two people who have been reading Falling Rock for quite some time. I’ve said this before: the best part of going to conventions is being able to chat in person with you, dear readers. It is the best. The best.

Chris Ware
, the rare rockstar cartoonist, was one of the many, many excellent guests at SPX. Although I wasn’t able to attend his panel, I did run into him on the convention floor. He was incredibly nice and not at all the awkward misanthrope as portrayed in his comics. When I told him I was a big fan of his work, he smiled and thanked me, as though nobody had ever said this to him before. The awkwardness was all on my side of the conversation, dear readers. I did pull myself together enough to offer him a copy of Scenic Byways, which he took and presumably threw on the pile of mini comics he keeps in a barn on his sprawling estate.

The Ignatz Awards (for excellence in making comics nearly no one reads) happened Saturday night. They are named after Ignatz Mouse, and they are real bricks. It was such a good feeling to be surrounded by fellow cartoonists, recognizing the work of my peers. This show, more than any other, made me feel like I was a part of the comics community. I cannot overstate how good it feels to be lumped in with these dudes. It truly is a long way from showing my parents comics I drew in my sketchbook.

The most moving part of the Ignatz was the very first Gold Brick, awarded to Richard Thompson as a sort of lifetime achievement award. Richard has, among many other things, drawn Cul de Sac for the past five years. Tom Spurgeon said a few words about Richard’s amazing talent and his bravery (and good sense of humor) in the face of the evil forces of Parkinson’s Disease.

Let’s not end this post on such a weighty note. On my way out of DC, I finally saw my opportunity to show the world what I think of Ronald Reagan. At the Reagan Blah Blah Blah Building, I went inside and used the bathroom. I peed on Reagan!

autobiography Blog comic con

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?

Blog comic

happy april fools day!

Today’s Falling Rock was not drawn by me.  It was drawn by a team of highly-skilled covert operatives known collectively as “Kenan Rubenstein.”

2011-04-01-falling-rock-national-parkMy favorite April Fool’s tradition has been to have a friend draw this day’s episode of Falling Rock.  Kenan is my first cartoonist friend to draw the comic.
(Faithful readers may remember him as the inventor of the Foldy Comic.)

The April Fool’s episode has classically been the best drawn and written Falling Rock of the year, and Kenan has raised the bar even higher for future April Foolers.

Does anyone else think I resemble Ernesto?

autobiography Blog comic con

APE 2010

Kenan told me to sit this way.  He called it the Trump Pose.

As my friend Brian used to say about Alternative Rock, “Alternative to what?”  The Alternative Press Expo, in San Francisco, is a showcase for comics, zines, trinkets from Shangri-La, relics of saints, baubles, broaches, brocades, elfish magic tricks, a pie-eating contest, and mythological animals.  It is the alternative to everything boring, dull, and stupid.  It is the epitome of aweseomness, daring, and the new.  This was my second year exhibiting at APE and I daresay my best.  It was a real party.
I was seated in the midst of genius: my tablemate, Reid, a way better artist than me and also taller by at least 4 inches, was debuting his book Cryptozoology.  Turns out his instincts were right on.  He got a number of folks remarking on how cryptids were this year’s “in” theme.  Although it certainly wasn’t Reid’s intention to cash in on the zeitgeist, he ended up making four billion dollars and got a movie deal.  No seriously, he did well and made some new friends, some of whom were even nice enough to stop and talk with me too.

To our left was the table that could barely contain Kenan and Neil.  To my great delight we got to spend time together after the show; our little collective made me feel like a real artist.  We partied like it was some year that ends in the numbers 9, 9, and 9.

My neighbors, Kenan and Neil

Saturday night the four of us went to a Chinese restaurant.  You enter through the kitchen, go up a flight of stairs, and sit in a tiny, narrow dining room.  The server was an older lady who was trying, apparently, to have a heart attack that very night.  That or a broken leg; she kept running around and nearly tripped down the stairs.  It was especially strange since the crowd was not all that large and did not necessitate a server who literally threw our chopsticks at us as she sprinted by.

Later we went to Isotope, a very cool comic shop a few BART stops away.  Every year they give the Isotope Award to a deserving minicomic.  This year’s winner was Pete Hodapp for his comic The Possum and the Pepper Spray.  As you can imagine, if you put that many cartoonists in a room and serve alcohol, you get a wild party.

Of course the joy of APE is not confined to The Concourse in San Francisco.  On my drive down I paid a visit to the majestic redwoods.  These trees are powerful.  I’ve met them twice now and still don’t feel like I have spent enough time with them.  Perhaps next year I can make more time for the trees.L1020486 L1020517

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, just chillin’.

After the redwoods, I made a beeline for the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa.  I’ve never seen so much original Peanuts art before; the linework and design that went into each individual strip was almost unbelievable.  Schulz drew huge!  27.75 inches by 7 inches for a daily, 23.25 inches by 15.75 inches for a Sunday.  That’s a lot of ink.

There is a tile mural in the grand hallway.  It is composed of about ten year’s worth of strips, made into tiles, and when you stand back they form an image of Charlie Brown trying to kick a football from Lucy.L1020531
Next to the museum is the ice skating rink Charles Schulz visited every day.  After a morning of cartooning, he’d have lunch and watch the skaters; he was a huge hockey fan and even played in the National Beagle League for three seasons, from 1953-55. (He eventually quit in frustration after he kept losing his puck to the Puck-Eating Tree.)L1020552
To my great amazement, a little red-haired girl was taking skating lessons inside.  I am not making this up.L1020556
On the Friday before the convention, Kenan and I made a trip down to Monterey to visit their great aquarium.

Seahorse watching.

The aquarium stood on the site of an old sardine canning factory.  They left standing one wall of the old plant, and had several of the machines used for the production of canned fish on display.  These machines will show up as Friday Robots in the future, have no doubt about that.L1020711
Now it’s that part of the post dedicated to LINKS!
A number of old friends were also exhibiting at APE, listed here in no particular order.  Visit their websites! Read their comics!  Live your life without regrets!

Keith Knight
Stephen Notley
Raina Telgemeier
Dave Roman
Alec Longstreth
Greg Means
Matthew Ocasio

I managed to make a number of good trades despite being tied to my table for the majority of the show.  This just goes to show you how much talent there was; had I spent the whole weekend browsing I would have filled boxes with awesome comics.

Spitball Press
Octavio Rodriguez
Karen Knighton (Karen also works for the website Ringtales, which you should check out  for their animations of daily comic strips.  I’ve never seen comics animated so well.  The way they do it, it works.)
Kevin Woody
Russ Kazmierczak, Amazing Arizona Comics
Ako Casuera, Cactus Girl
Jen Tong, prints
Jonas Madden Connor

Finally, links are coming back to me about…me.  Here are a couple early reviews:

A Comic a Day
Neil’s Oh Boy, Comics!L1020476

Blog comic

first foldy comic

foldy-comic-front1My friend and sometimes tablemate Kenan created a form called the Foldy Comic. It’s pretty simple: take one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, fold it five times, and draw on it. Each time you unfold the paper it’s another panel, until you reach the last (full) page.

I created my first foldy comic and Kenan was good enough to include it on his Foldy Comic website. You can read it in digital form right here!

Since they are, in fact, designed to be physical objects that you open and read, I can mail you one. Email me your address and I’ll send one out. I am asking for a donation of $1 to cover the cost of paper and postage. Seems fair, right?

Now I need to think of another one to draw!

autobiography Blog comic con

APE 2009

L1010385       This year was the first time I attended the Alternative Press Expo, held in a part of Northern California known for earthquakes, big trees, gay people desecrating the Institution of Marriage, hippies, and a heartfelt desire not to be confused with Southern California.

My trip into the heart of Bigfoot Country began with a drive through Redwoods State Park.L1010224The trees there are as big as advertised. In fact, my traveling companion Andy and I came across this tree, known simply as Big Tree. The Park Service calls ’em like they see ’em.L1010261L1010280The scale was confusing as dusk approached. Were the trees really that big, or had we shrunk?L1010290L1010291With trees this huge, it was hard to refrain from just cutting them all down. That was the first reaction of the people of the last few centuries, and I can see why. With something this extraordinary, this powerful, this magical, your first instinct is to tear it to pieces. In spite of this totally understandable response to the beauty of nature, many big trees still stand.

My wife, who was sadly not able to make the trip, had made one request of me: cut down a redwood and bring it back to her. Like any good husband, I wanted to fulfill my duty to my lady. Yet, despite meticulous planning and one of those very long saws, Andy and I couldn’t figure how to load a tree onto my tiny VW. Knowing the wrath I would incur back home, I left all trees standing.

Redwoods are not the only oversized phenomenon in Northern California. Living in those woods is the rarely seen Bigfoot. Here is a plaster cast of a Bigfoot track, seen with my foot for comparison.L1010337The Bigfoot is so elusive that even the museum dedicated to him was closed. Oh Bigfoot, how can we know you better if you never allow us to buy key chains in your image? L1010341
Bigfoot Country.L1010346
But the main goal of this trip was not to find and befriend Bigfoot. It was to sell comics. APE, in San Francisco, is held in a large yet comforting space just south of downtown. This being my second show as an exhibitor, I had no expectations sales-wise. I set up my table and waited for the crush of humanity. This is how it must feel for Bono and The Edge just before a show.L1010372I highly recommend the work of my table-mate, Kenan. If you’re wondering, that’s a comic story masquerading as a calendar on the left side of his table. To the right of Kenan is Cate, who was absolutely not for sale.L1010373I met a lot of very nice Californians at APE. I was also able to reconnect with cartoonist friends, which is nice because normally when two cartoonists see each other on the street they must duel to the death. The townsfolk scatter, the sheriff pretends to be busy, and the casket-maker rubs his palms together in anticipation. But at events like these, the rules are suspended and we all get along.L1010420
After APE was over, I was able to wander the streets of San Francisco a bit. In many ways the city reminds me of a larger version of Portland.L1010401
Instead of the Willamette River, they have the Pacific Ocean.L1010418
They have a number of public transportation options, including these historic streetcars.L1010423

The Castro Theater was playing Grey Gardens. Very amusing.L1010427In spite of these similarities, there were moments when my expectations of San Francisco did not match up to its present reality.

One of my two disappointments was the Haight Ashbury district. Instead of a freewheelin’ love fest, I found million-dollar condos and a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop. I love ice cream as much as the next guy, but it was something of a let-down. At least some dude parked his VW bus right on the corner. Thanks for keeping it real.L1010436
On the upside, there was a cool bookstore on Haight which took my Falling Rock books to sell. Thank you! I was pleased to see many such thriving independent bookstores in San Francisco. The kind of bookstore that doesn’t have much space, but somehow manages to carry all the awesome books you’ve never heard of but really want to read.

Besides Haight Ashbury, my other disappointment was Berkeley College. If I had driven my VW to campus 40 years ago, I would have been greeted with a flower wreath and offers to smoke from a dozen bongs. This year, I got slapped with a parking ticket for hopping out of my car to take a few pictures. Enjoy this one; it counts as one of the most expensive photos I’ve ever taken.L1010444I’m sad to say my trip included the discovery that hippies either fried themselves on drugs or went corporate. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

In spite of being let down by the hippies, my trip was both productive and enjoyable. The state of California is only bankrupt in the financial, not the moral, sense. (Except Berkeley. I hate you.) CA certainly knows how to put on a cracking good comics fest. Thanks to APE and to all the people I met. I hope we can do it again sometime.