WHEW! THREE OF THOSE IN THREE WEEKENDS. Still, if I had to finish up with one of them, Stumptown’s the one, as it affirmatively answers the age-old question: “Can a con be big enough to sum up a local scene and attract top-flight out-of-town talent while staying mellow?”
The floor was definitely busier than last year, but it didn’t overtax the Lloyd Center Doubletree’s Exhibit Hall. It was one of the nicest weekends in Portland so far this year, and sunlight poured in through the windows that ran the length of one side of the room. The whole affair had a friendly vibe, from the people manning the admissions table, where I picked up my volunteer badge (full disclosure), to the exhibitors who called passersby over to see their books, to the few scattered retailers, who gave warm hellos and mingled.
Most tables had a steady stream of visitors, but never seemed overly crowded––the only significant line I stood in all weekend was for Craig Thompson’s brief signing after his spotlight panel on Saturday. Headlining guests always had people at their tables, but had plenty of time to chat with each visitor.
There was a little bit of news, nothing huge. In between discussing Superman and explaining the differences between concrete media and conceptual media to me at his table, Scott McCloud confirmed that the upcoming Harper Collins edition of Zot! replaces the long-awaited Zot! vol. 4 hardcover. Brian Michael Bendis was telling visitors to his table that Powers has been optioned to be a live action TV show and that he’ll be working on the pilot this Summer. He said he couldn’t reveal the channel it would appear on for another two weeks, but assured fans that it will accommodate “Deena’s potty mouth.” Buzz around the floor was that part of the reason for the new Dark Horse reprint of Nicholas Gurewitch’s Perry Bible Fellowship so soon after the previous one is the threat of a lawsuit from Milton Bradley over the cover’s Candyland parody (according to Wikipedia, candyland.com was the subject of one of the first lawsuits over domain names).
The easy-going vibe of the show carried over to the panels I attended, with mixed results. Mike Richardson proved very charismatic in his spotlight panel, moderated by Stumptown founder Indigo Kelleigh. It centered on reminisces of the early days of Dark Horse, most questions leading to long answers, entertaining and anecdote-filled. Craig Thompson had a harder time. Dark Horse editor Shawna Ervin-Gore was on hand to help him out, but he threw it to audience questions right at the beginning, which meant the panel didn’t have a chance to find a focus. Worse, the process art and pages of his upcoming graphic novel, Habibi, were too faint to be seen on the projector, as the room was fully lit. Thomspon was clearly thrown by not being able to show what he was talking about.
I sat in Sunday’s panels as a time-keeper and backup tech guy (with a two-hour break to conduct a surprise interview––stay tuned!). This meant I got to fulfill my volunteer responsibility by sitting in on panels like the Periscope Studios panel, which I would have attended anyway, and holding up cards indicating how much time remained and hoping nothing went wrong with a projector. The Periscope panel, run by Steve Lieber and Dylan Meconis, was a blast, the members’ banter capturing the flavor of the studio even better than the planned talk. A slideshow of the various artists acting out scenes as reference for each other was also a lot of fun. Less exciting was the True Tales of Roller Derby panel, the audience for which seemed to consist almost entirely of the roller girls that the comic was about, the panelists spending most of their time explaining to them what a penciler or colorist does.
Top Shelf’s Brett Warnock and Leigh Walton
The local publishers were out in force, Dark Horse set up at the front wall and the smaller publishers spread about inside. Saturday I met Tim Sievert, author of That Salty Air from Top Shelf, an initially wistful and eventually surprisingly dark tale of the sea. I grabbed that excellent book, as well as Sievert’s silly and circular mini-comic, Kanary Kid. Also from Top Shelf, I picked up Conversations #1 by James Kochalka and Craig Thompson, to take with me when I visited Thompson’s table. I grabbed Andi Watson and Simon Gane’s Paris at the Slave Labor Graphics table, as well as several of their stapled comics, which they were selling in random bundles for $1. At the Oni Press table I met their new assistant editor, Jill Beaton, and talked with Brandon Graham about Multiple Warheads, which he has ambitious plans for.
I only attended one party this year, Cosmic Monkey’s Saturday night bash that hosted the Trophy Awards and the Comic Art Battle. I was mingling during the Trophy Awards, since it was difficult to hear the results over the crowd. However, I did catch the Comic Art Battle, in which a team of web comics artists and a team of print comics artists competed in a series of challenges for the fate of the comics medium.
Comic Art Battle hosts Jeff Parker (complete with wig) and Carolyn Main
Jeff Parker and Carolyn Main refereed, and Steve Lieber coached the print team––the web team’s coach was mysteriously absent. Challenges included a Mad Libs-style event in which contestants depicted an engorged Abe Lincoln curling (the sport), a re-envisioning of Mark Trail, and contestants drawing caricatures of each other. This challenge featured Corey Rey Lewis for the print team; instead of his opponent, he drew a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, then took the unorthodox step of flipping the page and drawing another. Then another. Eventually he had drawn all four turtles and Shredder. Turning to the crowd he announced that the Turtles were his favorite black and white ’80s comic and that, “I decided before it started that no matter what I got, I was gonna draw Ninja Turtles.” Surprisingly, despite the crowd’s approval, this did not win the round for him.
Corey Rey Lewis and one of his many Ninja Turtles
The event ended with a battle royale in which both teams drew on the same pages to depict a war between cavemen and Shaolin monks. When the dust settled, print was victorious by a hair, making Steve Lieber as excited as I’ve ever seen him.
The best parts of any con are meeting people with similar interests and seeing those people you only see at the cons, and discovering work you don’t see at your local store. By both measures, my time at this year’s Stumptown was a success. I promised to mention everything anyone gave or sold me, so here goes:
Matt Silady, Kirsten Baldock and Jason McNamara
Spotting Mark Silady, author of The Homeless Channel, whom I met at last year’s Stumptown, I found that he’s started a collective of San Francisco writers with Kirsten Baldock and Jason McNamara, each of whom put out their first book through AiT-Planet Lar. Baldock’s Smoke and Guns was enticing for its subject matter, cigarette girls fighting each other for turf to the point of gang war, and its art by Fabio Moon, so I walked away with that. Dark Horse editor Scott Allie was anchoring a table separate from Dark Horse spotlighting his self-publishing and writing projects. I like the books he edits and, figuring that sensibility might carry over to his own writing, I picked up The Devil’s Footprints, which turns out to be a solid supernatural thriller layered on top of a compelling family drama.
The Periscope Studios cluster of tables is always a rewarding visit. There wasn’t a ton of new stuff, since the last Stumptown was so recent, but I found a few mini-comics, including two from Periscope assistant Susan Tardiff, whose Short Notice I enjoyed so much last year, and Sara Ryan’s latest chapbook, Einbahnstrasse Waltz illustrated by Cat Ellis. I hope Ryan writes a full-length graphic novel one of these days.
Shannon Wheeler and Carolyn Main
More mini-comics came from Carolyn Main, who had a new collection of dirty, funny Quickies, and Erika Moan, who when not winning all the Trophy Awards for DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, found time to show me how to make puffy stars out of strips of paper. Jason Leivian was premiering the first issue of Diamond Comics, the newsprint anthology we discussed in my interview with him last month. Expect to see it all over town soon and get ready for some mind-expansion. Lastly, a fellow student in a comics class I took last year, Tristian Spillman, spotted me and handed me the rough but nifty-looking The Back Yard. Between all of these, I have lots of good reading ahead of me.
The show winds down Sunday afternoon
Once again, Stumptown was a blast, with 2008 the biggest and liveliest yet. I feel lucky to live so near such a great con and already look forward to next year’s.