One of my favorite reasons to go to Stumptown Comics Fest is that I get to meet the creators of some of my favorite books and on-line comics.
One of those creators who makes the long trek out to the West Coast each year is Neil Brideau.
I have gushed about him on this site before. If you have not gone to his site and at least bought Trugglemat from him, then you are off my Christmas card list!
Seriously, though. Neil is a: one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, b: has a pair of the coolest tattoos, and c: has more passion for comics than any eight people I know. Thor and I spent a solid twenty minutes chatting with Neil and another Stumptown favorite, Kenan Rubenstein about comics, the con, and the trials and tribulations of crafting hand-made comics.
See, that is what makes Neil’s work so special. Each individual piece is a labor of love. There is not sending it off to the printer and receiving a box in the mail a few weeks later filled with glossy covers and smelling of spine glue. His books are hand stitched together. When you buy a comic from Neil, you buy a little piece of him.
At Stumptown, Neil had many new offerings. First up was Oh Boy, Comics! volume 1, a collection of mini-comics, on-line comics, and other pieces that have appeared elsewhere, but not necessarily been available to the general public. Seeing so many of his pieces under one (nifty, hand-drawn)cover really gives you an understanding of the range of Neil’s storytelling. There are comedic pieces, ironic strips, sadness, head scratchers, and a bit of sci-fi thrown in just for fun.
My personal favorite was Cracking. What begins as a light-hearted romp turns deadly serious on the last page. Brideau’s sense of timing is spot on and carries the moment beautifully. You can feel the tension in the room. As with so many of Brideau’s other pieces, I am left begging for more.
Next up was the book Kenan pointed out to me, Write Now. Originally through the Uncle Envelope project, Write Now sums up perfectly the joy that is self-publishing. At Career Day, when everyone else is explaining what they want to be when they grow up, little Zenaide Virginia Hanneman boldly declares that she already is a writer. When she is challenged by her teacher, Zenni takes the teacher (and the reader) on a rip-roaring romp through the world of elementary school self-publishing (and quite a bit beyond the school walls!). In the process, Zenni inspires her fellow students to be writers. In the back of the book, Neil includes a miniature copy of one of the books Zenni published. It is a real treat and surprise!
I actually used Write Now in my class to help inspire my students to write! They took their writing, turned it in to comic books, and put the comics in the library for the entire school to read. Now I find my students writing comics and asking if they can make copies for their friends.
Those are just two of the five books I walked away with from Neil. It isn’t that the others are not worth reviewing. Quite the contrary. It is just that I would rather shut up and have you visit his site where you can read his on-line comic, Sock Monster, and order some of his stories. Do yourself a favor, and go there now…or else the Trugglemat will get you!