What a difference a year makes.
Last year I was pretty down on Stumptown (the comics fest, that is). And I must admit that I had pretty low expectations going in to this year.
The guest list seemed pretty skimpy. The poster was nothing too exciting. MoCCA was scheduled for the same weekend, meaning that many east coast creators would not be making the trip out west. It had all the hallmarks of another down year.
But then the show happened.
I arrived right as the doors opened Saturday morning. There was not a surge of people making their ways through the doors as much as there was a steady stream. All day long the stream flowed, making the aisles comfortably full. There was a good hum on the floor as creators, fans, and vendors all interacted. Last year was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. This year I heard plenty of sales pitches, adoration from fans, and a constant refrain of “Let me show you this!” While it still does not have the manic energy that the show had even a few years ago, there was a definite feeling of things moving in the right direction.
Since there is so much I want to cover, I am going to break it up in to “Goods” for items I bought and “News” for things that I saw or heard.
Mini Comics Are Back! – The last couple of years have seen a drop off in hand-crafted comics. As the price of print technology drops, what was once only possible from a print shop is now available to most creators for a reasonable price. Add to that the deals from on-line print services and it is easier than ever for creators to have comics “just like the big boys”. Unfortunately that means that comics for the past couple of years have appeared (at least on the outside) to be pretty homogenous. They are all saddle stitched, color cardstock covers, with black and white interiors all the same size and shape as all the other comics.
But now the pendulum is swinging back. I saw more odd-shaped, hand folded, crazy comics at this show than I have in the past year’s worth of comic conventions I attended combined.
I fell in love with unique mini-comics four years ago when I ment Kenan Rubenstein and saw his awesome little foldy comics. Now I am always in search of something that not only tells a good story, but manipulates the form as well. There were a couple that did that particularly well.
First up is Tales From The Fragment. The author, Lucy Bellwood, describes it as, “a sculptural foldy comic which incorporates its hand-cut wrapper into the storytelling process.” In other words, the format is as much a part of the story as the story itself. Not sure where you can get one of these little gems other than at a show. There is no “Buy” button on her website!!!!
Vincent Stall over at the 2D Cloud booth had quite the stash of mini-comics. I traded him a pile of cash for a pile of comics. I think we were both happy. Two of the minis I picked
up from him were Mind-Mapping and Two Old Guys. Both had a unique format to themrequiring multiple un-foldings. It is that kind of added value that put it over the top for me. It doesn’t hurt that they are both REALLY good comics to boot!
I also picked up Vincent’s own book, Things You Carry, as well as a silk-screened mini (which I think he also made) called Drifting Weightless. Both books were visually striking and begged to be picked up and read. It is safe to say that the 2D Cloud table was my “find” of the show. I kept dragging people back to it to look at all the great books. The print and publication quality was superb (more on this later).
Speaking of foldy comics, I got a pleasant surprise when I stopped off at Justin Zimmerman and Dale Woodruff’s table. Not only were these two guys showing off the latest issues of their book, The Killing Jar, they were also being stand-up friends. They had a selection of books from friends back east, including ! by Tymothi Godek. This may be familiar to you from my post about the 5 Largest Books in the World. (! was #5 on the list). Like the mini-foldies, it is always a pleasure when the comic is more than just a gimmick. ! tells three stories simultaneously across its massive 35 foot-plus breadth. My friends and I spent Saturday night munching on BBQ and pulling more sections of the comic across the table. What a treat! Zimmerman and Woodruff also passed me a copy of the anthology, Other Worlds, which looks to be a gorgeous collection of sci-fi short stories. Look for a review coming soon.
I wanted to talk about a couple of books that I picked up where I was particularly impressed by the production values. Not to say that there weren’t books there with decidedly old school production values (color laser printer cover hand stapled to Kinkos run black and white pages) which I picked up simply because they sounded like fun. I did! Captain Kitten came home with me, complete with dedication to my cat, Garbonzo. But, truth be told, it had nowhere near the same production values as the following books however.
Covered in Confusion is the book that pulled me over to the 2D Clouds booth. The cover is a striking image of a skeleton. But there are also little highlights and images that are in gloss on the black that only show up when hels at an angle. The rest of the book has the same kind of print quality that I have come to expect out of a publisher such as Oni. Crisp and sharp images and a nice paper quality make for a reading experience that is really quite pleasant. It seems that the cost of high quality printers has dropped to a level that is affordable (read: $900) for a small boutique press to set up shop.
I also picked up Family Man (vol. 1) by Dylan Meconis. I have wanted to pick up this book for a while now, but kept getting distracted by tentacles. See, Dylan is often tabling next to Erika Moen, and I can never seem to get past Erika’s awesome tentacle creations. But, this time I pulled my eyes away from the Erika’s My Little Tentacle Pony to look at Dylan’s work. I have to say that the production value of Family Man was probably the highest of any comic at the show (including those by the big boys). Glossy paper stock, tight binding, and art that was downright professional. There is nothing amateur about this book! I cannot wait to tear in to it!
There were plenty of other books that I picked up as well. I may talk about them at a later date. but that is a god thing. Last year I think I walked away from the show with a few foldies and minis from Kenan Rubenstein and Neil Brideau and little else. This year I spent almost double my budget on books and probably could have doubled it without really trying.
Stumptown is not the kind of place where major announcements are made. However, if you keep your ear to the ground, you can pick up a couple of choice tidbits.
Got the disappointing news that The Secret History of DB Cooper is being capped at 5 issues. DB Cooper is one of the most creative and imaginative books on the stands. It is too bad that it is ending so soon.
Erika Moen speaks the truth. I sat in on Erika’s panel about how to promote yourself online. Yes, it was incredibly selfish of me, but I have a webcomic and this site, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more traffic on both of them. She kept hammering home the importance of a regular publishing schedule as well as ways for people to purchase your products (assuming you are selling them). While this may seem like obvious advice (right up there with “just keep creating and never give up”), it bears repeating. I cannot tell you how many comics I looked at and/or purchased that did not have a website listed. And there were an equal number of cards that I picked up whose websites either were not updated regularly (the average length of time between updates was three months) or did not have any means of purchasing a book from them. So, listen to the woman! Update your sites and let people find you!!!!
Oni Press is stacked for the upcoming months. I talked to several creators at the show who have completed projects for Oni which will see print in either the second half of this year or the first quarter of 2013. They are definitely the go-to publisher for original graphic novels.
Well, there you go. It was a great show that exceeded my expectations. Look for reviews of the books I picked up as well as our interview with Matt Southworth where we do our best to NOT talk about comics!