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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Books On Hitting the 2008 Stumptown Comics Fest.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Sun, Apr 27 at 3:02 PM


Just got back from the Stumptown Comics Fest, an event that gets bigger and better ever year. Now in its fifth year, the fest has really settled into its digs at the Lloyd Center Doubletree, which was also the site of 2007’s fest. It’s a way better location than any other spot the fest’s been in before, and here’s hoping they keep it there next year—the fest’s previous locations, like the Old Church and PSU and the Convention Center, never felt this accessible and accommodating. This year’s fest is easy to get to, easy to navigate, and has plenty of space for both panels and exhibitors.

It’s been great watching the fest grow over the years, and I feel like this year, Stumptown has really hit its stride—just from the brief time I spent there today, the vibe was friendly, attendance was good, booths were plentiful, the comics were promising, and the two panels I jumped back and forth between—trying to listen to both at the same time, with, eh, mostly successful results—were a lot of fun.

The fest runs until 6 pm today, so you’ve still got a few hours if you want to head over and catch the tail end of things. Hit the jump for more info about what the fest was like earlier, complete with pictures that readily demonstrate why I should never be allowed around a camera.


In terms of local comic presence at Stumptown, it's hard not to be impressed. The big guys--Dark Horse, Top Shelf, and Oni--are around to check out and talk to, but so are a billion and a half smaller publishers and creators, all of whom have their books and wares (which range from DVDs to T-shirts to buttons to screen-printed bags full of catnip to whatever else you can think of) laid out for low-key perusal. It's great to be able to get posters signed by Tara McPherson, or books signed by Nicholas Gurewitch, but it's also kind of cool to see Brian Michael Bendis--a dude who'd be swarmed by rabid fanboys at a place like the San Diego Comic Con--just kickin' it behind a folding table, chatting with festival attendees and telling them where to jump in if they're considering reading Powers.


The two panels I kept jumping back and forth between were solid, too. "Steve Lieber: Spotlight on Periscope Studio" had the affable creators of Periscope Studio talking about what it was like to work in a communal art studio.


The other panel I caught parts of--it was right next door to the Periscope one--was "The Seven (or so) Habits of Highly Profitable Web Comics," which featured Mike Russell, a film critic for the Oregonian and a comics creator, talking about how to make successful comics for the web.


Both were packed (you'll note from the above picture that my chronically late ass couldn't even get into the room where Russell was giving his presentation), and entertaining and insightful, but they were also--and, intentionally or not, this seems to be a key theme at Stumptown, and is certainly one of my favorite parts of the fest--totally chill and relaxed.

I mean, shit, even the library has a table there, hosted by two friendly librarians, and they have a bunch of comics available for check-out right there at the fest, provided you have your library card on you! (The were also giving out sweet bookmarks; I snagged one that says "Librarians are heroes every day!" below a picture of Batgirl. The text above her picture reads: "Librarian: Barbara Gordon. AKA: BATGIRL.")

It sounds sappy, but whatever: This is the sort of event that reminds me why I like living in Portland so much. A bunch of people come together to celebrate, support, and learn about an art form that they care about, and they do so in a way that's super-accessible to the public. One of the great points in local writer Douglas Wolk's book Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean is that many comic book shops have become, in his words, "deeply unfriendly places," where "even new pamphlets and books are sealed in plastic before they go out on the shelves; if you don't walk into the store knowing what you want, you're not going to find out." Year after year, the Stumptown Comics Fest represents the opposite of that mentality--it's an open, welcoming spot where people who love comics can appreciate them, and where those who don't know much about comics can be introduced to all that the art form has to offer. All around, it's pretty great.


It was a great show. I felt lucky to be a part of it.

I love Stumptown and Portland. With our Mayor declaring April to be Portland's "Comics Month" and so many fans and cartoonists showing up to SCF, I felt like my Comics dreams are coming true. I too felt very happy and lucky to be a part of it. It will take months to wipe the smirk off of my face.

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