Waking up early to drive from Seattle to Portland made us here at Successless drowsy and a bit irritable. Rolling into town around 10:30 am, we hustled to the Lloyd Center Doubletree just in time to see one of our favorite artists. Nicholas Gurewitch, creator of Perry Bible Fellowship, seemed as low energy as we were. His thoughtful, drowsy way of fielding questions from the crowd (including Scott McCloud) while noshing on a bagel made me happy that we were easing into the festival spirit with the low energy panel. That is, until he dropped some nuggets of genius onto the unsuspecting cloud.
Did you know that the secret to Gurewitch’s success is a robot manufactured with the help of an engineer? This robot does all the hard work - coming up with the art style of the strip, the biting humor, and the beautiful lettering? Yeah, neither did I.
The dial below the slot is key to balancing the distinctive comedy/tragedy tone to his comics. The phone is what he picks up to relay three key ideas he wants in his comic (like pigs, chicken, sex). To illustrate the danger in mis-calibrating this balance, he set the tragedy dial to high and out popped Watchmen.
And finally, one last piece of advice from a brilliant cartoonist:
There you have it ladies and gentlemen - the tale of worldwide success, of how to become syndicated print darling, and how to piss off Hasbro (who sent a cease and desist letter because of the likeness of the cover to Candyland) .
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Content to follow. After feet are rested.
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Wow, things have been quiet here. No apologies, as we are both alive and kicking. One of us has been busy changing jobs, and is working within the sphere of The Evil Empire. The other has been busy learning about worldwide oppression and communication theories. I’m not telling which is which.
A few things of note:
Tatiana Gill has a blog! We heart her, and look forward to reading her witticisms and peeking at lovely art. Her blog already has some gems, so go and take a look. As a bonus, she makes cool sculpted art that people should buy. Bug her about it.
Our annual trek to San Francisco to attend APE has been thwarted by evil schedule changes. The sizable and aching hole has been filled by two spectacular cons - Stumptown and Emerald City.
Why you should go to Stumptown:
- Pre-registration already sold out. This means no empty tables and sad faces.
- It’s not just indie faces this year; big names like Gail Simone and Pia Guerra will rubbing elbows with some of the greatest cartoonists in the industry.
- Don’t let the fabled rain dissuade you - Portland is lovely in the spring.
- We will be there. Duh.
Why you should go to Emerald City:
- As lovely as Portland is in April, it has nothing on Seattle in May.
- We hinted at our displeasure with the con last year in our wrap-ups. Someone obviously cared about our opinion, as this year there is a nice indie representation, including the recently announced Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope Larson appearances.
- Jordan Crane exhibit at Fantagraphics
- We will be there. Duh. I might even buy you a beer at my favorite pub if you are nice to me.
Real reviews to follow soon. No, really.
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Now this is more like it. After the visit to Emeralc City Comic Con in Seattle last month, APE was a breath of fresh air. I felt like I was back with my people. Cons full of dealers, overpriced old piles of newsprint, TV stars, movie memorabilia, and costume contests really aren’t my cup of tea, and that’s essentially what Emerald City is all about. The dealers’ area takes up a good 3/5 of the convention floor, leaving publishers and artist the remaining silces. For some people, wheeling and dealing to improve their collection is what these shows are all about, and I’m not criticizing that, but it’s just not for me.
APE, on the other hand, is all about the things I like about comics, creativity and discovery. The convention regularly features the companies willing to put out books that will only appeal to a tiny core audience, but push the boundaries of the medium in ways that larger companies aren’t willing to. Buenaventura, Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Young American, Oni, AIT/PlanetLar, and others large and small are the heart of the event. Artists like Art Spiegelman, Kazu Kibuishi, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, Kevin Huizenga, and others are the stars here, and there’s always an atmosphere of comraderie. Plus, there’s a treaure trove of talent you’ve probably never heard of just waiting to be discovered. This year, some of our favorites in this category were the incredible books produced by Icelcreamandia, Robin Enrico’s clever Controller minicomic, Sarah Oleksyk’s work in the criminally under-hyped Papercutter anthology, and Liz Baillie’s My Brain Hurts books.
This year’s event was a little less crowded, or at least it felt like it. It was definitely a large, successful event again, but it felt like there was a little more breathing room in the crowds, and that led to a more intimate feeling as well. Running into cartoonists, bloggers, and fans that we knew (or were just meeting) made this year one of our best experiences for sure.
There’s a reason we’ve made APE an annual pilgrimage, even after moving away from the San Francisco area, and this year’s event helped remind us of that. Even though we couldn’t make it to any of the panels we really wanted to attend, due to travel logistics, it was well worth the trip. And of course, being able to meet up with old friends was icing on an already sweet cake.
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After a few days of recovery after APE, I’m still unable to do a proper round-up. Why? Because it’s as awesome as it always is. Not much else to report beyond that. So rather than take my lack of enthusiasm as any negative reaction to the con, I’ll just do a link dump:
The Daily Crosshatch pt.1 and pt.2
Ian Brill’s PW coverage
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s food journal
Fart Party’s pt.1 and pt.2
Brent Warnock’s wrap-up
To ensure this isn’t total waste of data space, I can say that for the first time we felt popular. Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope Larson both recognized us. The Hot Mexican Love Comics guys both thanked me for the review last year and criticized my dismissal of the low rider story as “standard fare.” I’ve never been asked to justify my opinion, particularly to the artist, so that was an awkward moment for me. We ran into Sophie from Gumpop, which was as pleasant this year as it was last year, despite some overt fangirling over a sketch that Hope did for her.
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For the past two years, Dylan and I have attended APE together. As anyone in a relationship can testify, attending a con with a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/etc can be as difficult to do together as airline travel or buying a house or trying to rent a video together. The fact that we can do APE without getting annoyed with each other and both find things to amuse ourselves speaks volumes to the variety of this con.
This year is no different. In fact, it might even be better, with the attendance of a certain Canadian couple that we love so dearly. So, with bags packed and selected books pulled for artist signing, I’d like to offer some last minute advice for attending APE:
1. Do walk the entire floor. There are many, many artists that you may not be on your radar that put the “awe” in awesome.
2. Talk to the awesome people mulling around the Comic Relief spot. You will hear good recommendations and probably bump elbows with some of the special guests. This is fun, but for the love of Gob don’t squeal (though to be fair, I haven’t encountered this reaction from anyone but Jhonen Vasquez fans).
3. Don’t try to fit in with the hipster crowd. They might try to convince you skinny pants look good. They do not.
4. Bring a large bag. There are many treasures to be found, from crafty goods to wallets to photocopied minis.
5. If you see us, say hi. I command it. We are nice people, I swear.
Okay, that’s all my undercaffinated mind can muster at this moment. Here’s to an awesome weekend!
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A quick addendum to Dylan’s Emerald City ComiCon post…
While walking around the artist gallery I had my first bona fide fangirl moment.
I was mulling around Brian Wood’s table, waiting for some space to clear so I could get a copy of Demo to be signed. Once space cleared I stepped forward. He looked up and said “I know you…You are an internet friend.” I stopped dead in my tracks and melted into an emotional puddle. What felt like hours, but was probably mere seconds, I composed myself enough to have some awkward conversation about things to do on a Saturday night in Seattle.
Walking away with a floating sensation, I could now identify with the never ending stream of fans waiting for Brian Michael Bendis: I now officially entered retarded fandom.
The rest of the time I spent in a haze and didn’t really care much about what happened around me. I wasn’t really into everything else the Con had to offer, so I listlessly picked up stupid toys and fingered poly bagged issues without a care in the world.
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I’m not exactly a hardcore conventioneer. Most of my experience comes from repeat visits to San Francisco’s long-running Alternative Press Expo (which I’ll be attending again this year!), a sort of haven from the costumes and dealers that tend to overrun your average con. APE makes the artists and publishers the central focus, rather than the crate-digging and bargain hunting. But at some point, I guess I have to dip my toe into the waters of mainstream comic conventiondom. So why not start with the Emerald City Comic Con, a mere 10 minute drive form my apartment?
Upon arriving, it seemed that the choice of venue might have been overkill. The entire convention as tucked neatly into a third of the available floor space at the Qwest Field event center. The con itself was actually a good size, but it was dwarfed by the massive empty space off to the side.
The floor was split into several areas, with artist’s alley wrapping around two sides, a gaming area along another edge, and dealers and exhibitors filling out the middle (with an emphasis on dealers). There was a certainly a lot of eye candy from the moment we arrived, with tons of toys and posters and other collectibles covering much of the convention floor. A lot of the booths were not necessarily comic-related, or combined comics merchandise with assorted other pop culture items (like Lost figurines, old sci-fi DVDs, and even a booth covered in vintage Pez dispensers.
There were tons of costumed attendees as well, and a lot of storm troopers. Appropriate enough, seeing how Peter Mayhew (of Chewbacca fame) was a featured guest. In fact, one of the first things we saw upon arriving was a Storm Trooper conversing with Cobra Commander, both voices muffled by their face masks. There was a pretty inventive Ghost Rider costume, involving a mane of shaggy hair dyed various shades of yellow and orange. I somehow missed getting a picture of that one. And of course, there were the obligatory booth babes, though not in huge numbers (thankfully).
One of the coolest tables was the Denny Middle School Cartoonist’s table, which featured the work of various teenaged artists. I didn’t get the full story on this one, but it looks like the product of a class or club devoted to the art of cartooning. Many of the students were present at the booth, drawing and sketching and offering up a variety of minicomics for sale. It was nice to see some aspiring cartoonists given an opportunity to show off their work, and hopefully get some encouragement and support.
On a negative note, I have to mention that the choice to keep only one concession stand open in the hall was a poor one. The line-up for $6 hot dogs was probably at least 15-20 minutes long, and there was a second concession booth upstairs near the panel stage that could have easily been utilized.
Aside from that one minor irritant, it was actually a pretty fun con. It seems like it’s been growing steadily over the last couple of years, attracting some high profile guests in a variety of genres. Maybe some day they’ll be able to fill that big empty space in the even center.
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Up until today, I thought the only thing I was really looking forward to at Emerald City ComiCon was meeting Brian Wood . But today brought a lovely surprise:
It’s spookily perfect timing as the Successless household has recently started watching The Sarah Silverman Show (though if you asked us, The Man Show is really gets us moist about him).
It doesn’t quite take way that sting from missing APE with Bryan Lee O’Malley, but it comes pretty close.
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Portland, OR’s Stumptown Comics Festival took place last weekend, and Serene and I decided to breeze through, in between meeting up with my recently-hitched sister and her friends from out of state. It was a quick trip indeed, with us arriving in Portland after 10pm on Friday to check in at the Jupiter Hotel, and hitting the road back to Seattle at 1:30pm on Saturday. Somewhere in there, we found time to snag a few hours of sleep and buy some comics.
The nice thing about Stumpton is that it’s a comfortable size, much smaller than APE and therefore less overwhelming, yet it still manage to attract the same caliber of talent. Larger independent publishers like Oni, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics were present, with groups of their artists signing and sketching away, and the attendance was rounded out with lots of smaller companies and self-publishers in a variety of genres. Webcomics, minicomics, pamphlets, and graphic novels were all heavily represented, with prints, t-shirts, toys, original art, and assorted other media available as well. There’s enough there that you can spend a few hours taking it all in, but not so much that you feel like you missed something when you leave.
-Flipping through some new Fantagraphics books, like the upcoming installment of Mome, and having Ben Catmull sign a copy of the gorgeous debut issue of his book Monster Parade.
-Making paper stars with the incredibly friendly Erika Moen.
-Standing mere inches from living legend Scott McCloud at Erika Moen’s table. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to say hi, and thank him for putting a blurb for my horrible 24-hour comic on his list.
-Getting the new Liz Prince mini, and making small talk about Seattle hipster bars.
-Finally getting Kaz Strzepek’s completed, partially redrawn book, the Mourning Star, which I’d been reading as minicomics. He’s practically our neighbor, here in Capitol Hill! Get this book if you can.
-Serene’s watchful eye was responsible for me scoring a copy of Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions #3, the only issue of the minicomics incarnation I was missing (and where the story really starts, anyways).
-Serene getting a lovely, detailed sketch from Brandon Graham, another Seattle artist we love. We picked up some of his minis (and a naughty comic he made!), as well as Meathaus 8, which he’s a contributor to.
-Speaking of Meathuas, Farel Dalrymple had a new mini called Spigot, and some beautiful original art.
-Seeing comics workhorse Kazu Kibuishi, on a panel about the process of creating comics, describe his process. He mentioned that he can ink a page in an hour and colour it in 5, but that he hopes to increase his pace to 6 pages a day. The other panelists just listened in utter disbelief.
-A new issue of Papercutter, the anthology title from Tugboat Press.
I’m sure there’s plenty I’m forgetting, but with amount of stuff we crammed into such a short trip, that’s inevitable. But check out Serene’s photos of the event too!
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