Springtime is comics season: Emerald City, MoCCA, Stumptown, and some other things of note

Step into my virtual parlor, and let me tell you about the past few months. In addition to my repeating daily pattern of youth work-art work, I have been busier than usual on the comics front. Now that the dust has settled I’m ready for a recap.

I exhibited at three shows in March and April: Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con, New York’s MoCCA Festival, and Stumptown Comics Fest here in Portland, Oregon. I wasn’t great at photodocumenting these conventions, but I did wrangle at least one at-my-table shot for each. Here I am with friend and studiomate Sarah Oleksyk at Emerald City (photo credit goes to studiomate Jon Siruno:

At MoCCA I shared a table with Aron Nels Steinke. (Photo credit goes to my mom. Thanks, Mom):

…and then Sarah and I reunited in Portland. Here we are at our Stumptown table, looking glamorous/tired:

First up, Emerald City. I had been once before, as an attendee at last year’s show (where I sadly arrived too late to make it into a talk by special guest Leonard Nimoy). While it was a fun time I’m not sure I would have chosen to exhibit there, as it seemed to me mostly a mainstream comics crowd. But some of my Tranquility Base studiomates were going in on a block of tables so I figured I’d join them. And I’m really glad I did…before too long I had decided that Emerald City had become my new favorite. For one thing, my fears about being relegated to a deserted indie cartoonist/self-publisher area of the con floor were unfounded, as the crowds were so large that Sarah and I got lots of foot traffic coming by our table. I also really appreciated all the different kinds of comics fans that were in attendance…indie comics people, collectors, scifi enthusiasts, mainstream comics lovers, Trekkies who were clamoring to get their pictures taken with William Shatner and/or Brent Spiner. And the costumery! This was the first show I’ve ever been to where so many people were dressed in costume (never been to San Diego, obviously), and I freaking loved it. Look at this adorable baby Vulcan! I squealed with glee when these guys came by my table:

Also there was a whole lot of Doctor Who going on. I didn’t get a photo of my favorite example, a poufy Dalek-dress, but here is a crew in front of my studiomate Indigo Kelleigh’s table, promoting his comic The Adventures of Ellie Connelly. (Tranquility Base-er Joe Keatinge is one table over, but you can’t see him):

(as you can see, there *is * a Tardis-dress in this one)

All in all this show put me on an absolute high. The driving-induced exhaustion that set in shortly after I set up my table on Friday quickly gave way to excitement, as I stopped to realize how comfortable I feel at conventions now, and how far I’ve come from my first attempts at putting out my own work. I still think I have a ways to go, comics-wise, but now I have a better idea of how to get there, and a bunch of ideas for projects to focus on in the coming months and years. I also got some press, which was nice: Sarah and I were both included in this convention write up over at comixology, and Patti Martinson of sequentialtart set up an interview with me, which you can read here.

I spent a lot of time behind my table, but I did I meet Matthew Ocasio of The Matter, as well as Sophie Yanow, and got a copy of her amazing Norse mythology-themed 24-hour-comic “Blar.” I also ventured over to the table of MAD Magazine superstar Sergio Aragones. After waiting in line behind a whole bunch of adoring fans getting custom sketches, I gave him one of my postcards and told him I love his work–then he stood up and gave me a hug! It was pretty amazing.

…but let’s back up to a few weeks before all this, when my studiomate BT Livermore offered me a spot in a comics-themed gallery show, if I had a new book out for Stumptown Comics Fest. I already had an idea for a minicomic brewing–the story of a breakup as told through the increasingly bad habits of the dumpee–but I probably would not have pushed myself to finish it so soon had it not been for BT’s offer. I started drawing shortly after Emerald City and the day before I left for New York he and I hung the pages I had completed so far in the IPRC gallery. Unfortunately I was due to fly out on opening night, but here are some shots of the display:

I headed to MoCCA with pencils, pens, and bristol board in tow, where Aron and I drew alongside each other during the show. When I wasn’t frantically trying to pencil in as many panels as possible, greeting table visitors, or walking around the floor, I spent time talking with awesome table-neighbors Greg from Tugboat Press, Alec Longstreth, and Galen Longstreth, with whom I swapped tales of Garden State living. Also got some new (to me) Little Garden comics from Darryl Ayo. But the highlight of MoCCA was having my parents in attendance. They had never been to a comics show before! (“Its…a lot!”-my dad).

After a day of penciling at airport gates and on the plane, I returned to Portland and did my best to keep up the comics-making pace with a week to spare before Stumptown. It was just like being in college again, but instead of spending a series of three-hours-of-sleep nights trying to bust out a twenty-page term paper, I was trying to bust out a thirty-page comic, and reproduce it. The situation started looking grim around 2 am on the first day of the show, but I knew I had to follow through on my commitment and get this thing done. By the time I finally got to the 24-hour Kinko’s it was around 4:30 am. I laid out pages, photocopied, and stapled until around 6 (when I started having minor hallucinations that the ground was moving), then headed home for approximately two hours of sleep before heading to the Convention Center. Brutal though the week was, it was totally worth going through it to have a new comic for sale. And it was a heartening experience to have sheer determination and dedication to making comics produce enough adrenaline to fuel me through it–I did duck out to nap in my backseat for an hour on Saturday, but other than that I was fully awake and invigorated by the show (and caffeine). The comic itself is titled “Painful Vices: A Tale of Bad Habits” and I plan to get the entirety of it up in the comics section in the next few weeks.

The rest of Stumptown was fantastic. I had a great time at the table talking up my work and hanging out with Sarah and BT. I also roamed the floor quite a bit and let myself indulge in far more purchases than usual. Some of my favorite haul items: “Gingerbread Girl” by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin, the third “Beanworld” book by Larry Marder, “Stupid Dreams” by Joey Alison Sayers, a whole bunch of great minicomics by Neal Brideau, “Airship” by Sarah McIntyre, Jen Vaughn’s newest comic “Heavy Flow,” and “Undertow” by Ellen Lindner.

All in all, an amazing few months. Granted, I have taken some much needed time to relax (and sleep) in these post-convention weeks, but more than anything these shows have gotten me really excited for the work to come, including a comic about Portland’s Chinatown and a graphic novel script. Stay tuned!

(photo courtesy Deborah Lipski)

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