Adventures In Portland: Stumptown 2012 Report!

Two weeks ago I got on a plane with Max Young headed for Portland, OR to attend our very first Stumptown Comics Fest. It was the first time either of us had been to Portland, so we left a few days early so we could check out the city. Let me tell you guys – Portland is amazing! We had such a good time there and everyone was incredibly friendly.

The journey out there pretty crazy – we left Savannah at midnight and made the 3.5 hour drive up to the airport in Atlanta. Two planes and a short layover in Denver later, and we landed in Oregon. But there was no time to sleep then! We only had a couple hours before an appointment at Oni Press, so we checked into the hotel and ran upstairs to make ourselves look halfway respectable. We took a cab over to Oni where Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones was kind enough to give us a tour of their space and take a look at our portfolios. It was really nice of him to take the time to do that, and we both got some good feedback and had a terrific time.

Afterwards we walked over to the Green Dragon Bistro and Brewpub to finally get a real meal and have a couple beers. I’m glad we went, because on top of trying some excellent beer, we also had a waitress who gave us tons of recommendations of places to check out around the city. We hit up several of them and they did not disappoint.

The next day we got up early to  have brunch downtown before going over to Periscope Studio. Periscope seemed like an awesome workspace, full of a diverse range of cartoonists and illustrators who were all very welcoming to us. We were given a tour of the space, which is full of drafting tables and shelves full of comics and art hanging all over the walls. Steve Lieber was kind enough to review each of our portfolios and give us some feedback. We chatted a while about comics, the city, their internship program, and then thanked them and went out to explore downtown Portland.

The crowd at Periscope gave us directions to Floating World, Portland’s alternative comics shop. They had a lot of great stuff and it was hard not to spend all the money I’d brought for the convention right there. Now they have even more great stuff, because Max and I gave them a few copies of our own comics for them to sell! If you live in Portland, head over to Floating World and look for SPAZ! #4 and #5, or Max’s Blacked Out and JetPack Shark. Before we left I purchased Noah Van Sciver‘s 1999 (part of Box Brown’s Retrofit Comics project), and Derf‘s long awaited My Friend Dahmer. I have a copy of the original 24 page My Friend Dahmer comic that Derf published back in 2002, and have been looking forward to the longer version of his story for ages. Later in the hotel room I read the entire thing and I will say beyond a doubt that it’s Derf’s best work that I have seen. He’s got a blog for the book where he posts information about signings and some of his photo-references and stories about his high school days with Dahmer. You can check it out right here.

On the way over to Floating World, I’d noticed a sign for the Portland City Grill, which I remember our waitress from the Green Dragon had mentioned as being on the 30th floor of a downtown building and having a great view. I am a sucker for any place that serves overpriced cocktails and has a view, so we went into the building and got in the elevator. I was shortly sipping a martini and surveying Portland – which is gorgeous, for the record. From our vantage point Max spotted a very long line winding out of a small business and we both determined that whatever it was it had to be good, so we went to check it out. The line turned out to be coming out of Portland’s famous VooDoo Doughnuts, and by the time we got there the line had diminished significantly and we were able to just walk in and get a doughnut practically right away.

Max got a doughnut with Capt'n Crunch on it.

–But what was I supposed to be talking about? OHH right. The Comics Fest! Of course. I’d brought a ton of minicomics with me, printed, but not assembled. They fit better in my suitcase that way, and frankly I’d been pretty busy and didn’t have time to put them together when I was at home. Max and I spent a good portion of the night before the show folding and stapling minicomics in front of the television.

At the show we found ourselves sitting next to Monica Gallagher who, in addition to her comics, was also selling prints and cards and other fun stuff you can find in her Etsy shop. I grabbed a copy of her book Boobage, and autobiographical comic in which she describes her experience growing up with very small boobs. I’ve often considered making a comic of my own very oposite experience: growing up with incredibly large boobs and making the decision to have breast reduction surgery as a teenager. It was so funny to see how parallel our experiences had been. She even includes a scene in her ballet class where her small breasts were expected, an asset even. At around the same age I had been dropping out of ballet due the fact that my center of gravity changed so drastically when I hit puberty that I kept falling over in class (not to mention looking ridiculous in a leotard). This was a fun read and made me consider once again whether I should work on my own boob-comic.

I wandered around the show quite a bit on the second day, talking to people about my upcoming Unsolved Mysteries anthology and wound up meeting Eroyn Franklin. I was pointed towards her table when I mentioned to someone that I was looking for people interested in nonfiction comics, and found that she had all kinds of outstanding stuff on her table. Two of her comics were these long, panoramic accordion folded pieces and I just had to get one. I picked out The Here, a 5″x84″ story that feature two conversations reading in opposte directions. I just loved the format of this book and the distinct sense of place Franklin creates with her artwork.

The Here, by Eroyn Franklin. Photo borrowed from her website.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Julia Gfrörer, a very talented illustrator and cartoonist, and I picked up a copy of her Flesh and Bone. This minicomic combines elements of humor and horror in a very creepy story involving death, witchcraft, and some bizarre sexual overtones. I’m really into Gfrörer’s dark visual style and highly recommend checking out the illustrations she has posted on her website.

In addition to a stack of kickass minicomics, I also picked up a few longer works. I made sure to go by Nate Powell‘s table on the first day of the show. I’d met him briefly at SPX a few years ago and remember him being a really nice dude, and I’d loved Swallow Me Whole so I thought I might pick up something else of his. I settled on Any Empirea book that examines the effect of war on middle-America and is set, Powell told me, in the same fictional town from Swallow Me Whole. As usual, Powell’s artwork is fantastic and I can’t wait to sit down and read it. Also, it turns out Nate Powell is still a really nice dude.

I swung by Jonathan Case‘s table early on the second day of the show to pick up his graphic novel Green River Killer, written by Jeff Jensen. I’m glad I did because he said he was running low and I’d gotten one of the last copies he’d brought. I thought that might happen, since the night before at the Stumptown Comic Art Awards Case had been nominated for several awards and had won Best Artist and Best New Talent. Case’s book is a nonfiction story written by the son of the detective that investigated the notorious Green River Killer that took the lives of dozens of women in the Seattle area in the 1980s and 90s. As someone who dabbles in true crime comics myself, I had to check it out.

Behind my table at the show. Photo borrowed from Joshin Yamada.

Too worn out to do much else, once the show was over Max and I spent the evening drinking beer in the hotel room and packing. I can’t imagine having a better time than the weekend we had in Portland! We met some awesome people, explored a fun city, picked up some fantastic comics – and I broke my sales record for conventions. Not half bad. The Stumptown Comics Fest will most certainly be on my list of conventions to attend next year.