Category Archives: Portland

Stumptown Comics Fest 2013: GRIDLORDS at HOLLYWOOD THEATRE *Featuring Eamon Espey’s ISHI’S BRAIN*

Photograph by Dalton Webb

Photograph by Dalton Webb

GRIDLords was a night to remember. And what a venue, the wildly eccentric and awesome Hollywood Theatre. This was the place to spend your night in Portland after visiting the Stumptown Comics Fest. It was a beautiful showcase of animation and performance art. The night began with what everyone will agree was the crown jewel of the event, Eamon Espey’s “Ishi’s Brain”

Photograph by Michel Anderson

Photograph by Michel Anderson

ISHI’S BRAIN (THE SHOW) was created and performed by puppeteer Lisa Krause and cartoonist Eamon Espey. Lisa Krause is an artist and puppeteer of Bread and Puppet fame, among other things. Check out Lisa’s blog HERE. This show is currently on a national tour and you can view details HERE. And, certainly, check out Eamon’s website HERE. The show follows little Ishi on a magical journey of apocalyptic proportions.



And you just have to check out the music to this show. Soundtrack is provided by Stephen Santillian. Check it out HERE. Great to listen to while reading Eamon’s book! Oh, yes, there is a book.

“Ishi’s Brain” is based on Eamon’s story of the same name from his Secret Acres collection, SONGS OF THE ABYSS and you can buy it HERE.

Check out the Secret Acres website right HERE.

And, most definitely, visit the GRIDLords website HERE.

Once you’re at the GRIDLords site, you can enjoy cool stuff like Amy Lockhart’s WALK FOR WALK.

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Filed under animation, Comics, GRIDLords, Portland, Stumptown Comics Fest

Stumptown Comics Fest Review: UNKNOWN ORIGINS & UNTIMELY ENDS Anthology


“Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends: A Collection of Unsolved Mysteries,” is a comics anthology, edited by Emi Gennis. As comics anthologies go, this one knocks it out of the park. It is consistently good, full of satisfying surprises, and it’s as if all the contributors gathered together, held hands, and zoned into something awesome. This is not always the case but it sure is here. The theme is true to its title in every way.

"The Lead Masks" by J.T. Yost

“The Lead Masks” by J.T. Yost

Organized into two subcategories of the strange and spooky, one group of cartoonists take on the subject of “Unknown Origins” while the other takes on the subject of “Untimely Ends.” What sets this book up there with the best anthologies is how dedicated everyone is to all the details. So, how did this man come to die without any ID and an eerie connection to the book of poetry, “The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám”? That’s the opener, “The Unknown Man of Somerton Beach,” by Nikki DeSautelle, that lets us know right away that we’re in good hands. Drawn in a strikingly spare style, it leads you into the next story, an environmental mystery, “Goo,” by Jason Bradshaw, and then an urban myth, “The Monster with 21 Faces,” by Aaron Whitaker. And so on, one style of cartooning blending into the next, all held together by a unified vision.

"Aokigahara Forest" by Jenn Woodall

“Aokigahara Forest” by Jenn Woodall

This is first comics anthology for Hic & Hoc Publications and we certainly look forward to many more.

"The Dyatlov Pass Incident" by Emi Gennis

“The Dyatlov Pass Incident” by Emi Gennis

The anthology showcases 34 cartoonists, all working at their full potential.

"Dark Forces" by Lizz Lunney

“Dark Forces” by Lizz Lunney

Good work, Emi Gennis, on editing this remarkable anthology. Visit Emi’s website here.

“Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends: A Collection of Unsolved Mysteries” released on April 23 at Floating World Comics. The party continues at Stumptown Comics Fest this weekend, April 27-28. It’s a wonderful example of what you’ll find at this gem of a gathering of comics talent. If you’re in PDX, you will want to go. I’ll see you there. Visit the Stumptown Comics Fest website here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, PDX, Portland, Stumptown Comics Fest

THE SIMPSONS are basically from Portland

In the cartoonist circles I’m in, it seemed like it was always a given that “The Simpsons” came from Portland or thereabouts. Matt Groening and Linda Barry have Portland connections, as do so many other cartoonists, and that was always good enough for me. And now it’s official, the Springfield location in the animated series is Portland–well, close enough. Here are the details via UPI. I think it’s just a matter of time before Homer Simpson makes an appearance on “Portlandia” given that there’s a similar subversive vibe going on between the two.

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Filed under Portland, Portlandia, Television, The Simpsons

PORTLANDIA Season Two Review

“PORTLANDIA” has wrapped up its second season and I’m convinced that this show will go down as one of the great original American television comedies. Even with all the local references, or because of them, I can easily see this show as a successful import into Canada and even the UK. Ah, just like that annoyingly quaint catchphrase goes, “Think local. Act global.” Or is it, “Think global. Act local?” Whatever. You know, it might be fun to see the creative team for this show come up with some sketches of what “Portlandia” would be like in other countries. Being neurotic is a pretty universal thing.

The idea of being overly civilized, overly self-aware, overly progressive is a hilarious but sad truth for too many of us. If you’re reading this, trust me, you are as much a part of the problem and anyone else! This is your Portlandia as much as it is mine. But, hang in there, because you’re in for a lot of good laughs too. Thanks to the internet, thanks to “Portlandia,” we can laugh and cry like we’ve never laughed and cried before. But, seriously, many thanks to what’s become the comedy team of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen and to the show’s co-creator and director, Jonathan Krisel. And the rest of the writing team which includes Kasey Dornetto and Bill Oakley, a veteran of another great American original, “The Simpsons.”

There’s this one modest sketch that sticks with me, among so many to choose from this season, with Armisen dressed up like a dignified older gentleman. Maybe it’s a costume or he’s just a little bit steampunk. He takes this canoe out onto the water and there’s an audience by the bank looking very proper and politely applauding. Armisen then goes on to do an interpretive dance to the beat of Erasure’s “Oh L’amour.” It seems like a sendup to every earnest civic activity you’ve ever been to. But it’s more than that! IFC provides you with all the benind-the-scenes stuff you could want on this show including what sparked this particular skit.

“Portlandia” is, at its heart, sketch comedy and sketch comedy today still owes much to the anti-humor movement of the ’70s led by such comedy greats as Steve Martin and Andy Kaufman. The idea then, and today, being to “push the envelope,” try the patience of the audience. But the saving grace is that, when done well, this comedy sparkles. If the timing is off, if the actors are not fully committed, the whole thing will fall apart. On “Portlandia” things get pushed around quite a bit, thrown in the air, and usually come in for a safe landing.

And it’s much easier said than done! I present as evidence all the dismal and horrid “humorous” commercials for Pemco Insurance that “poke fun” at the Northwest locals. It’s been a series of “profiles” for years with stuff like “Profile #52: Socks With Sandals Guy.” It seems like corporate “humor” feels compelled to severely hold back and not really be funny. In fact, it disrespects the very thing it claims to want to be and that’s to be funny. To actually be funny would simply be too subversive! Thankfully, that is not an issue for the talent behind “Portlandia.”

Anyway, “Portlandia” ends its second season with a wonderful extended sketch, “Brunch Village.” It brings back to mind the gold the writers struck earlier with “One Moore Episode” where a neurotic couple become obsessed with the television series, “Battlestar Gallactica.” This time out, the obsession is the Sunday ritual of waiting in line for brunch. I can attest to this madness here in Seattle. For some reason, we’ve convinced ourselves that the long wait while we sip coffee and ponder the variations on pancakes and eggs on the menu, and finally the actual meal in a crowded restaurant, is one of the ultimate treats that we can give ourselves. In this episode, the wait may last all day. The line goes on forever. Ed Begley, Jr. plays a competing restaurant owner trying to lure in customers with severely marked down specials. And Armisen and Brownstein play a hapless couple who must learn the hard way about brunch line etiquette from a demonic etiquette overlord, played by Tim Robbins. It makes no sense and it makes perfect sense. Welcome to Portlandia, you’re already home.


Filed under Portland, Portlandia, Television


“PORTLANDIA,” that quirky show about Portland on IFC, as Portland natives might call it, continues to do very well. It has got to be a challenge to step into Season 2 of any show, especially one that suddenly had people talking who are now all too ready to expect the unexpected. When you have folks happily repeating lines from the show (“Portland, that’s where young people go to retire!”) you’ve got something special. It is sort of like what happened with “Seinfeld” although on a much more low-key level. I mean, that’s like comparing New York City to Portland, Oregon, don’t you think? Very different and yet both sharing a similar urbane and neurotic vibe. On “Portlandia,” the natives seem very mellow but they suffer from an excessive need to be in the know and be right mixed with an excessive need to be polite and sensitive. All this adds up to the stereotypical, although pretty real, passive-agressive “charm” of the Pacific Northwest. Season 1 had the element of surprise in dissecting this charm. Season 2 gets to further refine the show’s vision.

The marketing behind this season has picked up on “relationships” as being the overarching theme. But, at the end of the day, the biggest theme is what gave this show legs in the first place: human excess. The fact that the show is set in a hipsterdom like Portland just makes things all the better. And here’s the thing that can confuse some people. This show is not about hating Portland by any means. Look, I love the show and I also love Portland. I’m from Seattle. I’m liberal. I’m creative. I’m just one step away from stepping out of an episode of the show. But I don’t care for the Pacific Northwest “charm.” So, if you’re too close to the “Portlandia” lifestyle, that’s one reason you may fail to understand the show. Another reason is this thing about humor. This show has its particular sense of humor. If you were to just jump in, you may not get the show unless you’re already a fan of sketch comedy. Of course, people can find endless reasons not to get something. That’s a big point of this show!

Looking at the last three episodes, I have to admit, the relationship theme is there. It’s always been there in the sense that the show is inextricably linked to Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s collaborative work. But there seems to be more of a focus on it. The first episode, “Mixologist,” had Carrie swooning over a bartender who made the most amazing drinks. The most recent episode, “Cool Wedding,” had the annoyingly self-righteous bicycle messenger  getting married. There was also a hilarious sketch with Carrie dating Eddie Vedder. Maybe, with the second season, it’s time to refine the show’s course. That said, its absurdist satire is still intact. There’s that little gem of a sketch with Jeff Goldblum, the owner of a gallery that sells knots made by local artists. There’s a very cool and artful bit with Carrie as an enamored owner of an iPhone. Of course, we have the new catchphrase for this season: “I can pickle that!” which replaces last season’s “Put a bird on it!” And “A-O River!” might prove the replacement for “Cacao.” Oh, and then there’s the postman with a sinister connection to the classic film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” And this is only three episodes in. What is not to like, really?

Arguably the best segment yet, has Carrie and Fred as a couple who happen to fall into watching a DVD of the first season of “Battlestar Gallactica” only to find themselves so absorbed by the show that they can’t do anything else but watch season after season, destroying their lives in the process. But then it goes one step further and then another. I will only tell you that it is utterly hilarious.

So, even if you don’t think sketch comedy is quite for you, you’ll likely enjoy this show. Or maybe you find yourself being that person who chastises others when they forget to bring their own bag to the grocery store. Well, give the show a try. Or maybe you are one of those people who demands, in a very polite way, for the other driver to go ahead at a four way stop. Hey, live a little. Give the show a try.

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Filed under popcorn, Portland, Portlandia, Television

Portland: OPEN FOR BUSINESS at The Cleaners

An amazing group of Portland boutiques will ply their wares at the upcoming “Open for Business” event that runs from November 25 thru 27 at The Cleaners event space at Ace Hotel in Portland, OR.

If you’re looking for something new to wear or display that is out of this world cool, then check out this fine collaboration. Or you can always visit their respective Web sites.

The one that has intrigued us here at Comics Grinder is Antler & Co. We are always speaking with a melancholic sigh of only wishing for a place to hang our hats. Well, Antler & Co. has the solution.

We also are quite curious about hand-crafted all-wood eye glass frames from Moonwoods.

Well, this showcase of local designers has something for everyone. So, you decide what intrigues you.

And you’re clear where this is, right? 1022 SW Stark Street, in the Pearl District.

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Filed under Art, Portland

Daniel Johnston at Wieden+Kennedy Gallery

If you happen to be in Portland, consider stopping by the offices of Wieden+Kennedy and check out their art gallery. Artist Daniel Johnston has a show running from August 4 thru September 1.  Ever the purveyors of the zeitgeist, as distilled through impressive advertising, you can always expect something new and different at W+K.

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Filed under Art, Comics, Daniel Johnston, Portland, Wieden+Kennedy