Urban sketching is a lot of things: fun, stimulating, useful, and an all-around creative workout, especially the more you add to it. I like a little salt and pepper to spice things up, and usually little to no hot sauce. I’m being silly but, yeah, I’m just saying here that I find I’m usually doing more than just urban sketching when I do it. Often, it’s part of a bigger project. Or, like in this example, I’m also crafting a little movie, which is a whole creative endeavor to itself. That said, it’s really part of the process to relax and become one with the subject, regardless of anything else going on in the background. This time around, I tackle one of Seattle’s most beloved landmarks, and one of the all-time great tourist attractions, The Fremont Troll!
He’s always there ready for a hug.
The Fremont Troll is in the spirit of the great roadside attractions and then some. Due to the fact of its scale, history, intention, and overall artistic merit, it all adds up to a very unusual yet significant local treasure.
The Fremont Troll is definitely a thing, if you didn’t realize that. There doesn’t appear to be a totally quiet time for the guy as there is always a steady stream of visitors. Like clockwork, whole families pile out of minivans in order to situate themselves to best advantage for a pose with the landmark. The Troll goes back to the hippy-dippy days of the ’70s, well, actually, late ’80s. It was decided that Fremont needed something else that would speak to the quirky counterculture vibe it had cultivated over the years. And so it began as an art competition in 1989 and so it was, the following year. All the way up to today. No matter what your political bent, or vibe, there seems to be something about this community effort that can resonate with people on just about any level.
Suspension of Disbelief: Covid-19 Stories. By Julia Wald. Seattle. Available at Push/Pull. 77pp, $23.
Exercising a “suspension of disbelief.”
Oral history has itself a brief but interesting history in comics. As a former teacher and field worker in the field, as co-editor of an adaptation of Studs Terkel’s totemic Working, and as a collaborator of the late Harvey Pekar, himself a Studs Terkel type, I hope to claim a little authority on this matter.
But not too much. Oral history is born and reborn regularly, as the voices are heard and recorded, archived and used. Every interviewee and every interviewer has a unique experience. When the then-new field of oral history passed from the 1950s recording the lives of famous white men lacking memoirs to the civil rights and peace movements recorded by fellow participants, something changed in the nature of the field. Oral history eventually gained a shaky presence in academia. Its participants are, as they had already become a few generations ago, a peaceful army of under-appreciated activist-scholars, some in the classroom, more of them outside.
We can hope for a better future.
Comics, the adaptation of oral history as comics, has added a new dimension. Stan Mack, in the Village Voice of the 1960s-70s, captured the language and ideas of random people on the street, and opened up a path to a popular audience. One could call Art Spiegelman’s Maus, his father’s harrowing story, the comic that raised the level of respect and even made comics an accepted “art.” Individual artists have found human subjects and explored them through oral histories, disguised as fiction. Still, the straight story-telling mode, minus fiction, remains an art undeveloped.
Julia Wald, a young artist from Buffalo and a graduate of degrees in art and chemistry there, moved to Seattle to become an artist and….works a day job, as nearly all young artists do and must. She responded instinctively, then determinedly, to the coming of the Virus. The men and women her age, working in restaurants and such, were suddenly underemployed if not unemployed, she wanted to tell their stories.
Thus Suspension of Disbelief. It is well drawn and extremely charming. Her subjects are young and youngish people, a little more than half of them Latinx. They are working the kind of jobs, living the kind of lives that they would have chosen in the post-2000 world of the deteriorated middle class, except that the life they chose has become very difficult for rent, food and other necessities, not to mention the threat of Covid close at hand.
Grateful for the stability you have.
They are depressed but not totally depressed. “I hope that maybe this will change the way we look at capitalism and we will realize that certain social programs are important especially for fellow artists. As artists having the freedom to create work without the pressure of having to make a living from art could be a way of looking at the world.” That is, “it’s never going to be like it used to be—so letting go is important.” So says Marcy, a videographer with a lot of charm, and no matter that her restaurant job and video gigs are gone. “Now we are all in this together.,” Or drag queen Butylene O’Kipple, “Do I have enough? how much do I need? What even are my actual needs What have I been brainwashed into thinking I couldn’t live without? What can I let go of?”
And many more, waitresses to sex workers, filmmakers to bus drivers. Each has a unique story to tell, and each fits into the mosaic of today’s Seattle scene.
Julia Wald’s first comic outing is a small triumph. I hope it will be widely seen.
Paul Buhle is the rare leftwing scholar of comics. He is coeditor of the Paul Robeson comic, out this year, and drawn by Sharon Rudahl.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to visit Exterminator City (Dec 10-13) where you can purchase Suspension of Disbelief as well as other notable works. And you can always visit Pull/Pull anytime!
Comic arts festivals are the backbone of a lot of indie comics activity. During Covid-19, we’ve seen many of these events converting to online versions. Welcome to Exterminator City (part of Push/Pull co-operative), the 10th edition of this Seattle indie and small press festival. Beginning on Thursday, December 10th, you can enjoy programming and events during this 4-day event.
Sample video: Julia Wald chats about her new work, Suspension of Disbelief, with special guest Vladimir Verano of Vert Volta Press and Maxx Follis-Goodkind:
At 12:00 pm on December 10th all artist tables go live. Artist tables are pages on the Exterminator City website that include artist video introductions, their products, and information about them and how to follow them online. You can purchase directly off their tables – it is the next best thing to being with them in-person!
So, check it all out at Exterminator City right here.
There will be a wide selection of video content from online tutorials to interview panels. Here is the full lineup:
December 10th, Thursday – all events are live at 6pm PST
David Lasky speaks with John Porcellino of King-Cat Comics about making the King-Cat series for 30 years, the political nature of zines, and creating in 2020.
Maxx Follis-Goodkind interviews Craig van den Bosch and Marty Gordon of Microverse Press – a conversation about collage & collaboration.
Sarah Maloney teaches you how to make a mini zine of your own!
December 11th, Friday:
7:30pm– Catch special events over at VeraTV! veratv.org Friday only.
Featured events include:
Abridged interviews with Julia Wald and Jose Alaniz about their 2020 book releases.
A panel of zine experts – Maxx FG, Anne Bean, and Sarah Maloney will be giving you their best tips for zine newbies
Plus a tutorial from MaxxFG explaining what is saddle stitch and showing you two ways to do it
December 12th, Saturday – all events are live at 6pm PST
Sarah Maloney interviews Nicole Georges of Invincible Summer about changes and creating during the covid-19 pandemic
Plus! a full interview with Julia Wald about her latest release Suspension of Disbelief, with special guest Vladimir Verano of Vert Volta Press
And zine experts – Maxx FG, Anne Bean (Emerald Comics Distro), and Sarah Maloney – are back with their full list of things you should know before making your first zine.
December 13th, Sunday – all events are live at 6pm PST
A full interview with Jose Alaniz about his latest release, The Phantom Zone, a collection of works from the 90s through recent creations.
Seth Goodkind gets a lesson on the history of Seattle’s underground comics with artist Pat Moriarity and discusses what Pat is up to now.
Cheryl Chudyk invites you to participate in her surrealist poetry zine. And T. Pratt teaches you the secrets behind his pop-up zines.
“Exterminator City is about connecting our community to people self-publishing zines and comics. When we realized that the current pandemic meant all of the in-person shows for the year would be cancelled we felt it was our responsibility to step in. Our hope is that you learn about people creating, connect with someone new, and get some inside information from our panels and interviews. And of course enjoy yourself!”
Brian Canlis and the Canlis family lead the way in how restaurants in Seattle respond to Covid-19. It’s done with integrity, spirit and class! Here is a sketch I’ve done to honor that leadership. Be sure to tune in to Canlis Piano Livestream! If you’re in Seattle, be sure to order food delivery from Canlis. If you’re not in Seattle, there are some choice items you may still consider. Visit Canlis right here.
Canlis Community Supported Agriculture Boxes
When there was a tragic accident on the Aurora Bridge a few years ago, Canlis took it upon themselves to provide food and water to first responders and victims. And that was not the first time that Canlis stepped up. Now, Canlis is at the forefront by, once again, behaving responsibly and courageously. Instead of folding up and letting people go, Brian Canlis and his family have repurposed their landmark restaurant with innovative take-out and food delivery including an easy way to support the community by purchasing from local farms.
Some events take on a life of their own and so it is with Short Run, the annual comic arts festival in Seattle. No matter who is in charge, what keeps this gathering alive is a core group of young people who have faith in comics and zines. No matter who is found to be a star attraction, no matter what the list of new titles known by the experts, it is the rush of young people seeking to connect with art and the zeitgeist who give this annual gathering its energy.
Special Guest Marc Bell
That said, much is put into organizing this event, lots of love and care. There are numerous workshops to enjoy. And this year’s special guest is renowned Canadian cartoonist Marc Bell, known as much for his comics and zines as his paintings. Many cities have at least one sort of arts festival such as this and Short Run is part of the Seattle landscape. It’s a combination of the aspirations of the show’s organizers and the zeal of its audience, the will of the people, that makes this possible year after year. If you are in Seattle, and especially if comic arts festivals are new to you, do make sure to pay a visit to Seattle Center, Saturday, Nov. 9th, 2019, 11 am-6 pm.
In Seattle, if you’re concerned about public safety, you shouldn’t also have to worry about being labeled a NIMBY but that’s a problem with Seattle politics. It’s become such a problem that frustrated citizens are more than ready for a change in their so-called progressive city government. Well, I put on my reporter’s hat again and interviewed singer/songwriter Abby London who debuted a music video that speaks to many of us in Seattle who are simply looking for a fresh new approach and some common sense when it comes to issues of housing, homelessness, and public safety.
Sergio for city council. A campaign with style and substance that has struck a chord.
In my interview, Abby speaks with great conviction about how she can’t recommend Seattle right now to out-of-state friends. This concern rings true with so many people here in Seattle and beyond. It’s not very difficult for folks outside Seattle to relate with. We close our interview with a call for all Seattle voters to get out and vote in the August 6th primary election. Don’t be left out!
The overall crime rate in Seattle is 115% higher than the national average. For every 100,000 people, there are 16.14 daily crimes that occur in Seattle. Seattle is only safer than 7% of the cities in the United States. The lack of good judgement from the City of Seattle has left Seattle in a chaotic state to put it mildly. To quote from a recent piece by The Seattle Times editorial board: “Seattle is in a crisis of its own making, with soaring crime in parts of the city enabled by lax enforcement and prosecution.”
“Public officials have abdicated their duty to deal with this criminal cohort. Their failure is creating a citizen backlash that could erode support for all homeless programs. Homelessness should not be criminalized. But crime cannot be excused or ignored.” –David Horsey, The Seattle Times
That said, we here in Seattle who are left scratching our heads must also contend with so-called progressives who believe that if you have a problem with crime then you are part of the problem. Which brings us to the above video by local singer/songwriter Abby London which should help stir up interest in voting in Seattle’s primary election on August 6th. London has just released this video to help shape a new Seattle City Council. One incumbent has already stepped down and others are not seeking reelection to the Seattle City Council, opening a crowded field of 55 candidates. They are offering a diverse range of solutions to problems such as homelessness, housing affordability and transportation.
The Seattle Times editorial quoted above can be read in its entirety below:
Seattle’s Ron and Don – The Protectors of the People
Guest column by Jennifer Daydreamer
Any study of pop culture would not be complete without a look at talk show culture. Let’s take a look at Seattle’s Ron and Don. Followers of the former Ron and Don Show on KIRO would attest to the program’s integrity. They now have their own DIY podcast! These two cool dudes take up causes with honest discussion. In fact, I am knighting them, “The Protectors of the People.” Now, why such a lofty title? Because they have a knack for seeing an injustice before any of the local news media does. I am not kidding. Even if the media reports a story, Ron and Don are the ones who know how to put all the moving parts together.
Case in point: the homeless crisis in Seattle. About ten years ago, long before the TV news reported that there are illegal encampments and any ramifications of crime, Don and Ron talked about these issues. They walked around their neighborhoods, scoping things out. They decided to just go to the RVs camped out and talk to the people there. They said, quite emphatically, that many of the tenants are good people and being homeless is crushing. And yes, of course, that homelessness is not a crime. They talked quite a lot about volunteering at homeless shelters and how the listener can help. They also talked to policemen and firemen and they were really concerned, warning Seattle had a real problem it was not addressing. They said that there is a subset of the homeless population, not the majority by any means, but that there is this subset that is doing drugs and selling and stealing and they had weapons and they don’t care about you, nor your family and your kids. They said “We are really worried about this. We talked to the mayor and we talked to the council and no one is doing anything about it.”
I remember their warnings so clearly. I told myself that the mayor would step in if things got this unsafe for citizens, in the very least, the governor would step in. Cut to today. Based on my own crime experiences, and my friends and strangers I have spoken to, we are now all living their warnings.
Crime in Seattle has steadily risen in recent years. Regarding crime, it’s not the same Seattle from even just ten years ago. The discussion now is not about crime by the unhoused or by drug addicts or by the housed, it’s just about crime, man. That’s the bottom line. Here are some recent basic facts: The overall crime rate in Seattle is 115% higher than the national average. For every 100,000 people, there are 16.14 daily crimes that occur in Seattle. Seattle is safer than 7% of the cities in the United States.
In case you don’t know, California arrests for .3 grams of any hardcore drug while Seattle does not. Hardcore drugs are illegal here but police have stopped arresting as attorneys are not prosecuting the way they do in a lot of states, including California. Experts say that when you don’t arrest for hard drugs, it creates a lot of chaos in a society. Seattle police feel their hands are tied with red tape. Another way to put it, California is a liberal state and Seattle proper at least, is very far left by comparison on how it enacts its law and order.
Seattle media is very disjointed and it makes it difficult to find the truth. There are a lot of hard-working journalists out there but a lot of stories that should be common knowledge fall through the cracks. Many people know we have a homeless crisis but have no idea the crisis is cloaking “crime in general” activity. In other words, concerns about theft, break-ins and assault are looked upon as “complaints against the homeless” when people just want basic safety. That’s really what people want, including safety for the unhoused or homeless (choose your adjective) but all the moving parts of this BIGGER PICTURE are getting mixed up. There is in-fighting and sidetracks and name-calling and it’s really about grounding Seattle. Get the basic safety in place and then everyone can continue with improvements. Part of the problem is the fact that we are basically a one paper town. The Seattle Times does a good job, sometimes a great job, at reporting. But, it’s not enough. We need commentators like Ron and Don more than ever to keep us all informed with their natural point/counterpoint type of coverage. I am rooting for their continued success.
We turn our attention to Seattle and a most engaging campaign by Sergio Garcia for City Council. This is a vibrant campaign on many fronts. One key element, to start off with, is the distinctive character illustration for the campaign. Garcia appears on campaign posters in the form of a contemporary Seattle police officer with prominent mustache and tattoos. The latest posters boil it all down to Garcia’s iconic mustache. It is a look that is getting people’s attention.
A campaign with style and substance that has struck a chord.
An essential issue that Garcia is addressing is the need for an improved and sensible approach to Seattle’s homeless population and related issues: affordable housing, crime and disruption. A basic need for safety is mired in politics and in desperate need of clarity. This is where someone like Sergio Garcia, with a law enforcement background and fresh perspective, steps in. Seattle citizens, fed up with the lax and chaotic approach to crime from the City of Seattle are more than ready for a fresh change and it looks more and more like Sergio Garcia can lead that new path.
Seattle is ready for a change.
And, with that said, it looks like this is a case where image and substance appear to be in sync. Garcia’s message, along with his brand, appears to be resonating with Seattle voters who are more than ready for a change. Having spoken with a number of business owners, the response I’ve gotten has been consistently positive. If Sergio Garcia wins, it will be thanks to a vigorous grassroots campaign. The primary election is August 6, 2019 and the general election is November 5, 2019.
Vote for Sergio Garcia, Seattle City Council.
For more details, visit the Sergio Garcia campaign site right here.
Some more gaming news which is so perfect since part of this news involves my hometown of Seattle. Okay, the following news may very well pertain to you!
PAX West, PAX Unplugged 2019 Dates Announced
Unplugged Badges Go on Sale May 9, West Badges Later this Month
SEATTLE, Wash. – May 1, 2019 –PAX Unplugged takes over the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia Dec. 6 – 8, 2019 and PAX West returns to Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. Show organizers ReedPOP and Penny Arcade will make PAX Unplugged 2019 badges and exclusive pre-sale merchandise available for purchase beginning May 9. PAX West 2019 badge sales will be available later in the month.
This year’s PAX events have hosted the announcements of numerous highly-anticipated games, including Borderlands 3, Jackbox Party Pack 6, SNK’s Samurai Shodown collection, and more. PAX Unplugged and PAX West will also present a number of surprises allowing gamers to hear about, see, and play new games and other projects before anyone else.
In 2019, PAX Unplugged will once again welcome tens of thousands of tabletop enthusiasts to Philadelphia. Now in its third incarnation, PAX Unplugged will expand with a larger expo hall to accommodate even more of the top names in board, card, and pen-and-paper gaming showing off classic games, new expansions, and exciting unreleased titles. Attendees joining the fun can also expect an epic slate of events featuring enlightening talks with creators, live tabletop gaming shows, and more at what will be the 50th show in PAX’s storied history.
The most-attended gaming event on the West Coast, PAX West is a four-day celebration of gaming culture. PAX West is anchored by massive exhibition halls where attendees have the opportunity to see hundreds of game studios ranging from indie teams to major publishers showcasing new and upcoming titles – many of which are publicly playable for the first time.
On the show floor, PAX West goers can enjoy the PAX Arena, which hosts competitions featuring renowned esports players as well as stars from YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer in the Stream Stars tournament. Fans will also have chances to meet with many of their favorite content creators in autograph signing sessions, engage with industry luminaries in panels, attend concerts, and savor other amazing attractions throughout downtown Seattle.
“When we came up with all this, I don’t think we could ever have imagined putting on 50 of these events and counting,” said Jerry Holkins, co-founder, PAX and Penny Arcade. “We can’t wait to welcome the gaming community to our home in Seattle this summer, and to our Winter Lair in Philadelphia this December. We hope you’ll be able to join us.”
The international lineup of PAX shows (West, East, South, Aus, Dev, and Unplugged), produced by ReedPOP in conjunction with Penny Arcade, comprise some of the world’s largest gaming festivals. PAX events connect the industry’s greatest creative minds from across the worlds of both video and tabletop gaming, directly to passionate audiences.
PAX or Penny Arcade Expo is a festival for gamers to celebrate gaming culture. First held in Seattle in 2004, PAX has nearly doubled in size each successive year, with PAX Prime 2014 selling out of tickets in a matter of minutes. Connecting the world’s leading game publishers with their most avid and influential fans, PAX expanded with a second show in Boston in 2010 and a third in San Antonio in 2015, making it the three largest gaming shows in North America. The first international PAX was held in Melbourne, Australia in 2013. In 2017, Penny Arcade established PAX Unplugged, its first tabletop focused show, held in Philadelphia.
ReedPOP is a boutique group within Reed Exhibitions exclusively devoted to organizing events, launching and acquiring new shows, and partnering with premium brands in the pop culture world. ReedPOP is dedicated to celebrations of popular culture throughout the globe that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences. The ReedPOP portfolio includes: New York Comic Con (NYCC), Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) West, East, South, Australia and Unplugged, Emerald City Comicon (ECCC), BookCon, BookExpo, Oz Comic-Con, Comic Con India, Paris Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, ComplexCon and more. The staff at ReedPOP is a fan-based group of professionals uniquely qualified to serve those with whom they share a common passion. ReedPOP is focused on bringing its expertise and knowledge to world communities in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, India, and Australia.
Penny Arcade is a web comic focused on video games and video game culture, written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. With over 3.5 million readers, it is the most popular and longest running gaming web comic online. Penny Arcade is also responsible for the Child’s Play Charity, the Penny Arcade gaming expos (PAX) in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Melbourne, multiple video games based on the brand, and multiple online video series.