I picked up some fine comics at Seattle’s Short Run Comix & Arts Festival. Short Run is one in a growing number of comic arts festivals in recent years in the spirit of the Small Press Expo (SPX) which was created in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. The prime objective of SPX, and other comic arts festivals, is its main annual event, a place to showcase artists, writers and publishers primarily of comic art in its various forms to the general public. We are dealing here with a decidedly small demographic but a very important one. Short Run organizers Eroyn Franklin and Kelly Froh have done an admirable job of putting together a comic arts festival that resonates with this niche audience. They have found the big in the small.
Short Run Comix Fest 2016
This year’s Short Run at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center saw a steady flow of attendees. You could clearly see an impassioned interest for the hand-made. In spite of our jittery digital world, it seems that a lot of people are attracted to something more basic, something stapled or stitched together that’s printed on paper. And for the actual participants, the various writers, artists, and cartoonists at their tables, the sense of community alone is quite gratifying.
Here are a few nibbles of observations in no particular order. It was nice to stop by and chat with cartoonist Tom Van Deusen. He tells me that he’s thinking about having a new book out in the next year or so. Pat Moriarity has some similar plans. He sees a new book in the future as well as an animated treat down the line. I’ll see about letting folks know about it when it comes out. Pat, by the way, has created some of the most gorgeous prints through the Vera Project press. Noel Franklin has had quite a good year as she has the distinction of having won all three major grants in Seattle. Always good to see Vanessa Davis and Trevor Alixopulos. I had to pick up the new edition of Spaniel Rage, which won’t officially be out until February, from Drawn & Quarterly! Megan Kelso recently created a special collaboration with her 10-year-old daughter, Virginia, which is a lot of fun. While Short Run fell right on Halloween last year, this year it fell within the specter of the most crazed presidential election ever. I asked cartoonist and humorist extraordinaire Greg Stump for his thoughts. He said it felt like a perpetual loop where we never reach the actual day of the election as in an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Betty Turbo’s Portrait Machine!
And, by the way, if you did go to Short Run, did you get your face drawn at Betty Turbo’s Portrait Machine? Looks like a hoot. Visit Betty Turbo right here.
Short Run promo by Vanessa Davis
We’ll take a closer look at some of the comics I picked up this Saturday in the next few days. Some have a direct connection to Short Run and some don’t. In the end, it’s all about comics with that special touch. Call them comix, or call them alt-comics. They may appear at this or that comic arts fest or only online or even in an actual comic book shop. Whatever route you need to take, seek them out. And, if you’re in Seattle, be sure to visit Short Run right here.
For all of us in the comics community, whether creators or fans, it is time once again for the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival. There’s a nice write-up about it in the local alt-weekly, The Stranger, that you can check out here. Among a splendid array of comics that you will have a chance to choose from, I humbly add something I am working on. This is the first installment to a full-length work. It’s called, “George’s Run,” and it’s about the life and times of science fiction writer George Clayton Johnson. I am still in the process of weaving the narrative but this is a perfect time to share some of what I’ve put together thus far. If you happen to go to Short Run, you’ll have a chance to buy a copy of this 24-page comic. You can find me at the Short Run tables under the name, Comics Grinder Press.
Short Run Comix & Arts Festival takes place this Halloween: Saturday, October 31, in Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center from 11 am to 6 pm.
For more details, be sure to visit our friends at Short Run right here.
François Vigneault is an impressive cartoonist and I am so glad to share his work with you here at Comics Grinder. Phoebe and João come from two extremes on the class spectrum but they can’t help but be attracted to each other in François Vigneault’s TITAN, a new quirky sci-fi comics series published by Study Group Comics as a webcomic and as printed issues too.
Phoebe and João in François Vigneault’s TITAN, published by Study Group Comics
You’ve heard of the One Percenters, right? And all the economic disparity? Ha, of course you have. Ah, yes, the haves vs. the have-nots theme. In TITAN, the haves are Terrans and the have-nots are Titans. Vigneault brings us aboard Homestead Station on the moon of Titan where we follow Manager João da Silva as he attempts to lessen tensions between the geneticly-engineered Titan workers and the Terran management. It turns out that the key to his problems lies with one voluptuous Titan worker, Phoebe.
The dynamics on Homestead Station is a lot of fun to see unfold in these first two issues. Far, far, away, in some distant future, you’ll find that crass youth haven’t really changed much at all. Slang, for instance, reflects the latest level of rage. Communication in general, particularly amongst the working class, has undergone a further breakdown in literacy as everyone speaks in choppy sentences. It’s a grim world just waiting to explode! Vigneault keeps our eyes moving with just the right touches of futuristic background and engaging facial expressions and body language. TITAN proves to be a comic in the best sci-fi tradition: a compelling exploration of the human psyche.
Phoebe can’t help but tower over João.
The relationship between Phoebe and João is very intriguing. Vigneault does a great job in expressing the divide between rich and poor, the vulnerabilities on each side. Vigneault engages the reader with a love story every bit unlikely and yet most compelling. Phoebe, who would seem to have the disadvantage as a member of the working class, cannot help but tower over her would-be master, João. And João seems to like it.
If you’re heading out to the Small Press Expo, taking place this weekend in Bethesda, Maryland, you’ll be seeing some of the best independent comics around. SPX is turning 21 this year, by the way, which makes her legal. Anyway, TITAN #2 will debut at SPX and is surely a comic you’ll want to pick up. Be sure to visit François Vigneault at the Floating World Comics/Study Group table, J8-9.
For more on the Small Press Expo, visit right here. And keep up with TITAN and Study Group Comics right here.
For those of you who follow the independent comics scene, you know that comic arts festivals are its lifeblood. And Short Run is essential. If you are in Seattle, come down to see Short Run at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center on Halloween. The event is free and runs from 11 am -6 pm.
Be sure to keep up with Short Run as they will have other events planned beginning on Wednesday, October 28th. And, keep in mind that since this is taking place on Halloween, there will be plenty of treats for the kids.
I am thrilled to be a part of Short Run and I am excited to join in on all the fun. There will be more updates as we get closer to the main event and there will be a recap once the festivities have wrapped up for another year. For now, mark your calendar and plan on joining us at Short Run.
Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA), a new comic arts festival in Los Angeles, took place this last Saturday, December 6, in a walk-up art gallery, Think Tank Gallery. This is the first major comic arts festival of its kind in the second largest city in the United States, taking its place alongside such notable comic arts festivals as MoCCA Comic Arts Festival in New York City, Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, and Short Run in Seattle, Washington.
Located in a part of the city tucked near Gallery Row and the Arts District, the actual site is amid a dazzling display of predominantly Mexican businesses, both storefront and street vendors. One banner atop the entrance and staff for the event lead you in. And so you climb the stairs and you are instantly transported to a world of indie comics. As Jen Wang, one of the founders of CALA, said in a panel discussion at the event, “When it comes to breaking into comics, you just make them and you’ve broken in.” In that spirit, you come to this event which is a mix of creators relatively new to breaking into comics along with many seasoned indie veterans attached to various publishers.
When it come to breaking into comics, while it may seem simple enough, there are a myriad of approaches, motivations, and sensibilities. I can tell you from my vantage point, as someone who has broken in, that there is and there is not a typical cartoonist profile. Referring back to this panel from the show, the last panel of the day in fact, Wang led a discussion on how to sustain a life in comics. Among the comments made, Ron Regé Jr. spoke to the fact that he never ever expected to make a dime off of his comics. And that pretty much says it all in one fell swoop because there are always cartoonists ready to make money from their work right along with others who don’t focus on demographics and the like.
Comic Arts Los Angeles
A comic arts festival like CALA focuses on the more unusual and offbeat type of comics that are more prone to taking risks with the market. You will see table after table of minicomics and professionally bound books on a multitude of subjects and themes. There are no superhero comics, per se. In this context, a superhero theme is possible but most likely in a ironic tone. The overriding theme is personal and artistic. Of course, major publishers of comic books are hip to what the alternative comics crowd are up to and will collaborate with them from time to time. For some years now, major publishers have been publishing the best that emerges from self-published cartoonists. So, in a sense, the indie cartoonists are akin to stand-up comedians who may get picked up by a network. However, it’s complicated. Some cartoonists try to capitalize on trends, others follow their own muse. Ultimately, it’s quality work that wins out and transcends all these issues.
Ellen T. Crenshaw and “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750”
I was speaking with cartoonist Ellen T. Crenshaw who is a fitting example of a professional cartoonist/illustrator with an independent sensibility. Take a look at her work and you see an engaging style. She was pleased to see a great turn-out for CALA. In her experience with the Boston comics scene, it can be very rough for the first year of a comic arts festival. But CALA came out strong right out of the gate. Taking a closer look at Crenshaw’s work, it’s a successful combination of a clean and polished approach married to offbeat content. I picked up a hilarious and sweet minicomic of hers, “The Woodsman and the Bear,” that follows a bear who has fallen in love with a lumberjack. That will give you some indication of her vision. For something more challenging, there’s “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750,” published by Fulcrum Publishing, that provides stories about Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books.
Farel Dalrymple and “The Wrenchies”
You could sense the energy in the crowds. I spoke with a number of friends in the comics community and everyone was all smiles. It’s just a matter of diving in and checking out various tables. Each creator is there in support of their most recent work along with their other titles. For instance, there was Farel Dalrymple in support of his graphic novel, “The Wrenchies,” published by First Second Books.
MariNaomi and “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories”
Another favorite is certainly Yumi Sakugawa and she was there in support of “Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe,” published by Adams Media and “Bird Girl and Fox Girl,” published by Sparkplug Books.
Rounding out my coverage of CALA, I spoke with Jen Wang, one of the organizers and the illustrator of one of my favorite recent graphic novels, “In Real Life,” published by First Second Books. She was definitely excited about how well CALA was doing.
And, just to top it all off, I spoke with cartoonist and renowned comics historian Scott McCloud and got his take on the event. He was quite pleased to say the least.
Think Tank Gallery proved to be a great venue for CALA. With about 70 creators, the space afforded enough room to mix and mingle. Around the corner, there were panel discussions throughout the event. In the end, the reader, the potential buyer of said comix, indie comics, alternative comics, had much to choose from in a delightful setting. We all look forward to this being the start of a new comics tradition in LA.
Cats have never been, nor ever will be, domestic servants. It just goes against their very nature. However, in Megan Kelso’s new minicomic, “Cats in Service,” she makes a strong case for it. Of course, it’s not simple. There are complications.
It was a hive of activity at Washington Hall in Seattle, on November 15, 2014 for the annual Short Run Seattle Comix & Art Festival. Comic arts festivals continue to gain ground as interest and demand grows for independent comics. Here in Seattle, Short Run has proven to be the leading venue to connect creators with the public. Now in its third year, the festival offers a dazzling selection of work by some of the best talents in the U.S. and beyond.
John Porcellino, Short Run, 15 November 2014
I had the pleasure of chatting with Short Run’s Guest of Honor, John Porcellino, and he was quite gracious. My partner, Jennifer Daydreamer, and I had gotten to see an advance copy of the documentary on his life and career, “Root Hog or Die.” Jennifer asked if it had been planned to have the documentary and John’s new book, “Hospital Suite,” come out at the same time. And John explained that the documentary had been years in the making and it was a wonderful coincidence to have these two separate projects join together into a tour. “The documentary is an extension of the book,” said John. I’d go farther to say it’s an extension of King-Cat Comics, as if it took on another life as a film. Well, more to talk about at a later date. I asked John for some recommendations from his Spit and a Half distribution catalog and I’ll be reviewing them shortly.
Mark Campos, Short Run, 15 November 2014
Among other friends we got to catch up with were Mark Campos and David Lasky, both longtime Seattle cartoonists. I have recent work by Mark that I’ll be sharing with you soon too.
David Lasky, Short Run, 15 November 2014
David Lasky, as many of you know, is the co-author, with Frank M. Young, of “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.” I saw that the book was part of a series of Short Run raffle items. Well, you don’t need to enter a raffle to get your copy of this unique history of the legendary country music icons. You can find it right here.
From “Skulptura?” by Pat Moriarity
I also got a fun treat by another beloved Pacific Northwest cartoonist, Pat Moriarity. He had told me about a limited edition mini-comic he had created just for this year’s Short Run. In “Skulptura?” an artist attempts to find his muse. And I also got to chat with Eroyn Franklin, organizer of Short Run, with Kelly Froh and Janice Headley. She was a pleasure to talk with. I asked her about her upcoming comic, “Dirt Bag.” And it is coming along nicely. There was a preview at Short Run that I missed finding. I also should have gotten there early as the early birds got a goodie bag of comix. Well, maybe next year.
In closing, what can I say, Short Run was a rousing success. If you’re in Seattle this time next year, make plans to attend. It’s a comix and art festival and a whole lot more as you’ll see on their site.