A report from Stumptown

I didn’t get to Stumptown in Portland, Ore., this year due to a lack of funds. But fortunately, I know Christopher Gutierrez, owner of Night Light Lounge in Portland. He was awesome enough to write up this report for me:

Apparently, Portland is second only to NYC as far as the number of comic publishers and creators that live here. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but it’s not a big surprise either. I take it for granted that people are creative around here. Everyone’s either painting, in a band, writing something, animating something, or all of the above. And, as I learned at the Stumptown Comics Fest, the rest are making comic books.

For me, as a casual comic book reader, the only reason to go to a convention is to check out the independent publishers, and this one certainly delivered on that (although I also love the terrible costumes, which this one was disappointingly devoid of). The local heavy hitters were on hand of course, with tables by Top Shelf, Oni, & Dark Horse, but I was pleased to see that they weren’t anchoring the floor. They had the same set-ups of the single title self-publishers or the public library.

Going over the 134 tables, of which I’d estimate half were self-publishers, reminded me of rifling through the zine bins at punk shows as a kid. And just like those punk shows, there was a decidedly local & DIY feel to the con.

I was a little daunted by the sheer mass of autobiographical & relationship books. Without some kind of connection or insight to the work, these are generally an auto-pass for me.  My tastes are stereotypical geek-boy: I’m a sucker for anything post-apocalyptic (Freak Angels, Walking Dead, Daybreak), and will also buy pretty much anything with a robot. The robots were represented in force, but I didn’t find many zombies.

The only panel I attended was on the business side of the industry, which was full of people busily taking notes on the bad copyright advice being given. Meh.

If there was a star of the show, judging by the size of his line I’d say it was Jeff Smith of Bone fame. An honorable mention goes out to I Saw You… (the illustrated craigslist missed connections anthology), which was a guerrilla entry, making it’s way to the top because I noticed it on about a dozen different tables.

My personal prize of the show was a $8 tin of mustache wax, which came with a free copy of last year’s Mustaches: For Fun and Profit (although there were no silly costumes on the convention floor, the mustaches were out in full effect).

There were a few other items that caught my eye, amongst them:

  • Sid Love. A “choose your own comic” about a plot to take over the world with genetically engineered squirrels or some such, with each potential ending leading to an MP3 online (a little gimmicky, but he made at least one sale with it).
  • Dar. A bio / relationship book that I can accept because it’s in strip form (in addition to being well written & drawn)
  • I finally picked up Blankets by Craig Thompson (that motherfucker is heavy)

If you’re in town next year, I highly recommend stopping by. Or for a taste of something similar coming up, check out the Portland Zine Symposium in July.

So a big thank you to Chris for allowing me to experience this vicariously. Check out Chris’ blog Slacker DIY and go hang out at his bar.

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