Based on the pictures and reports that have come out about Portland’s Stumptown Comics Fest, it sounds like it was a hell of a lot of fun. Lots of reports from enthusiastic attendees have hit the web, including Jamie S. Rich:
And it looks like the show is only getting bigger and better. I know a lot of the folks who have gotten involved with the programming and were part of the move from fall to spring, and it looked like it was an idea that paid off. Good weather, good crowds, and lots of excellent guests. As I said before, I skipped this time just because I was feeling overexposed in my place of residence, and felt it was good to take a break while I wait for new material to come out. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up doing some browsing, shaking hands, and kissing babies.
In the Oregon Room, a standing-room only group gathers to hear Portland resident Brian Michael Bendis award-winning, top-selling, wisecracking creator of both original works (“Powers”) and venerable, big-cheese franchises he stamps with his own vision and wit (“Ultimate Spider-Man”). Bendis rattles off insider info about his dealings with legendary names such as Steve Ditko (the original “Spider-Man” artist). About the falling-out that occurred between Ditko and Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee, Bendis says he heard it was Ditko objecting to Lee’s decision to age Peter Parker from nerdly high schooler to college student. Ditko thought making “Spider-Man” age would mess up the character. “I’m officially gossiping at this point,” Bendis cautions, before adding: “And Ditko was right!”
Bendis also indulges in some juicy name-dropping: “last month I was in L.A. and had lunch with David Fincher” about a proposed movie version of Bendis’ graphic novel, “Torso.” Fincher is, of course, the cult-adored director of “Seven” and “Fight Club,” so geekage ensues. The project looks like it has momentum, Bendis says, but you never know. An adaptation can start promisingly, “and then you find out it’s Pauly Shore’s comeback vehicle.”
That same report also catches up with Dark Horse, the biggest publisher at the show:
At the Dark Horse table, editor Scott Allie has been holding a new talent search. The best so far: a portfolio brought in by an animator, with skillful, dynamic pencil drawings of a shapely woman with no top on, as well as various creatures. Allie’s hunting for creators to feature on Dark Horse’s MySpace page, one of the Milwaukie-based company’s forays into Web comics. In his talk to attendees, fest guest of honor and Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson talks about the evolution of the comics business and how Web comics are an example of a new, fast-growing form. It’s all a far cry, he recalls, from when he was first getting into business. “Comics weren’t cool back then,” Richardson says.
Atomic Romance also has panel coverage:
The final talk I attended was by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse comics founder, president… and huge F***ing giant (he’s a very tall man). Listening to Mike was great because he’s a manger type and so he had a very liner approach despite the fact that his discussion was off the cuff as well. His mother was in the audience and he acknowledged her as the origin for his love of comics as she always bought them for him. For me, one of the best things about Mike’s talk was that I asked a question and that kept him going for at least 20 minutes. It must have been the question he was looking for.
Jeff Parker hosted an Art Battle and caught up with some of the locals from my backyard who made the northbound pilgrimage:
Spring finally remembered where Portland was this weekend, just in time for the Stumptown Comics Fest. That’s right, it wasn’t a CON, it was a FEST. And it was full of great work. What I liked best is that artists don’t try to mug you to look at their work like when you walk through the Small Press area at Comicon (of course, it’s much cheaper to set up here too, so less pressure to sell). I saw some of the most impressive formats for comics material I’ve ever seen. When a comic is produced that can fold into a usable chair, here is where it will debut. Some books like Jason Shiga’s Hello World even require calling the author for tech support to read properly. I rambled over and saw some of Todd Herman’s latest work, and caught up with him, Scott Allie and Dave Stewart. I was surprised to see the Isotope contingent up from the Bay Area, mainly because I’ve never seen Kirsten Baldock out of the context of James Sime. She was flanked by talents Matt Silady and Jason McNamara, who were worth the price of admission alone.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug my interview with Jason McNamara that I posted yesterday; I know, I know — I’m shameless. Heck, let me plug my Matt Maxwell interview from a couple of weeks ago, too, since I’m linking to his three trip reports next:
Really though, I didn’t have much time to wallow in being a grouch because the crowds didn’t dilly-dally about getting into the show. Within an hour of the show opening, getting up and down the hallways was a not-inconsiderable task. Now, we’re not talking SDCC or even Wonder-Con density, but respectable crowds, and far more folks milling about than I’d remembered from last year. Well, not so much milling, but they weren’t operating with military precision either. Maybe precision milling is the phrase I’m looking for.
The crowd, as last year, heavily skewed to the indie side of the spectrum. This is far from a surprise. However, unlike a lot of folks at APE, these folks didn’t seem to be exclusively interested in comic as lifestyle accessory. Which is a good thing, because the folks for whom STRANGEWAYS is a lifestyle accessory, I probably don’t really need to meet. My life is weird enough as it stands.
Tom Spurgeon also made the trip, and said he enjoyed the vibe of the show:
The best features of the show were the incredibly mellow vibe, like a very nice Saturday morning arts bazaar, and the general sound of money exchanging hands at a respectable although not intense rate. The crowds were friendly and on the average a bit more than good-looking (not something I’m ever able to figure out, but people kept mentioning this so I assume it’s true) young people in the 20-35 year old age group. The crowds failed to skew towards any one set of tendencies common within the art form as much as they were capricious and even idiosyncratic in a way that you usually don’t see at comics show. At approximately 4 PM, a group sitting with their backs against the wall where much of the crowd was visible noted that Brian Bendis was speaking to a group of three men while Scott McCloud held court with a crowd of six. Fresh indy faces like Tim Sievert were shaking hands about 20 feet away from where early ’90s alt-comics mainstay JR Williams was selling some of his bright, attractive newer artwork. (Hopefully someone will reprint and collect Crap soon; Williams is a natural, greatly underrated cartoonist.) Fantagraphics fielded maybe the youngest team I’ve ever seen the publisher send to a show; heck, even their late-Sunday surprise alumni guest visit was from someone who’d been gone from the publisher less than a half-decade and who looked 15: former FBI art director Carrie Whitney, who told me which fellow, one-time employee she’d gladly run over in her car were she old enough to drive.
Fantagraphics also has more pictures and video from the show.
Weaving in and out of themes dealing with the intersection of comics and mainstream media, Jeph Loeb, Mike Mignola and Steve Niles recounted stories of meetings with producers.
Mignola, whose Hellboy comic is being released in sequel form later this summer as a major motion picture: “They now see the audience as a group of 40- to 50-year-old guys that are living locked in their basements.”
Loeb, the comic book writer and producer who’s behind-the-scenes work helped raise the profile of “Smallville,” “Lost” and then “Heroes”: “It changes things a lot that you have a lot of filmmakers who grew up reading comics and understand what they are.”
And finally, it’s not comic related, but Rolling Stone’s write-up of Prince’s set at Coachella sounds completely spectacular.