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A cavalcade of comics coverage!

I don’t think in any language. I think in images. I don’t believe that people think in languages. They don’t move their lips when they think. It is only a certain type of illiterate person who moves his lips as he reads or ruminates. No, I think in images, and now and then a Russian phrase or an English phrase will form with the foam of the brainwave, but that’s about all.

—Vladimir Nabokov

And Me, too! I’m thinking, except there’s only really one Russian phrase that I can pick out of my foamy brainwaves these days, and that’s “Ya sliushayu jazz.” —But you’ve probably already got this. So you’ve seen the quote. Ah, well.

So we had the first-ever Stumptown Comics Fest last weekend, and all in all it went quite well. The Old Church proved a startlingly apt environment for comics geeks of every stripe, for which Messr. Deutsch (Hereville!) is owed many thanks. And if you were there, and you bought a ticket from a bearded guy in a vest who kept stamping people on the palms of their hands rather than the backs or the wrists, well, that was me; hi. Sorry about that. Hope you had fun. But if you weren’t, well, I’d like you to take a look at this, for instance—

Photo by Erika.

—which would be a photo of Bill Mudron (Pan” alt=”” />), Kevin Moore (In Contempt!), and Bethanne Barnes (Future Ruler of the World!), all vamping in front of guest of honor Christopher Baldwin (Bruno! Little Dee!). Also, I’d ask you to take a gander at this

Photo by Bob.

—which would be Ty and Ian Smith (Emily and the Intergalactic Lemonade Stand!) working out some sibling rivalry or other. Heck, I’ll even ask you to peer thoughtfully at this—

Photo by Erika.

—if only because the pipe organ is pretty much a visual definition of boss. (You’ll have to click through for a glimpse of the stars up Bethanne’s nose, though. —It’s a long story.)

Once you’ve done that, I’m going to ask you to read this.

TO THE EDITOR: This is for “Mr. Hip” Erik Henriksen. Nice of you to feature something comics-oriented, but you forgot something very obvious—the true comics community is made up of geeks [Destination Fun, Stumptown Comics Fest, June 3]. Now I know “geek” is extremely hip right now, but I don’t mean indie rock/hipster geek. I mean the real geeks, the intelligent outcasts that played Magic in junior high while you made fun of them and hiply listened to grunge and Snoop Dogg.
Now pretty much anything in this city with an ounce of underground coolness has been taken over by scenester fucks, exploiting it until it’s sucked dry and turned to shit. But the twice yearly Portland Comic Con you mentioned in your article is not for the too-cool-for-school crowd—it’s for the real people. Not a fucking fashion show where scenesters can strut down their runway and “oooh” and “aaah” over each other’s generic black/brown wardrobes, sip wine, and snub each other (which I’m sure the Stumptown indie comic extravaganza will be).
Just become the fucking yuppies you’re destined to be and go to First Thursday like the rest of them. Stay out of the comic scene before you contaminate it more than you already have.

—Heather Lockamy

Now—and I’m being totally honest, here—it’s hard to blame Heather. It is. Really. —See, “Mr. Hip” did a very enthusiastic job of talking up the Stumptown Fest, but he did so in that inimitable Portland Mercury fashion of trash-talking everybody else on the field in question: in this case, the venerable Portland Comic Book Show, for years pretty much the largest comics event in the Pacific Northwest. Henriksen’s piece doesn’t seem to be archived online, so I’ll take me some liberty, here—

Twice a year, there’s a really horrible comic convention in the Memorial Coliseum basement, where dusty boxes of old superhero comics are hoisted out of geeks’ basements for other geeks to oooh and aaah over. It’s the type of place where you expect to see the Comic Book Shop Guy from The Simpsons waddling about, and unless your idea of a good time is debating the continuity errata of Stargate SG-1, it’s best to stay away.

Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr. Henriksen. This is a lazy opening, tagging such vastly overused tropes as the Comic Book Shop Guy and continuity neuroses for a cheap, crowd-pleasing us-them shot. —I’m not knocking the praise he goes on to slather over the nascent Stumptown Fest; heck no. And he was slathering that praise under a deadline, and I’ve been there all too many times myself not to recognize the siren song of said cheap shot and the easy, welcoming rhythm of a well-worn cliché. You just don’t have time to fact-check every puff-piece in the weekly what’s-doing section and deathless up the prose it deserves. (Of course, our major news media works under similar circumstance, which led us pretty much into a spectacularly stupid war in Iraq. Surely we can learn from their example?)

Said venerable Portland Comic Book Show is, indeed, in the basement of the Memorial Coliseum, and its overall ambience is one of dust and flea market. But that’s where you go for old skool superhero books and original Pogo newspaper strips and sugary J-pop soundtracks and abstruse action figures. And yes, there’s usually a buxom B-movie scream queen signing autographs next to the guy who played Second Jawa from the Left. Movies and video games steal attitude and approach from comics, to say nothing of talent; so comics in turn leans on movies and video games to draw a crowd, and if you’re going to turn up your nose at that, you might as well give up utterly on the mighty San Diego Comic-Con. —But there’s also reps from three of the most notable publishers in the industry, and writers and cartoonists from the superhero mines and the new mainstream; for years, this show has been a steady and reliable anchor in the Pacific Northwest comics scene. The Stumptown Comics Fest isn’t supposed to replace it, gentrifying comics out of the reach of ordinary, everyday geeks—it’s there to augment it. (Seriously. The Comic Book Show could only offer up ten tables for small press cartoonists. The Stumptown crew was convinced they could sell twenty. And the Old Church was just sitting there, on the corner…)

But all this nuance can’t fit in a quarter-page puff piece, and so Heather’s knee jerks rather understandably, and she misses out on a fun time and ends up calling the lot of us “scenester fucks” and “fucking yuppies,” and we’re standing around with paper stars up our noses going “Wha?” and wondering when the Buffy animated series will start already.

So really, in the end, it’s worth one of those tired, long-suffering laughs. The real people, lost in the epistemological mix, talking past each other once again. Us? Them?

Anyway, Heather: I’m sorry I didn’t play Magic in junior high. I was too old when it first got started. But I did play it, and I understand somebody who threw down with you back in the day had a book for sale at the Fest. So please, feel free to show up next year, because there will be a next year, and it’ll be as geeky as this one was. And if you don’t end up liking it? Well, I guarantee you the Comic Book Show will still be there. This town is more than big enough, and then some.

Now, I’m going to steal one last photo from Erika’s report (so I didn’t take any myself. So sue me):

Photo by Erika.

Yes, that’s Jenn (Dicebox!), but the gentleman she’s speaking with is Dapper David Chelsea (David Chelsea in Love! Perspective!), who recently played host to a smattering of Portland’s finest underground inkslingers in a 24-hour comics fest. The results are now online for all to see. Go! Free comics!

Finally, a moment of silence: Dirk Deppey admitted the obvious last week. ¡Journalista!, one of the leading lights of the comics blogosphere, just ain’t coming back now that he’s editing the Comics Journal. Well, damn, says I. I hadn’t been holding my breath, but I’d still been holding out hope, a pale slender thread of it, anyway, and, well, sure, the comics blogosphere is bigger and bawdier and just plain noisier than it was when he got started, and if a lot of that’s due to him, well, it’s showing no signs of letting up since he had to go away. But still: something’s been lost. An important focal point, a dollop of healthy snark, a one-stop shop for industry gossip and pointed pontificatin’. Hats off, sir. —But he does enthusiastically recommend Kevin Melrose’s Thought Balloons, and heck. That’s good enough for me.

So there’s your cavalcade already. I’ve got to get back to reading about the Weimar Zukunfstroman which, let me tell you, is depressing as fuck. (A hasty postscript to Mr. Henriksen: no hard feelings, ’kay? The publicity really was much appreciated, and I have no doubt that Gryffindor will make up those points easily, and more besides.)

  1. Kevin Moore    Jun 16, 07:37 AM    #
    I like the way my beer belly protrudes noticably through my shirt. Who says black is slimming?!

  2. Alas, a Blog    Jun 18, 07:54 AM    #
    I Wrote Some Stuff and Now I Have a Shop-Vac. Definitely the best blog post I've read this week, over at Real Live Preacher. I've been intending to link to the Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 for a while. It's...

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