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Stumptown Comics Fest 2008 Report
Highlights From The Fest
This was the first year I was able to go to the Stumptown Comics Fest. It always seemed to land on college reunions, travel plans, or something else, but I'm glad I made the effort to attend this years Fest. Other things tried to sway my attention, but I resisted, determined to experience this fast growing convention that spotlights comics, art, and the laid back scene that is Portland.

When I arrived on Saturday, the con had just started and was already a buzz of activity. The convention room was full of almost one hundred and fifty tables with creators ranging from stapled pamphlets, to big shots like Brian Michael Bendis. Many publishers made their presence, local publishers Oni Press, Top Shelf, and Dark Horse were joined by Fantagraphics, SLG, and a lot of other small press publishers. The vibe was good and creators were already selling their wares, signing books, and doing sketches.

I checked in with the groups I had known already, the Periscope Studio crew had a long line of tables on the third row in, so I chatted with some of the crew and said my hellos. I also chatted with Brett Warnock of Top Shelf, and made a new connection with Scott Allie, a senior editor of Dark Horse Comics. I ran into Dave Stewart, a colorist, and I swear I remember his name from someplace recently, but can't seem to grasp where. It's still bugging me today. I'll remember it Dave! I hate it when that happens.

One of my goals for this years fest was to bring my own cold hard cash to spend at the Fest. It was hard to settle on what to get, there was one thing I really wanted - Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire - but I really tried not to get things on my list, I wanted to be drawn to whatever new comics I could find. I ended up shelling out around sixty-five bucks, and came away with some cool swag. You can read more about it at my comic picks from Stumptown.

The Fest had a huge range of guests this year. There were some rather big names, I already mentioned Bendis, but Scott McCloud, Mike Richardson, Nicholas Gurewitch, Larry Marder, Jim Valentino, and others rounded out the list. I even saw Kurt Busiek hanging around. It was impressive, but I wonder how hard it was, since you can't throw a rock in Portland without hitting a cartoonist, famous or otherwise. It must be cool for these guys to just be able to attend a con and sleep in the comfort of their own bed. Either way, props the Stumptown crew for nabbing these guys.

The panels were very well organized and had a good amount of space. They needed it, because most of the panels I attended were very full, some with standing room only. My personal favorite panel was the Scott McCloud panel who pretty much winged it the whole time, but really nailed his presentation and Q&A time with humor and many big comic related words like content and form. I did my best to keep up.

Probably the highlight of the convention for me was the Sketch Art Battle, held at Cosmic Monkey Comics, hosted by Periscope's Jeff Parker, and DJ'ed by Jason of Floating World Comics. The concept this year was Print VS Web. The two teams squared off and had to draw items that Jeff had cooked up, as well as with on the spot info from the crowd. Cave Men VS shaolin monks? Death by nipple twisting? Engorged Lincoln curling? These were the horrors thrown at the artists, and they pushed forward to create some very creative interpretations of the ideas. Probably the most hilarious part of the battle was the descriptions and therefore arguments about the sketches between the artists themselves, each trying to one up the other as to why their sketch was the best. It went well into the evening, and everybody had a great time. Maybe that was the liquor, or the almond butter and jelly sandwiches, or even Candy Island, but I had a good time, even if I didn't imbibe.

One of the things that kind of troubled me, or at the very least perplexed me, was the cost of many of the mini comics and pamphlets. I was kind of shocked at the sticker price. I saw some of the mini comics costing the same price or more than many full color pamphlets at the con. Some were even kind of low grade photocopies that were being sold for three, four, even five bucks. Some were just one piece of paper. I was a little…confused. Having been to one of the local stores that carry zines, I was actually impressed by what they were putting out. Some had some very nice color samples and looked pretty professional for just a few dollars.

I would imagine that for some, the choice would be obvious either way. The fanboys want the gloss and full color, while those of the independent scene are looking for something The Big Two can't provide and a convention like this has in spades. For me, as someone who belongs to both camps at times, the desire to sample new comics was cut short by cost. This wasn't a problem I expected to fin in a venue full of photocopied and hand stapled comics.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this years Stumptown Comic Fest and look forward to next year. The con keeps growing and the preparation and hard work the staff and volunteers put into it were very evident at the smoothness of this festival and celebration of comics.

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