Stumpton Con Report

Man, Portland and the Stumptown Comics fest really surprised me. I did not expect this weekend to be this eventful and meaningful an experience as it was.

First of all, Stumptown is a really cool show. Yeah, it’s a smaller con (although I’m told it’s bigger than last year and they’re expecting it to be twice as large next), but it was packed full of talent. Portland is some weird magnet for cartoonists. Matt Bors was saying during a panel that it has the highest concentration of cartoonists of any city in the country. After walking the modest sized show floor this afternoon that was evident. There’s just a lot of local talent here.

It’s really a no-brainer for us seeing as how we’re only a three hour car ride away. Kris and I were saying that if we had to fly out here, it would have been a break-even weekend. But seeing as we’re pretty local, we made out like bandits. Sales were brisk for a small show and the fans we met were all eager to consume comics. Thanks to the promoters for inviting us out. We’ll return again next year for sure!

One very positive thing that came out of the show was the NCS panel I was asked to speak on moderated by Matt Bors. The panel had a sparse turn out (I think maybe 18 people showed, four of which came with me) and it felt more like the first de facto meeting of what will be a future Northwest chapter. When the moderator opened the floor to questions, Straub’s hand was the first one up. “What was this panel about?” he asked, cocking his head to the side. Everyone laughed but I kind of felt the same way.

It was an odd 45 minutes. Obviously I was asked to speak because of my recent blog post regarding the NCS and my having given up on ever getting a membership. My friends asked me why I was agreeing to do the panel and honestly, it was just to prove to everyone that I could be an adult for 45 minutes. I tried to be very level-headed, honest and encouraging, even when I was asked to recount my troubles with the NCS.  The panel ended with Matt saying “Well, we’ll have the 12 members we need to form a chapter so we’re definitely going to do it.” Oooh-kay? So what WAS the panel about then? “It’s never bad to discuss these things” Shannon Wheeler insisted, adding “We’re just going to make you join, Scott.” I shrugged. I didn’t really know what to say.

After the panel, once I had returned to my table on the show floor I made a call to Rick Stromoski. Rick is a syndicated cartoonist, former president of the NCS and a guy who I’ve been at odds with publicly for years. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about things Rick has said in the past and I’ve certainly given Rick no reason to feel good about seeing my name pop up on his radar from time to time. When Rick saw that there was going to be a panel about the NCS he was worried about two things: That there was nobody there aware of what the NCS was all about and that I was going to badmouth the group and be counter-productive. And of course he was? Why wouldn’t he be? Our disagreements were forged in fires that should have gone out in 2005. But Google cache constantly keeps those fires stoked and ready to flare up every time the NCS and webcomics are mentioned in the same breath.

The conversation started out loud, but ended quite civilly and hatchets were buried. It was good. I think it was necessary for me, closure-wise too. And it was encouraging to hear Rick’s side of things too. Because when you take things offline, and there’s no ego at stake about the next comment being made and ground being gained or lost, things actually get communicated. It was important to put that behind me and I owed Rick some apologies.

So look, I’m not sure if I have an answer to the question Kris asked at the end of that 45 minutes. I’m not sure what that panel was about. But I do know that a couple good things did come out of it, not the least of which was that two grown men finally called a truce to what was probably the most stupid argument ever. So I’m calling this one a win for everyone.

A couple other really cool things happened to me this weekend that I want to share with you, and then I need to go get back to work:

- Kris and I had a panel on writing humor. We had a really great turn out (much more than I expected) and I feel the panel went great. It’s a subject I’m fascinated with and love talking about. Especially with Straub. I really want to do this panel again at other shows. I think it’s important.

- I attended a panel about teaching comics where a couple of comics professionals including Brian Michael Bendis discussed the college-level comics courses they’re teaching. God I really want to do this myself, and I asked for advice on getting started during the Q&A. Brian was kind enough to find me outside after the panel and encourage me to pursue it. “Do it!” he said, and it’s really gotten me fired up. I’m not sure of the when’s, where’s or hows, but this is something I’m very interested in doing. Possibly in the Seattle area. Either way, it was just very encouraging and inspirational.

- I purchased a copy of Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s new graphic novel Stumptown at the Oni booth only to be informed that Greg (who of course is a local) would be around to do a signing at 3pm. So I snuck away from my booth about 10 minutes before 3 and found Greg without a line at the booth. When he signed the book I was floored to see it read “An HONOR to meet you, sir. Big fan of your work- Hope you dig this.” Jesus. Greg Rucka hopes that I dig HIS work. Unreal.

Portland, you were kinder to me this weekend than I deserve. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for an amazing couple of days. And the best part is that it’s not over yet. Tomorrow I’m setting up my drawing travel kit at Periscope Studios. Maybe (if they’ll let me) I’ll even broadcast live from inside.