The Stumptown Comics Fest was held in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend. I was only able to attend briefly on Saturday, but I had fun exploring the aisles and chatting with a few people before I had to rush home to take my kids to a birthday party. But after just a few hours I had a huge list of things I wanted to read, and there were many more folks that I didn’t even get to see. Maybe next time, when my life isn’t quite so packed. (Ha!)
Here’s a mad-cap whirlwind tour of various people, comics, and stuff I encountered at Stumptown Comics Fest.
The first thing we did upon arrival (well, after walking up and down and around stairs in the convention center because I missed the ticket booth the first time) was to go to a Kids Comics Workshop led by cartoonist and educator Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg. She gave a few basic (but useful) pointers about speech bubbles, like writing the words before drawing the bubbles and making sure the first speaker’s bubble is higher up than the second speaker’s. There was time for kids to work on their own comics, and then put them on the projector to share with the audience. It was a small group, but my daughter had fun doing a six-panel cartoon about animals in the forest.
I spent the rest of the time in the exhibit hall, so I didn’t get to any other panels this time, but there were certainly a few that sounded really great, covering topics like podcasts, digital inking, writing for comics (with Brian Michael Bendis), a Q&A with Kurt Busiek, a discussion with Stan Sakai about Usagi Yojimbo, copyrights and “fair use” for comics creators, self-publishing, and more.
The exhibit hall wasn’t huge (compared to Comic-Con, for instance) but there was plenty to take in. I had my daughter with me for about an hour as we explored the aisles. There were a lot of kid-safe books, but also a good number of things that were not quite as family-friendly. The tricky thing is, with comics, it can be hard to tell until you get right up close. Top Shelf helpfully had all of their kids’ titles arranged on one end of their table and more adult content toward the other end — and told us so as we approached their booth. There were others, though, with more risque material that did not say anything at all (to me or my daughter) when my daughter started browsing — and it was up to me to look over her shoulder and steer her away. I don’t think it’s necessary to segregate kids-only stuff in one area (after all, many people do a bit of everything) but it would be nice if there were some easy way to identify which things were kid-safe. Maybe a big bright “Kids!” sign to tack onto your booth table.
I came across a booth for Buttersafe, an online webcomic that looks very funny and had some great prints and T-shirts for sale. But although it looks happy and cute, it is definitely one that you would want to preview before showing your kids. Some, like my favorite Serving the Queen, are fine for kids, but there are a few with stronger language.
I did buy two books that are kid-friendly. The first is The Intrepid Girlbot: Unconditional by Diana Nock. It’s the printed collection of about two years’ worth of Nock’s webcomic about a little girlbot who lives in a forest surrounded by forest critters. I haven’t gotten to sit down and read it yet, although my five-year-old discovered it this morning before school and flipped through the entire thing on her own. Like Owly, it is mostly wordless (but without the rebuses); mostly there are sound effects and occasional words on signs. Nock ran a successful Kickstarter campaign last fall to have this first volume printed, and it looks pretty fun.
The other book I got is Sketch Monsters by Joshua Williamson and Vinny Navarette. My daughter saw this one at the Oni Press booth and it was the only thing she wanted. I’ll probably have a review of it later on (courtesy of my daughter) but she blasted through it and her main complaint was that it was over too soon. It’s about a little girl whose monster sketches come to life and run amok in the town.