Monday, October 1, 2007

Stumptown Comics Fest 2007

The Stumptown Comics Fest finally arrived this past weekend for it’s 5th annual two-day event. The Fest has really come into it’s own this year with expanded panels, comic awards and more creators. The location switch to the Double Tree Hotel was good choice as there were plenty of food and transportation choices nearby plus the park across the street added that green Oregon feel. The weather fully cooperated by giving us the gift of liquid sunshine especially on Sunday. Unfortunately, I was feeling a little ill the first day and wasn’t able to attend some of the later panels but I was back full force for second day.

The first creator I talked with was artist Steve Lieber. One of the works he’s famous for is Whiteout. He graciously signed my copy of the book and since the movie was coming out next year, I asked him if he was involved in the production at all. He told me he wasn’t but he visited the set while they were shooting and had many fascinating things to say about the project.

Steve was very happy with many aspects of the film; in fact they had taken panels directly from the comic to set up some shots but he insisted that the designer of the film was a genius and needed no help from him to bring the story to the screen. He remembered one set that had a huge block of ice but since the room was about 70 degrees it obviously had to be fake but it looked very real. He also was impressed with Kate Beckinsale the star of the movie. An interesting observation Steve had was that while shooting she had a loud all American tough-gal voice but off camera her natural British accent and soft voice immediately came back.

Steve noted with approval that several parts of the original comic story have been greatly expanded for the film and the Whiteout movie will be about 80% Whiteout and 20% Whiteout: Melt (the second graphic novel). He also noted that while he didn’t have any direct involvement, the writer of Whiteout, Greg Rucka actually assisted in smoothing out the script and plot of the film. In the new post Sin City and 300 moviemaking era the studios have realized that involvement by the original writer can be a very helpful. Duh, who would -a- thunk it… All and all Steve was inspired by what he saw on the set and he and Greg are working on getting another Whiteout volume out, as there will be a huge multi-million dollar commercial for the graphic novel hitting the screens soon.

Next up, I had artist Christopher Mitten sign my copy of the Wasteland trade paperback. He’s a very bright talkative guy and I complemented him on his work. He spoke about how working with Oni Press had really been a great experience and that Wasteland was that breakthrough project (my words) he’d been seeking. When I told him I wasn’t buying the individual comics and that I preferred the trades he laughed and mentioned volume 2 is out in December. Being from Chicago, this was his first trip to Portland and he really liked it. I urged him to try out some of our fine brewpubs while he was here.

I swung by Nicole Georges table to say hi. She produces the much talked about zine-comic Invincible Summer. She was looking as 60’s as ever and had cupcakes to sell in addition to her illustrated wares. I picked up the latest issue and noticed that she’s doing a split comic with Clutch. Is that who was sitting next to her? We were both focused on Nicole and didn’t introduce ourselves to each other.

A creator that looks like he’s on his way is Matt Silady. He recently published his graphic novel The Homeless Channel. Portland was the last stop on a 4-con tour to promote his comic. He had an interesting story about how AIT/Planet Lar picked up his book to be published. Apparently he was tired of working at home in isolation so he started drawing at a buddy’s comic shop in the bay area. It worked out well for both because customers could come in and see a real artist working on comic book and Matt was much less lonely. He had published two mini-comics at that point and was working on the third when the publisher that had offices across the way casually mentioned that he would publish the Homeless Channel. At the urging of his fiancée he followed up and sure enough, the offer was real. Well the whole title was collected and published in one book and has received many good reviews. I guess you still can get discovered these days huh!

Near Steve Lieber was Sara Ryan’s table. She’s another up and coming writer. She was nominated for an Eisner for Me and Edith Head. I bought a copy of Click, her short story comic about high school. I asked her about her writing process, and she usually likes using a full script but if she knows the writer really well then she may talk through many details with the artist rather than script them out.

A guy who has fully embraced computer technology is John Worsley. Not only is he fully digital nowadays when it comes to creating his comics (he uses a combination of Painter and Photoshop) but he along with his programmer are developing a Sci-Fi MMORPG. They had a demo running which they will use to entice funding in the coming months. I try to stay away from computer games as they’re like crack to me but I think the guys are on to something. The premise is that it’s based on skill, intelligence and luck rather than simply time to advance characters, I mean really who has time to spend billions of hours for on-line gamming to get a powerful character. I don’t. I also picked up the second issue of John’s Distopian thriller Painkillers. I can’t wait to read it!

I had a chance to talk to Mike Allred and had him sign the first issue of his new Mad Man title. I kinda’ checked out of Mike's stuff for a while, but man, this comic published by Image was gorgeous and his wife’s coloring was better than ever. I was surprised to see the Atomics in Mad Man so I asked Mike about it. Apparently, the plan was to have Mad Man lead the Atomics for a time and have lots of crossovers but Dark Horse didn’t think the Atomics were mainstream enough and wanted Mike to stick with Mad Man exclusively. Well, Mike felt that the Atomics were much more commercial than Mad Man and that’s why he walked away from Dark Horse. Now I know why AAA Pop comics published the Atomics… and not DH.

This is just a small sample of what was going on. I really had a great time and enjoyed the panel discussions and workshops, especially the ones put on by the Pacific Northwest College of Art. They had some nice tips for staying creative and focused on your goals. I had a nice chitchat with Carol Lay too. I didn’t go to any of the after parties, like the one that included the Comic Art Battle, but maybe I’ll catch those next year. The Stumptown Comics Fest is a small and intimate convention and its’ definitely been worth it. The show has great creator focused feel that’s been lost at other venues, plus it is in Portland were I live so that make extra special right?



ladybug said...

That sounds totally awesome! It's really nice to see artists getting some success in the dog-eat-dog world of entertainment.

Also, interesting observation about the guy working at home alone, who moved into a store to create right in front of people. I can say from experience working in your home can definitely be isolating, and his solution certainly put himeself "in the limelight" as it were.

I hope the Stumptown fest continues to be an intimate and creative focused venue - I think that's actually a secret of its success.

Arkonbey said...

Man. That sounded so cool that I can't (and don't want to) even think about it. Out here either it's huge, ungainly conventions in Boston, or little, slightly creepy ones in N.H. Stumptown sounds jusssst right.

Was Les McClaine there? out of all the comic artists in Portland, he's my favorite (read as: the only Portland comic artist that I know by name). White out looks wicked cool and is now on my ever-growing List That Has To Wait Until This Month's Mortgage Is Paid.

Don Snabulus said...

Dang. I should have gone. I really enjoyed last year and the comics are always great. Well, there is always next year.

Swinebread said...

LB – Working from home being so Isolating was one of the reasons that Perisocpe formally Mercury Studios formed… Maybe he should look into forming something like that. I have High hopes that Stumptown will have that creator feel for a long time to come.

Arkonbey – I did have a lot of fun. The fest being a whole lot less commercial was great. The other show in town can be creepy see my post
about it.

Yes Wes was there… …although I didn’t talk to him. Sorry I missed out. But there is next year.

White Out is a good book, it seems like it will be a good movie too.

Snab – if you can fit it in you should try to make it next year. I think you would have really enjoyed some of the panel discussions.