Allison Hallet wrote a great article (see here) for the Portland Mercy about how comics have changed to become accessible for all and some of the reasons why Portland is at the epicenter of comic creation.
It’s a nice primer on the morning of the Stumptown Comics Fest.
Here’s an excerpt.
There has been a distinct cultural shift in the last decade, as graphic novels have gained a wide readership, superhero comics have been mined for both academic and "literary" material (see: Douglas Wolk, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon), and girls weaned on Japanese entertainments like Pokémon have gravitated en masse to manga. Put another way: Even my mom has read Persepolis. Anyone who still has hang-ups about buying comics need only set foot in the casually welcoming Cosmic Monkey Comics or North Portland's sleek Bridge City Comics to dispel all lingering stereotypes about the Comic Book Guy. So by now everyone in Portland knows that, to quote one of the most clichéd newspaper headlines ever, "comics aren't just for kids anymore." (Kapow!) You may not know, however, that local publishers Top Shelf, Oni Press, and Dark Horse have all had a hand in this shift. With April's designation as Comics Month, as Oni Publisher Joe Nozemack puts it, "Finally, the city is paying attention."
The root of Portland's comic book ascendance arguably rests with Dark Horse Comics' Mike Richardson. As Richardson himself says, "I helped bring a huge part of the comics industry here." Dark Horse is both the oldest and the largest of the three local publishers, and many folks in the industry who moved to town to work there have gone on to other projects in the area. The company, which Richardson started in 1986 with a $2,500 credit card, has grown to become the third-largest comics publisher in the United States (behind DC Comics and Marvel). From their Milwaukie headquarters, Dark Horse publishes series like Star Wars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the television show was cancelled after seven seasons; season eight is currently running in comic book form), as well as well-known titles like Frank Miller's Sin City and Mike Mignola's Hellboy. They're also the longest-running publisher of manga in the US; Richardson's early embrace of Japanese comics proved prescient, as young women have flocked to manga in droves (pounding a few more nails in the Comic Book Guy's coffin).