Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stumptown '09 Very Late and Fairly Short

I realized that I'm never going to have the time to do that extended post on the fest that I wanted, so I'll simply post what had written far back in in April and leave it at that. So here is a few words about my little excursion to this year's Stumptown Comics Fest.

Some of the many kids that came to this years comics fest.

The building was decorated with window art in honor of Jeff Smith and his creation Bone.

I had a good time at the fest this year although I had to cut it short due to personal stuff. The first thing I noticed right off the bat was the amount of kids that were present. This was due to this year’s honored guest Jeff Smith. I knew he had a following with the kids but this was something else… …and you know what? I liked it. It felt great to have youngsters around. I also felt a slight twinge, as little Swinbread Jr. is too young to attend something like this for a while. I can’t wait to discover what his comic interests will be. Anyhoo, The first thing I did was to make a b-line for Gail Simone’s Table. I handed her my first five issues of The Secret Six to sign and we exchanged pleasantries. I additionally thanked her for making such well-rounded characters. Apparently Gail has been at the Fest before but this was the first time that she was a recognized guest. She told me that likes Portland a lot. What was even better was that Gail had her own panel. Which was quite a treat.

Gail Simone was a hair dresser for 15 years when she decided that she really needed to make a change and started the You'll All Be Sorry! column. That eventually led to work with Bongo Comics, (the guys that do the Simpsons stuff). It’s funny because she said that at the time she didn’t really know how pitch a story or write a script. So she had to be kinda sly in getting info from Bongo and she also enlisted her friends in industry for help. She worked her way up to Marvel and DC from there.

Gail said she couldn’t remember the first comic book she read but she was always attracted to the medium going as far back as Carl Barks’ Donald Duck. What really clicked for her though was when she read the Justice League of America for the first time. She just loved how the JSA worked together as a team. See, her home life was “dysfunctional” and the camaraderie and solidarity between the characters was something she longed for. Wonder Woman had a big impact on her too. Gail’s wasn’t a real fan of Fairly Tales because she never saw a Knight coming to sweep her off her feet so she could live happily ever after. Wonder Woman was a princess she could relate to. WW is someone that had to make her own way in the world and was strong and beautiful doing it. (Incidentally Gail said the Wonder Woman animated movie, which she co wrote, was really fantastic) The Barbara Gordon batgirl is also important to Gail as she because she was bullied because of her red hair and she took a lot of inspiration from the character’s strength.

Many questions were asked but I just had to ask her to talk about women in refrigerators. She mentioned that it has moved beyond what she had started. All kinds of folks were looking into the issue of the treatment of female characters in various forms of fiction but it all goes back to her observations in in the mid 1990s.

Note this is where I left off in April, so that's it.

Jeff Smith was very interesting but all these months later what sticks with me the most is that he didn't originally write Bone for kids, it just turned out that children really responded to it and librarians loved it. Some of its appeal is probably due to the fact that the bone characters are patterned after the classic cartoon trio as best exemplified by Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. Also, Jeff always saw all the comics as one whole story which is very apparent if you read the collected addition as I did.

Another fact that came out about Bone was that Art Spiegelman was really the one to push Jeff Smith to get Bone colored. Apparently he kept bugging Jeff about it. Jeff responded to him with "well Maus is in Black and White."
and Art said "Maus is about the holocaust... Bone is about life. It should be in color." Needless to say, Jeff agreed to the get his cartoon labor of love colored after that. The colored Bone is not just one trade paperback like the collected black and white version but several shorter vloumes. The last Bone volume with color was just published earlier this year.

Here is Ryan Dunlavey the artist on Action Philosophers and Comic Books Comics.

One of the folks from The Center for Cartoon Studies was at Stumptown this year. These guys need start a branch of this school here in Portland damit!

Well this sure would have been more interesting if I had posted it back when the fest happened oh well!



Arkonbey said...

grrr. grrr. a thousand times, grrr. Curse you Portland Lefters and your "comics culture".



I hope if the do a CCS out west, it's better than the one here. The local weekly prints stories done by the students and they have all sucked. BOTH the artwork AND the stories are really sub par. I was thinking of getting a loan and attending until I saw the work.

Arkonbey said...

Well, I was thinking I should let you form your own opinions of the work coming out of CCS.

here's a link

looking again, maybe 'suck' is a bad word. I think I'll change my opinion to 'boring'

Don Snabulus said...

I brought my great nephews to the show and they both had fun and bought some comics. (I helped with some $$$$)

Although we didn't go see Jeff Smith, I enjoyed talking to a number of the artists and seeing the variety of work.

Your description was very valuable and I learned some things I didn't know. Thanks!

Swinebread said...

arky- hmmm...maybe we just need to create our school out here...

snab - I'm glad you brought the kids! This year was a great time for it.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I'd say Bone was clearly influenced to an extent by Walt Kelley's Pogo.