Stumptown Comics Fest 2011: Day One

Skipped the Friday Kick-Off party because of the plagues. 

Stumptown Movin On Up to the Convention Center

Saturday we arrived at the Convention Center a bit late – we didn’t prep for this particular comics event ahead of time, so we were scrambling before heading out. It’s important to pack essentials and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this last years batch of cons…it’s how to do so effectively.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Camelpaks. Especially the two we have – they double as backpacks and carry drinkable water around so you don’t have to purchase any. BONUS: Small backpacks lessens the incentive to purchase more than you can possibly hold.

Layers – especially light ones that you can shed easily and pack around.

Snacks – con food is always expensive

Smart Phone. Camera. Aspirin. Hand sanitizer. Chapstick. Gum. Poster case (for prints). Extra camera battery. Pack of cards. Band-Aids. Pen. Small Durable Notebook. Business Cards.

That’s the Geek Convention Survival Guide in a nutshell. Even at a smallish convention close to home, this is still the case.

It should be noted that Stumptown equipped attendees with some awesome gifts this year in the form of a reusable “swag bag” that doubles as a grocery bag.

Awesome Swag Bag. No you cant have one. 🙂

We grabbed about six of those suckers and fully intend to use them at your next shopping excursion. Fantastic way to advertise and be environmentally friendly. Woot!

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 Brian Michael Bendis: Writing for Graphic Novels Panel

Brian Michael Bendis at Stumptown Comics Fest 2011

One of the best things that came out of this hour was Bendis sharing the books that are on his syllabus, what he uses in his particular arsenal to write good comics. Well, I suppose that’s debatable, if you don’t think he does write good comics. As I’ve said before – I like this man as a teacher and a writer – probably even a person. But I’m not a huge fan of what he does at Marvel.

His writing course includes the following books:

Story (Robert McKee)

Comics and Sequential Art (Will Eisner)

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative (Will Eisner)

The Writer’s Journey (Christopher Vogler)

On Directing Film (David Mamet)

I’ve already spoken of my intentions here to register for his Fall 2011 course, so getting a sneak peek into his syllabus and pre-reading some of these books will no doubt be quite helpful in preparing.

He had a very interesting take on developing characters. Whereas most people think of character as characterization (brand of cigarettes, soda, how they dress, speak), he talked about building characters by the choices they make and how that defines what kind of person they are. And how well you develop a character is by how honest or truthful the choices that character makes. Which rings so true, especially in genre fiction (or genre anything). I always tell Dan “I can buy 500 foot tall aliens and space travel…but I cannot suspend my disbelief when it comes to characters.”

He mentioned something brought up in another panel – half of writing is research. Especially if you have a wide audience, because someone will always be an expert in whatever subject you’re writing. So in order to not be seen as full of crap, you need to take advice from others and try as much as possible to be knowledgeable in the subject area in which you’re writing.

He talked about the relationship between writers and artists – how in his early days he would sketch basically the entire book for the artist along with his script. And then finally someone told him not to do that, because it was a bit insulting. So now he tries to imbue as much emotion into the writing as possible and steps back to let his artists do their thing…just like a good director. Which is interesting, comparing writing a comic book to directing a film. There are some similarities, but it seems like writers don’t have much control (unless they write and draw) over their final vision.

It would seem in writing comics – the relationship between the artist and writer could be the toughest hurdle. Something I hadn’t even considered until this panel. Best piece of advice? “Write something that is worth an artists time.”

He encouraged people to self publish and write about something they love – not try to “break into the industry.” Just make something they are proud of and care about first and then market it second. Seems like pretty sound advice to me.

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After the panel we hit the convention floor and ran into Carolyn Main who was selling Zombie Attack Panties. I’ve wanted a pair since she posted pics of them back in December, but am usually slow to purchase things on the net. Of course when they were up close and in person they had to be…snatched up:

Zombie Attack Panties!

The Fest seemed much larger than last year, not sure if there were more vendors or if the venue was just large enough that you could actually spot them all. When tables and booths are crammed in together, it’s hard to make people/books out. But this year I felt like everyone got a pretty fair shake and with wider aisles and more room, we managed to troll the Fest floor at least two different times. We picked up three new books in the process:

Shi Long Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk (Ben Costa)

As all great independent things seem to be of late – Shi Long Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk started out as a webcomic which updates on Fridays. It was well-written, artistically rendered and popular enough to win a Xeric Award and scholarship and be collected into a beautiful book.

Which we now own:

He was even cool and sketch/signed inside:

I knew from the charming blurb on the back it was going to be good and simply could not pass it up, “The year is 1675. Caught up in a conflict he barely understands, a portly Buddhist warrior monk named Shi Long Pang sets out to find his brothers after the destruction of their temple at the hands of the Qing dynasty. Now, the fate of his order might rest squarely on the crown of his perfectly spherical head. But life outside the temple won’t be easy for a wander Shaolin Monk – not with all the spies, corrupt officials, and pretty girls lurking around every corner…

We also snagged another Hellboy TPB for Dan as well as the entire collected edition of Bone, which is arguably for both of us. 

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Diana Schutz: Teaching Comics

From left to right Nicole Georges, Diana Schutz, Patrick Rosenkranz, Trevor Dodge, Brian Michael Bendis

Featured Brian Michael Bendis (PSU), Patrick Rosenkranz (PNCA), Trevor Dodge (CCC/PNCA), and Nicole Georges (IPRC) in a panel hosted by Dark Horse executive editor Diana Schutz (PCC). The panel was somewhat divided up into courses that teach comics as literature and those that help people become better at the craft through production, though you could argue that the history of comics (and reading comics) is also a good way to better yourself at the craft.

And in at least three classes, student and participants walk away with a completed comic book – sometimes 22 pages, sometimes less depending on the course. All of the courses listed sound heavenly – Trevor Dodge teaches a Gender in Comics course at PNCA which would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, I only have scrilla enough for one course and since I’ve already taken a comics as lit class – it’s time to focus on creation.

In the creative courses they talked largely about how they structure the process – Bendis does a mini-history, brings in guest speakers and assigns lots of exercises. He also teamed up with the art department and paired writers with artists this year to aid in the completed project.

Nicole Georges mentioned they have a similar method – placing students into writing and art tracks, then pairing them when it comes down to actually producing a comic. Whereas Bendis chose randomly, Georges matched folks based on personalities, styles, interests, etc. Both seem like reasonable ways to approach the craft.

Bendis also makes people pitch their ideas to the class – which is somewhat similar to what we did in the TV Scripting course, except it was just to the instructor…but he happened to be in front of the entire class.

So yeah – lots of scary moments for an introvert, but nothing I haven’t done in class or real-life before.

Overall these courses are sounding promising. I was starting to lean towards the Independent Publishing Resource Center, but Dan thinks I should go for the Bendis class first. I tend to agree…I think IPRC is when I finally start getting serious. Bendis would just be a way to test the waters and develop an idea I currently have stewing in my brain.

A few quotes from the panel:

“You can’t understand any art unless you make it.” Which is precisely why I want to try my hand at making a comic book. I’m sort of tired of reviewing, criticizing and critiquing. I want to create something, so perhaps I can truly appreciate the blood, sweat and tears people put into this craft. And then be less of a dick when I do review something. Plus I’m staring into the yawning chasm of unemployment in the next few months, and I need to set up my time productively…if I do end up unemployed for more than the 2-3 months I’ve predicted.

“Dialogue is always a problem no matter what medium you’re working with.” Which is particularly difficult because in comic books, dialogue is a visual part of the story, rather than something spoken aloud or imagined in someone’s head.

“You have to go home and make the comic book you don’t see.” 

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A drawing Natalie made to point out her booth. Adorable!

After the second panel of the day we hit the floor again and wandered past the booth of Natalie “Tally” Nourigat whose page I’ve “liked” on FB for quite some time now. Not even really sure how I stumbled across Natalie’s work, but it’s gorgeous. I knew I wanted to purchase something from her…and while leafing through her prints happened upon three gorgeous Fringe Fan Art images. Dan and I were drooling over them, so we struck up a conversation about our recent obsession with Fringe (this will be the subject of much blogging in the near future) and how we missed our opportunity to meet John Noble and Jasika Nicole at Emerald City Comic Con 2011 (Natalie was there as well!).

I mentioned creating a Peter From Boston mix CD the night before – being inspired by the Northwest Passage episode. The first track “Is There a Ghost” by Band of Horses was so haunting, I downloaded it the next day and started ruminating on what the rest of the CD would look like. I’m a closet play-list maker. Whenever a big event is happening in my life, I make a playlist. This is helpful when I produce the family slideshows every year as well. As a big fan of matching music and images…I felt like the Peter From Boston mix was a challenge.

I told her I intended to blog the playlist…but since my buddy Mike (the owner of the Fringe DVDs and instigator of my current obsession) had already requested a copy, I figured why not burn two CDs and see what sort of response they get before I publicize the tracklist?

The tracklist is published here. Decided to make it a totally separate entry. Anywho – we promised to return on Sunday with cash to purchase prints and a copy of the Peter From Boston mix.

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On the way out the door, we spotted the Boilerplate table awash with prints and I nudged Dan to see if he wanted to check them out. We wandered over and Paul Guinan noted we’d picked up a card from his buddy Natalie’s booth. We started chatting about the success of his book and the fact that we’ve spotted them at three other conventions in PDX – so it’s high time we purchase their book.

In case you didn’t know – Boilerplate has been optioned by JJ Abrams to be turned into a film. We spotted them on the plane to San Diego Comic Con last year (Anina Bennett has a beautiful mass of curly red hair that’s impossible to miss) but didn’t really think too much about it at the time – we also shared seats with cartoonist Amy Mebberson, so seeing random talent in PDX is just par for the course.

Anywho – we purchased the book. It’s on the docket to be read:

And of course they signed and doodled on the inside cover:

That was about it for Saturday. Poor Dan w/ Bronchitis had been a real trooper and held up well during the entire day of panels and wandering so I told him we were taking the night off . We skipped the Saturday night After Party in favor of grocery shopping, house cleaning and rest. 

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Later Today: Tracklist for Peter From Boston mix CD.

Tomorrow: Recap of Stumptown Comics Fest 2011 Day Two

Wednesday: Game of Thrones Review

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

One response to “Stumptown Comics Fest 2011: Day One”

  1. Kalyn says :

    Bookmarked, I really like your site! 🙂

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