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You’ll find the artists in the alley, behind gross He-Man.

April 3, 2012

The preamble will be brief this week, I’m recovering. Last weekend my wife and I drove up to Seattle to spend a day at the Emerald City Comic Con, and then make a vague pass at a vacation on the drive back. I had high hopes for the show. A lot of people only know about the pop-spectacle that goes down at con’s, but if you get past that you can find table after table of working writers and artists trying to break in, or keep that foot just barely in the door. Wrestle past the Jedi photo-op red light district blocking the entrance and you can find a small army of eager writers who just want to get their book in your hands.

This year felt a little different. I suppose that’s the way it goes, every year the con gets a little bigger, a little more spectacular, and a  little less human. It’s not to say there’s something wrong with that, there’s fun to be had in all the spectacle, it’s just not what I wanted that day. I wanted to look at book’s I’d never seen before, maybe find something new to enjoy, and I wanted to do it without gross He-Man brushing his slightly sticky self against me in the crowded aisles.

Of course, there are always the highlights. I’m always glad to buy books right from the person who wrote them, and traveling to other cities means I can find indie comics that are always sold out in Portland shops (Though I was saddened to find Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper on a clearance rack. For shame, Seattle. For shame).

Some of this is on me. Every time I go to a Con, I just want it to be Stumptown (Portland’s own comics fest). Stumptown is that back alley of artists and writers without the distractions. The gauntlet of costumes is gone, as are the celebrity guests and that God forsaken T-shirt tower (why?!). Gross He-Man may still be there, but I wont have to touch him. Stumptown is a place you can go to find those people who just want to get their book in your hands. Instead of panels about DC’s next big summer arc, there’s an hour-long demonstration of proper brush inking and a panel on teaching comics in college.

Emerald City is still fun, in its way. It’s a cultural phenomena, as much about the event as the books themselves. That’s not a bad thing, not in moderation at least, but I hope it doesn’t distract from the real reason people started going to con’s: to say “Hello, and thanks” to the authors they enjoy, and to find a few new books so next year they might tell a few more people “Hello, and thanks.”

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