WE ALL RAN to Short Run. Well, at least we sent Theo Ellsworth and Sean Ford off to Seattle’s Short Run small press event. They brought their own handmade goodies as well as a truckload of Secret Acres’ best. Given Sean’s take, it seems Seattle itself might have been the star of the show. Frankly, wer’re shocked he came back at all. This may have had as much to do with his extremely attractive and talented company, but he won’t kiss and tell, the prude (really, we’d have been just as excited to stare at Noah Van Sciver‘s smooth butt (see below) all day). If you’re wondering about sales, they were good, but weird. It was a little bit of an Opposite Day syndrome, with our traditionally bigger guns taking a back seat to our weirdest offerings. Perhaps we should have expected as much from the land of Twin Peaks. No more preamble, here’s Sean:
Have I Gone Too Far To Get Home
Last weekend’s Short Run small press festival in Seattle was the type of show that I want to call almost the lifeblood of comics. Remember when Dylan Williams made a post advocating smaller, more local shows? Well, that’s what Short Run was.
The show was small enough and local enough that it was unmistakably a Seattle-centric show, allowing local artists to connect with their community – complete with help from some donations that led to amazing food and coffee on sale at the show. (every show please do this from now on. thanks.) It felt like a weekend-long celebration of the local cartoonists and comics scene in Seattle. Which was great because there were a ton of cartoonists worth celebrating there. And great for me, because I learned about a ton of Seattle-based and more generally West Coast-based artists who I don’t get to see too often – this was my first West Coast show and only my second adult visit to the West Coast at all. And while I probably was a little out of place there, in terms of having travelled 3,000 miles to attend instead of like 3 miles, I was never made to feel that way. I went into Seattle feeling like I knew almost no one in the town at all. At the end of the weekend, I left feeling like Seattle is one of the greatest comics cities I’ve ever visited.
The show was expertly put on and run by Eroyn Franklin and Kelly Froh and probably a ton of great volunteers. It had an array of cool satellite-type events, like an art opening at SOIL (that I missed because my flight got in that night), a signing for Noah Van Sciver and David Lasky at the gorgeous Fantagraphics bookstore, a release party for the Intruder gang right upstairs from the Fanta store and the next night the show’s after party at a pop-up music club named after the Black Lodge.
As always, I didn’t walk around the show enough or find all the new comics I could find, but I did like the new Intruder stuff a lot, complete with great strips from Kaz Strzepek, Ben Horak and Marc Palm and a bunch of others. I need to find out how to order Marc Palm comics – that guy is good. I got the new David Lasky Carter Family book, which looks amazing. I got some Julia Gfrörer comics which look pretty great. I stopped by the Revival House table and got a new-ish Mike Bertino book I hadn’t yet seen – they didn’t have Malachi Ward’s new one yet, but will at BCGF, I think. There’s probably more that I’m forgetting and certainly more that I missed.
The show itself filled two small to medium sized rooms, with maybe 20 or 25 tables in each room. But those rooms were almost always packed to the gills with customers who seemed to range from neighborhood comics royalty just dropping by (think Gary Groth or Jim Woodring), to dedicated comics fans to friends of friends to people just checking out a local free event to see what it was all about. I sold a copy of Only Skin to a kid for the first time ever, then immediately had a panic attack that he was gonna get in trouble with his mom.
Did I mention that I was lucky to be able to share this show with the one of a kind Theo Ellsworth? He was there promoting his excellent-looking (I haven’t read it yet because I am a horrible person) new book the Understanding Monster. Theo sold out of his books by around 3 or 4pm, but had a bunch of prints and originals and a ton of fans welcoming him and saying hi. He is as gracious and kind a person as I know in all of comics. One thing I like about comics is that all the people who are best at it are usually the nicest and kindest people you will meet. Theo proves this – I was getting a little misty-eyed wondering when I would see him again before he mentioned that he would have a new comic at TCAF 2013 and planned to attend! (This is in addition to the Understanding Monster Book Two at SPX! Seriously, read that Comics Journal interview – Theo is the best.
As far as complaints go, they were minor – Theo and I both felt that we were squeezed a little tight behind the tables. Let’s just say our butts got to know the butts of the people tabling behind us, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. Other than that, things went off hitchlessly, smooth as a cartoonist’s butt, you might say. Butt I digress.
ALSO, I would be severely remiss if I did not extend a heartfelt thanks to Jen Vaughn and her beau Ryan Anderson for putting me up (and putting up with me) for the weekend and acting as tour guides and spokespeople for the wonders of Seattle. Jen graciously showed me the Fantagraphics office on Friday, an event that I tried to conceal was literally a dream come true type experience for me. Fanta was my entry into whatever we call these great comics – I found Eightball and Love & Rockets buried in the back of St. Mark’s Comics like 13 years ago when I was working there. (Also, fuck you, St. Mark’s Comics. For so many reasons. Seriously.) Seeing the Fanta office was surreal. A huge thanks to Jen and the Fanta staff who indulged me and allowed me to try to play it cool for a few hours. Also, Sunday I went to Olympic National Park with fellow CCS alum and talented Seattle cartoonist Colleen Frakes. It was my second time in Olympic and no less gorgeous.
Annnyway, as Dylan says in that link above, shows like Short Run feel like a good way to grow things: a community, an audience, good will, etc. I am going to try to go to as many of these smaller shows as I can – my next one is Genghis Con in Cleveland, Saturday 11/24 after Thanksgiving. I hope the Pittsburgh show and maybe that Minneapolis show make a comeback. MECAF is great. I hope the Locust Moon Show in Philly takes off. These small shows feel different, like a way to stay grounded and connected and also make new connections. (This is in no way meant to denegrate shows llike SPX, TCAF or BCGF which I think are amazing, tremendously important for the medium overall and some of my favorite days of the year. I feel like those shows are about the overall health of the medium and these smaller shows are about that, but also about the health of individual cities/scenes/etc.) I dunno, it was awesome. Seattle was awesome. In an alternate universe, I’m moving there with my dream girl right now. In this universe, I’m staring into the middle distance and sighing and dreaming of coffee-filled, rainy, warm days. Thanks, Seattle. You have good weather for comics.
- Sean Ford
There is some major news back here in real time on this coast. We have our final tally of Acres attendees for tomorrow’s Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Edie Fake is in the house with a bunch of new minis. Sean Ford is sitting on Only Skin and those prints of his. Samuel C. Gaskin is rocking his new SpaceFace book. Joe Lambert can’t drop his original art cheap enough. Brendan Leach, pterodactyl hunter, is flying over for a guest spot. And, it’s true, Michiel Budel, the man who makes the girls go wayward, is here from Holland. You may never get another chance to get a signed copy of Wayward Girls. Of course, his visit was a surprise one, so you may get another chance. Who knows? We guarantee you nothing in this regard.
Our biggest BCGF news is, of course, the debut of Eamon Espey‘s new book, Songs of the Abyss. It’s big, it’s bad, it’s beautiful and you can take a look at the cover below. Eamon made that thing out of stained glass. It’s real. Speaking of real, tonight, this very Friday, Eamon’s story (and one of the songs of the abyss), “Ishi’s Brain,” is being performed live, with puppets and an original score and things like that. This is happening at Tomato House, the gallery and performance space founded by Matt Thurber, the 1-800-MICE god. Dongery, the Norwegian comics powerhouse, will be in the Tomato House, too, debuting their new collection, which clocks in at several pounds and over 1,500 pages. If you have the means, get there. This we can guarantee you won’t forget.
Barry and Leon
What happens when Bigfoot meets the Breeders? Why, our Scuttlebutt TCAF wrap-up, of course! You'd think we were kidding, but we're not. If it weren't for Bigfoot, we'd never had gotten to meet the Breeders and see them play Last Splash front to back way up in Toronto. This has nothing to do with comics, but then most of what happens at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival has nothing to do with comics. It's really about the dancing. And the singing. And the topless singing. Worry not, we did get Capacity 8 unboxed and there were no border issues for anyone (except for Casey). We even made it to our panel, first thing Saturday morning. That may have been perfect timing, because it was something like Between Two Ferns meets group therapy. We're lucky bastards, for sure, but we missed the Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon, singing Bette Midler's the Rose (and, no, he was not topless). If any of you have video of this, or pictures of Drawn and Quarterly's jean vests, please, oh, please get back to us. Read on...
Finally, we are hitting the asphalt for our first road trip of the year. It's a long drive to the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and we are carrying some precious cargo as usual. Theo Ellsworth is being delivered via airmail, with fellow Acres Brendan Leach, Joe Lambert and Edie Fake meeting us there. Sean Ford has called shotgun, and Capacity 8 is in the boot. Capacity 8 is one of those surprise births with which we are regularly blessed here at Secret Acres. It's also the first time anyone in our gang has dropped a new story for a series that we've collected. Capacity, Theo's big, fat book, is a complete thing, for sure. The eighth issue is all new territory, but it's still all true. In a way. In that Capacity way. Oh, and we'll be kicking off first thing Saturday with a small press panel featuring pals and heroes, Koyama Press, Rebus Books and Grimalkin Press, too. This year's Acresmobile comic mule is the legendary Dash Shaw. Alas, last year's hitcher, MK Reed, is too lazy to make it to TCAF. Everyone else better be heading up - or catching Eamon Espey's Ishi's Brain show in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yeah, we're looking at you. We're standing right behind you. No, the other way. Anyhow, there's explicit instructions up on Scuttlebutt.
PEOPLE OF THE SEATTLE: Tonight's the night! Go watch Eamon Espey and Lisa Krause as they bring their show, Ishi's Brain, to Hugo House. Which is in Seattle. Ishi's Brain is based on Eamon's story of the same name from his Secret Acres collection, Songs of the Abyss. Lisa Krause is an artist and puppeteer of Bread and Puppet fame, among other things. It's quite a unique experience and pretty much beats the hell of out any old, regular reading. They are on tour all over the country, but there's something fitting about performing Ishi in Seattle. You know, because Seattle is strange and dark and there are scary woodlands and coffee. The Richard Hugo House is also something to see in itself. They have a writers' residence for zinesters (currently held by ZAPP), classes on seemingly everything, a focus on a local writing community and, of course, performances. Go. Have fun. Report back to us. Even the Stranger says to check it out. See...
Stranger things have certainly happened, but it would appear our man, Theo Ellsworth, will have not one, but two debuts at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Yes, we will have the eighth issue of his ongoing Capacity (the first since our enormous collection of that title), but we'll tell you more about that later. Meanwhile, we knew Theo was working on a comic for an anthology, but we didn't realize it was the fourth Alternative Comics anthology. You may or may not be aware, but Alternative Comics published some truly amazing things, like Jeff Lewis' True Swamp and Steven Weissman's Yikes (yes, this was before Fantagraphics took over). Then they took some time off. Now they're back. Also included in this anthology are Alternative Comics graduate James Kochalka, this guy named Craig Thompson, the adorable Noah Van Sciver and #cybergang leader, Alex Schubert, to name a few. Get up to TCAF because it's amazing, and Theo and most of the Alternative Comics crew will be there to sign the thing. Collect them all!
On a more important note than usual: 282 Broadway is where the party has been for, well, seems like forever now. What the hell is that, you ask? It's the home address for Domino Books and Revival House and Rebus. It's known sometimes as Bill K's Place, as in Bill Kartalopoulos. Just about everyone who has ever attended or exhibited at a comics event in New York City or, hell, ever drawn a comic while in city limits, has been exhausted, high, drunk or lost in that apartment while rubbing elbows with their heroes. We've written plenty on our blog, about their comics and their parties, too. Now they're moving out. We're telling you this because these guys need a new home. Go buy some comics from them. Forget the good cause, their books are amazing and we've been seethingly jealous of their good work, so if you like us, help them and get some great stuff for yourself. Everybody wins!