Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
The Jet City Comics Show at Seattle Center yesterday afternoon, that is.
The show was held in the Exhibition Hall, which was a nice change as far as we were concerned. Same place that they hold the Antiquarian Book Fair (in just three weeks!) as it happens.
This was kind of an event for us. Not so much because of the show itself– although we had a great time, it’s a very nice event, classy and well-run– but simply because it’s the first comics event I’ve been to in the last five years where I didn’t have to work at all. No kids to wrangle, no booth to set up, no field-trip bus aggravation… just getting to wander around and nerd out with others of our tribe.
Even better was that Jet City, as a show, is just exactly the right size for us– big enough to be eclectic and interesting, but small enough that we never felt crowded or claustrophobic, and the emphasis was very firmly on comics and art. No movie or TV people at all– not even the “nerd-lebrity” level ones like the Farscape folks or Erin Gray. It was great.
We did take a lot of pictures, so I think I’ll just run those and talk about them a little.
Here’s a shot of a guy from The Infusion Project.
This is a loose affiliation of artists based in San Diego that orchestrates live-art events all over the country: essentially, just getting a bunch of artists together in the same place and telling them to make stuff, ready-set-GO! As you can see, the results are a mixed bag, but I really loved the energetic quality the whole thing had, the DIY underground ‘zine sensibility that drove it.
Of course, our favorite place to hang was Artist’s Alley. We ran into all sorts of old friends and also made some new ones. Here’s Tyler Chin-Tanner, who was our next-door neighbor at ECCC a few months ago.
Tyler runs his own small-press outfit, A Wave Blue World. I thanked him again for being so patient with my students at Emerald City, and he told us he had a great time watching the kids work and he’d table next door to us anywhere. Then he told us about his new project, Epics.
This is an adventure anthology title, published quarterly. Both Julie and I were impressed with the art and generally high-quality look of the thing, and after reading it I can tell you that its old-school pulp adventure hit me right where I live. I really recommend it. You can get yours for $3.99 at the Wave Blue World online store here, or perhaps you’d like the digital version, available for a mere 99 cents from Comixology after September 26th. (The digital version of American Terrorist is there already.) Tyler was going to give us one for nothing, but we insisted on paying, because it’s small-press and as I told him, “Even my students know you don’t work for free.” Anyway, his comics are worth paying for and he was great with my kids, so there you go.
Someone we’d never met but whose work we liked a lot was Martin Sabala. No idea who he was or what he’d done, but his art caught my eye– it had that cartoony energetic look I always like, but it was also really well-crafted, it had a professional polish you don’t see that often in the small-press ‘zine world.
He was selling T-shirts and art prints, and also had a little brown paper bag saying WILL SKETCH FOR TIPS! So I put $5 in the bag and asked him if he would be willing to contribute something to our student scrapbook. In no time at all he presented us with this:
We had a pleasant chat about artists starting out and encouraging young people, and I gave him one of our student ‘zines. A very nice man. He’ll be at the Bellingham Comic-Con in a month or so, if you’re up here in the Northwest. (For those who are not, Bellingham’s about an hour north of us, a quiet little college town on the cliffs overlooking the San Juans. Good comics and book town, too. My own Cartooning alums Brianna, David, and Amanda ended up there– and Rachel just left this afternoon to start school there as well.)
Speaking of encouraging words, I wanted to be sure and let Chris Roberson know how much I appreciated the time he gave my kids at Emerald City; I’d been worried that had gotten lost in the sheer crush of people there.
He laughed and said that he felt like he was just “bloviating at them,” and was worried that he sounded like a cranky old man. (That made me laugh, because I assure you I am much crankier– in Young Authors, the kids refer to editorial conference time as “your turn in the Chair of Doom.”) We talked a little more about creative writing classes versus real-world writing stuff, along with other things like the Monkeybrain rollout, Trek in the Park, life in Portland… all sorts of other stuff with which I won’t bore you. We wanted to buy something and I ended up with a set of Memorial #1-6.
I’d been holding off on it because I was trying to wait for the collected edition, and then when we saw that Chris was going to be in town I decided I’d just as soon get it from him. The joke was on me, because Chris didn’t actually have the collected edition, but I got it in the single issues anyway. It’s a great read and I had the added bonus of recognizing many of the Portland settings. (I was tickled that “Roberson’s Books” depicted in the background of one panel was actually my sentimental favorite of Portland’s bookstores, the dusty paperback paradise that is Cameron’s.)
We also said hello to Colleen Coover; we’d never met her before but I am a big fan of her work and I wanted to let her know what a big hit Bandette is with my students who’ve seen it.
She was delighted with the idea of the Cartooning class and we talked a little bit about the program, and she very kindly added this piece to our student scrapbook:
Incidentally, if you’re not reading Bandette and the other Monkeybrain offerings, you really should be.
I have a soft spot for Amelia Cole and Masks and Mobsters, myself, but they’re all good.
We also said hello to Natalie Nourigat.
I had a vague memory of the name and finally realized that it was because our other Greg had reviewed her book not too long ago. (This didn’t come to me till a few hours later, though; at the show all I thought was that this was another talented someone who was working the same turf as Emi Lenox and it looked like really nice work.) We struck up a conversation and I ended up buying Between Gears. And Ms. Nourigat also agreed to contribute something to our class scrapbook, but wanted some time to work on it. Of course that was agreeable, so we went wandering off in search of other diversions.
This were readily available right across the aisle, since SeaLug, the Seattle Lego club, had a huge display.
There were all sorts of amazing things on display, but what threw me was that in the world of Legos, there is apparently still room for product placement.
At that point I decided that it was time to shop, and for us, that means Randy’s Readers.
I am trying to get to where I’m just a trade-paperback guy, but certain runs of single issues will still hit my nostalgia button. In this particular case, Randy had some Batman 80-Page Giants from the late 1960s that I had to have. Seriously, it was like a biological imperative.
Incidentally, the Robin origin story in Batman #213 pictured above is not the original from the 1940s, but a new story done especially for that issue by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ross Andru. (The one that leads off the Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder collection.)
Randy also had a bunch of old DC Adventure comics for a couple of bucks each, and I fell for about six of those. Most of you reading this will know about Mike Sekowsky’s groovy 1970s Diana Prince run on Wonder Woman, but you may not be aware of the equally groovy Supergirl he was doing at that same time.
I hadn’t read very many of these– at the age of nine, when I first saw them, they were way too girly for me to, like, BUY, out in the open– but over the years I have come to appreciate work that youthful Greg dismissed as “chick stuff.” And anyway the late 60s-early 70s “relevant” books from DC always fill me with joy, particularly the “25 Cents- BIGGER and BETTER!” ones with all the great reprints. So that was a satisfying score.
A glance across the hall showed us Natalie was still hard at work so we went over to the concessions area for some hideously overpriced coffee. I was gloating over my Bronze Age loot, and Julie was quite taken with Between Gears.
I had found it charming, myself, but I was a little surprised that Julie had latched on to it so fast; she’ll read comics once in a while, but usually it takes me suggesting something. So I asked her.
She pointed out the “words of wisdom” that Natalie’s mother had given her on the first page of the narrative. “That right there,” she said. “That sold me.”
Those words of wisdom are essentially my wife’s philosophy of living, as well, so I’m not surprised it hit her so hard.
And as it turned out, I think Ms. Nourigat’s contribution to our scrapbook was far and away one of the nicest things anyone’s done for us. I was awed. She really put her all into it. I stammered out what felt like a really inadequate thanks, and she assured us that she had enjoyed the challenge. I hope I was able to put across how grateful we were. I wish I had a better scan of it for you, because it’s really lovely.
It’s also good advice that I should take to heart myself (I am realizing this yet again after typing this column nonstop for hours, my shoulders are all knotted up.) Anyway, Ms. Nourigat was easily the high point of a great day. We wish her continued success and look forward to seeing her at Emerald City next year.
I’d promised Julie that after Jet City I would take us to lunch and then we’d go thrift-shopping. One for me, one for her, that’s how we usually do this. But I had a couple of unexpected thrift-shop scores myself.
The big one was getting the Greg Hildebrandt illustrated hardcover of Dracula for a buck and a half, at a Value Village in Ballard.
I only buy books for the art about once every three years, and I guess it was time. Because this book is breathtaking.
There are both black-and-white and color plates scattered profusely throughout the volume and every one of them is a treat to look at.
That by itself was enough, but I also scored a bunch of Perry Rhodan books for fifty cents each.
The books are forty years old, but these were like new, with beautiful covers by Gray Morrow. Now, this is not any kind of genuine antiquarian find at all– Perry Rhodan is a pulp series that is largely regarded as forgettable by even devotees of the genre– but I’ve always been curious. Those books dominated spinner racks for a long time when I was a kid, and they’re essentially paperback reprints of the original pulps, with added material chosen and assembled by Forry Ackerman. For me the curiosity has been a minor aficionado’s itch for the last couple of decades, but I never wanted to spend any money to scratch it. However, for fifty cents, that was too good to pass up.
And that was our day. Considering it’s probably Julie’s and my last play date until Thanksgiving (her college classes start tomorrow) it was time well spent, I think. If for no other reason than to remind us that sometimes it’s nice to go to a con just to go, without any work-related agenda at all.
See you next week.
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