WE CAN'T have too many comic books in this town. Bridge City Comics jumps into the happy slough of local funny-book publishers with Big Plans, a collection of local creator Aron Nels Steinke's autobiographical comics. The handsome soft-cover spans five years of Steinke's life, from trips to the bar to scary experiences at the airport to enduring slave-wage pizza shifts. It's an enjoyable collection of Portland-centric experiences—simple, engaging, and relatable.
"I started bugging him about two years ago to let me be the one to publish a collection of his Big Plans series," says Bridge City Comics owner Michael Ring. "Aron has a great art style... I also think he has a really pure, honest voice in his storytelling and I love seeing his more raw storytelling clash with his deceptively cute artwork."
It's true. Steinke's art is unabashedly adorable—cartoonish and bubbly and full of cats. With strong lines and cross-hatching, his characters and detailed Portland backdrops almost beg you to break out your supply of colored pencils—not to deface, but to spend more coloring-book time in this world. But what's lurking under all that charm is that Steinke's well-timed stories are emotionally charged and harrowing (he evades a shooter at the mall, there's a potential terrorist at the airport, and his house gets broken into). He's grappling with becoming an adult, studying to become a teacher, drinking and drawing, and in love with his girlfriend. Sound like anyone you know?
As for Bridge City Comics' publishing future, Ring says he plans to put out two books a year, and ultimately he'd like to publish quarterly as momentum gathers. "I really love all types of comics and my interests pinball all over the place," Ring explains. "I'd love to dig into fiction or fantasy or anything, really. I would love to publish a great, hard sci-fi book like Image's Prophet... but I've been bugging a couple of people here and there about letting me at their work. I've also been kicking around a few ideas with some friends about doing a line of young-adult horror novels. And then there's the Rockford Files zine I've been threatening people I'd put together!"
Ring jokes, but given how well Big Plans turned out, it doesn't seem that farfetched that Bridge City Comics might be able to pull off a James Garner omnibus.