The after-effects of Wizard World’s dropping their pre-packaged big-box con on Portland seemed, by Monday night, to be low-key and generally positive. For a company as practiced at throwing nerd parties as Wizard is, it would have been surprising had they not given the city an entertaining weekend.
But then, Monday night, shots were fired in the general direction of the Portland comics community, and as with all good horror stories, the sounds were coming from inside the house.
Steve Duin, a well-respected columnist for the Oregonian, printed a piece that gave some shine to Wizard World’s first foray into Portland, while simultaneously throwing shade at a community he charges is complacent, suggesting that Portland needs aggressive outsiders bellying up to the bar to shake us out of our rinky-dink mindsets, asking “When did we decide the city’s ambition didn’t demand a similar growth curve?”
His suggestions were backed up with quotes from Kurt Busiek, one of the finest writers in superhero comics over the past two decades (his Superman: Secret Identity is my personal favorite Superman story ever); and some dude from Maryland who only tabled at the convention because Wizard had scheduled it one week before Seattle’s Emerald City con.
Included: Choice quotes from said Maryland dealer about the quality of local retailers.
Not included: Duin’s disclosure that he had a panel at the convention, a panel dedicated solely to the subject of the comic he created with Eisner Award-winner Shannon Wheeler.
The comments on Duin’s article are suggesting that he’s out of touch, which I don’t believe to be the case. It’s obvious he knows about the community here in Portland, having worked with Wheeler on a book; having hosted his release party at Bridge City Comics, one of two retailers in Portland that have been nominated for Eisner Awards; having had a panel at 2011's Stumptown Comics Fest; having interviewed local retailers and artists for his previous article on the convention; and having talked to Joe Parrington, Emerald City’s PR director, about their partnership with the Rose City Comic-Con.
I don’t think the article is an example of ignorance, or even shoddy reporting, although I think it was a little shortsighted having the expert opinion on Portland’s comics community come from a traveling retailer who’s business seems to rely strongly on following Wizard World to every stop on its schedule.
Duin is still one of the best columnists at that paper, definitely not anywhere near the worst (John Canzano still works there, remember) and I’m pretty sure he’s not out-of-touch with regards to Portland’s place in the comics community. So the only other option is the annoying one: He thinks Portland hasn’t done enough to secure a sense of earned legitimacy, a legitimacy that is represented by the big-box, market-poaching, impersonal pop-culture party-machine that is Wizard World.
Which makes the answer Portland’s freshly-slighted community gives to Duin’s question all the more important. And that answer isn’t going to come in the comments section at Oregon Live. It’s going to come at this year's Stumptown Comics Fest, and then again at the Rose City Comic-Con.
Maybe those answers will be loud enough for Duin to hear.