For the second year running, April has been dubbed "Portland Comics Month"—a handy designation that allows local artists, bookstores, and publishers to harness the momentum generated by the annual Stumptown Comics Fest (for more info on the fest, see our feature on this year's fest). A generous roster of comics-related events provide plenty of ways to get involved in what the festival's website calls, smugly but not inaccurately, "today's most vibrant artistic and cultural movement."
The festival itself has a lot more going on than just an exhibition hall. You'll find workshops on minicomics, starting artistic businesses, and editing comics; a lecture on the Joker from Pacific Northwest College of Art comics studies professor Trevor Dodge; panels spotlighting creators like Gail Simone, Carla Speed McNeil, and Jeff Smith; and portfolio reviews from local comics editors and creators. (See stumptowncomics.com for a complete schedule)
For the well-heeled comic book fan, the Stumptown Comics Foundation and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund benefit dinner is a no-brainer: The $100 ticket price offers a chance to schmooze with Jeff Smith, Gail Simone, Craig Thompson, Brian Michael Bendis, and others (while enjoying a well-balanced three-course meal, natch). For the shoddily heeled comic book fan, of which I suspect there are many, a pre-dinner cocktail hour at the Art Bar is open to the public; pre-drinking recommended. (PCPA's Art Bar, 1111 SW Broadway, Fri April 17, cocktail hour at 5:30 pm, free; dinner at 6:30 pm, $100, reservations required, see stumptowncomics.com for more info)
Other festival-sponsored events include Stumptown's annual Trophy Awards Ceremony, which is as low-fuss as the festival itself. "I just thought, it's a convention, we should have an awards ceremony," longtime Stumptown organizer Shannon Wheeler explains. "People have to be in attendance to get an award, so Chris Ware doesn't sweep them without being there. There's a DIY award, there's a small press award, and people can nominate themselves. It's judged by the attendees. When you come in you get a ballot, and then there's a table with everyone that's been nominated. So it's really democratic. The whole shebang is hosted by one of the most loquacious nerds in town, KUFO's Fatboy Roberts, and followed by a comics art battle pitting audacious creators against one another. (Trophy Awards ceremony and comics art battle at Cosmic Monkey Comics, 5335 NE Sandy, Sat April 18, 7 pm, free)
Several galleries around town are exhibiting comics-related work. Cloistered in Crowds collects original covers and pages from Paul Hornschemeier, author of The Three Paradoxes, a beautifully drawn book about a young artist that's bolstered by childhood flashbacks and surprisingly funny philosophical interjections. (Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, 134 NW 8th, Tues-Sat 11 am-6 pm, through May 2) Meanwhile, Floating World is currently displaying work by artist/comics creator David Mack, best known for his work on the Kabuki graphic novels. (Floating World Comics, 20 NW 5th #101.) Also at Floating World, on Thursday, April 16 from 6-8 pm, cartoonist Meredith Gran—creator of Octopus Pie (octopuspie.com)—will be signing copies of her third webcomics collection.
The Multnomah County Library, long a supporter of independent and small presses, is onboard with two comics-themed events: On Thursday, April 16, freelance cartoonist Carolyn Main gives a presentation on webcomics—check out her work at carolynmain.com. And their "Zinesters Talking" series this month focuses on minicomics, with creators Hellen Jo and Dunja Jankovic on Friday, April 17. (Both readings held in the US Bank room at the Central Library, 801 SW 10th, 4:30-5:30 pm, free)