After the absorption of the Stumptown Comics Fest into the larger Rose City Comic Con in 2013, and the fizzling out of the small press comics show Linework after 2016, Portland’s comics scene found itself curiously lacking a mid-sized comics fest.
“We identified a hole,” says Portland Indie Con founder David W. Edwards. “Given the amount of self-published and small-press artists that live here, we thought there ought to be a show dedicated solely to the art and craft of comics.”
With the help of Things From Another World manager Taylor Hedberg and Nikki Robinson, the organizer of a regular comics creator meet-up at Books with Pictures, Edwards set about putting together the first Portland Indie Con, which he hopes will connect original creators from the self-published, small press, and indie worlds.
Edwards is an unknown quantity to many in the Pacific Northwest comics community. “While I’ve been making comics for a while,” he says, “I haven’t been terribly active in the comic-making scene.” This will be his first time tabling at a comics show, let alone coordinating a whole festival, but thus far he seems up to the task. For one thing, he has an impressive resumé. From 2007–2010, Edwards was a state representative representing Oregon District 30, and his current day job as a market researcher involves project management. So as he discusses organizing a two-day festival with tabling, workshops, creator-to-creator panels, and more, he sounds nonchalant. “I’ve also written, directed, and produced a feature film,” he points out. “So it’s not half as logistically complicated as that.”
Early in the planning, Edwards linked up with Jason Leivian, owner of fest sponsor Floating World Comics, and impressed him with his thoughtfulness. “He was very mindful of wanting to learn about all the different comics communities in Portland,” Leivian says, “to make a show that would be inviting and representative to everyone.”
“I always liked when Stumptown Comics Fest was held at the Doubletree,” Leivian continues. “So I thought starting [Indie Con] there was a good move, but there’s a new generation of comics makers in town that never went to Stumptown, and maybe were barely here for Linework. So although people are projecting their expectations that this show will sort of pick up where Stumptown left off, it’s also someone else’s first comic show. These experiences can be transformative, inspiring, galvanizing, when they meet other creators and make new friendships in the comics community.”
“There’s a new generation of comics makers in town that never went to Stumptown, and maybe were barely here for Linework. So although people are projecting their expectations that this show will sort of pick up where Stumptown left off, it’s also someone else’s first comic show."-Jason Leivian, Floating World Comics
Edwards says his team leaned on Floating World and local creators to help get the word out so local artists would apply for the show. Portland creators Farel Dalrymple (The Wrenchies, It Will All Hurt) and Sloane Leong (Prism Stalker) jumped on the roster early. Dalrymple—who headlines as guest of honor—will also take part in one of the festival’s more charming ideas: creator-to-creator interviews. In Dalrymple’s case, he’ll converse with Craig Thompson (Blankets, Ginseng Roots) about “working on serialized stories versus graphic novels.”
“We’re keeping it kind of loose and coming up with some basic questions for each other. We work in such different manners,” Dalrymple says. “But we both question our process regularly and can relate to the challenges of staying motivated and trying to enjoy the journey.”
The creator to creator panels are inspired by the short-lived James Kochalka Conversation series, published by Top Shelf in 2011, wherein two artists sent pages back and forth, drawing on one another’s work as a philosophical conversation. “Rather than having a moderator ask the questions,” Edwards explains, “this is an effort to ensure each creator has an opportunity to explore topics they think are important.”
Portland Indie Con will also have a room for game developers, which Edwards entrusted to Will Carson of Attention Span Games. The room will host ongoing game demos with local creators as well as an opportunity for folks to check out independently produced games from an on-site library.
That’s a pretty common model at larger conventions, but it’s nice to see at a creator-focused show where attendees can pick up a few mini comics, check out a big name artist’s first attempt at a serialized story, take a workshop on risograph printing, try a game with new friends, and then listen to an engaging artist conversation—all in a single afternoon.