Stumptown Comics Fest

Nerd Prom 2010


This is just awful. I can't imagine a piece more insulting to the show and the local comics community in general. I am offended on both a personal and a professional basis.

It's a shame that with the huge number of talented, professional cartoonists in this city, Main and Parker were the best the Mercury could find.
"Nerd-Prom. For Losers."


Les, I couldn't agree with you more. I dig tongue-in-cheek humor as much as the next sassy, martini-swingin' gal, but a shout-out about the fest through the Mercury is an incredible opportunity to reach out to loads of folks who aren't aware that Portland is home to an incredibly vibrant comics community full of folks who are not only talented, but also warm, friendly, approachable, and down to earth. Way to spread the good word about our industry and our hometown show, you two: Stumptown Comics Fest! Come for the attitude. Stay for the snark.
I concur as one of those "Pros". In the past the your publication laureled the attempts of this con. Who did Stumptown piss off at the Mercury? I can write a better article than they did!
Ms. Main posted on her Facebook pages draft versions of dialog balloons, as well as whole panels, that were rejected or changed by the Mercury. The earlier versions were funnier and much less mean-spirited that what was printed. Combine that fact with the cover of this week's issue, which is a clear and direct insult to the comics community, and it sure looks like the Mercury has an anti-Stumptown agenda. What gives?
Another "pro" here. I agree: if you're asked to write/draw a comic pimping a local comics festival, you're probably better off not creating a strip that takes weird jabs at the talent hosted at said event (what's up with the Craig Thompson panel?) and mocking the crowd most likely to show up at the event, even if what you're writing is supposed to be ironic.

When paired with the sloppy art, the strip doesn't come off as funny or ironic, it just comes off as lazy, self-indulgent, and annoyingly too-cool-for-school. The Stumptown Comics Fest (and it's associated staff, exhibitors and attendees) deserve a little better.
I'm sure this is going to be redundant at this point, but I fumed for two days and can't just keep quiet.

I'm sure the "talent" and editors working on this project thought they had some grand Wildean satire on their hands. However, the final product is neither clever, cheeky, fun nor cute. (All things I get the feeling Ms. Maine and Mr. Parker strive for, but frankly fail at.)
All it manages to come across as is vain, juvenile bathroom trash-talk.
The creators present themselves as stylish social creatures who are stooping to grace the Fest with their presence. The egoism involved is astonishing and the implications held in several lines (especially the afore mentioned "nerd prom", also conveniently the title) are downright degrading.
Though the art has some technical merit, the content is appalling. The writing is flat, boring, and cruel.
The real question is, what do the creators gain from trashing an event that -they will be present at- (and presumably attempting to sell their wares)? I can't see a point other than some masturbatory self-vindication of a superiority complex.
And what does the Mercury stand to gain from running such a derogatory piece other than alienating a large and well-loved Portland community?
I guess it's clear from their choices that they aren't concerned with that alienation. Paired with the disgrace of a cover (1/3 of the comic industry lives in their city and this is the best they can do?) this weeks issue is nothing short of insulting.
And though I do accept that editors change things to suit their aim, and that contributors don't have the pull the probably should, by accepting the edits and running this comic Ms. Maine and Mr. Parker have effectively given a big old middle finger to their own community.
Classy guys.
I agree with Les, Samantha and Booster Gold. Well said, guys.
There's a reason I don't read the Mercury.

This... actually isn't it. This is a low I hadn't seen you folks hit before. As offended as I am, as a comics fan and a member of the local comics community, I'm most of all perplexed on who on earth thought this was a good idea. I have friends on your staff... including a published comics writer... and this just seems bizarre.

And that cover. Man. You usually run some ugly crap that has nothing to do with your content. Why did you chose this week to have the ugly crap be a topical insult?

You guys confuse me.
Wow. I was really bummed I was unable to get out of working this weekend to head to Stumptown. I am a lot less bummed to know that my working my day job will prevent me from possibly having to socially interact with the likes of Mz. Maine and Mr. Parker.
That comic was childish and rude.
If it's intent was to turn artists and fans away from this festival... well, it was a success. Kudos to the "writer" and "artist".
An unfortunate waste of an opportunity to present the comics communities' biggest event to the greater Portland community. This doesn't sell Stumptown at all, or make it seem welcoming... and it reads as a giant in-joke to those already attending.
This doesn't read as an "in-joke." It would have to contain something funny in order for it to be a joke.
Meh, I'm going anyway.
C'mon. It IS a nerd-prom. For losers.
@ Paul, and everyone else who has decided the Merc is anti-Stumptown:

Our entire books section is devoted to comics this week. (It was last week, too—and I'm just about positive we run more comics coverage throughout the year than any other local paper.) And while you might object to the cover, it was commissioned and conceived by an artist appearing at Stumptown (as was the feature, for that matter). We also listed Stumptown as a pick in our My, What a Busy Week! section, and we've covered it every year since it began. If you don't like the comic, you don't like the comic—but that hardly constitutes grounds for concluding that the Mercury has a bias against Stumptown.

Also, I'm not sure what original drafts Carol posted on her Facebook page, but our #1 concern about their first draft was its mean-spiritedness. The final draft was tempered considerably.
From Ms. Main's Facebook: "Don't even get me started on the friction. They can cry themselves to the "bank for babies" for all I care. Yes, You heard me right."

Really? That's the angle you're choosing? Many of these people who were subject to a beating in the comic are my friends, and ALL of them treat Stumptown as one of the biggest moments of the year to display their hard work and achievements in what they do. It doesn't help having such a mindless attack published to our fair city. Not sure who should take the blame, but whoever does should be ashamed of themselves. That was a mindless sucker punch.
Hey Alison, I just wanted to say that I really have appreciated how supportive of comics and the Fest that the Mercury has been in the past. Please don't take it too personally that people are lashing out at the vessel (your paper) because they're offended by the content (that piece of trash comic). Please do keep up the good work and know that it really is appreciated, even if people have been riled up because of one turd. (Oh, and maybe don't bring back this particular "creative" team in the future ;)
That the Mercury has been otherwise supportive of the comics fest is part of what makes this so bewildering. It's the tonal equivalent of yelling "Fuck you!" in the middle of an otherwise friendly conversation.
This sort of thing seems to be epidemic in media coverage of pop culture conventions. The inaugural year of a sci-fi and anime convention in Madison, WI, the local rag (technically the "newspaper of record" for the entire state) published a terribly drawn comic above the fold that insinuated similar things, and included what we could only assume was a furry standing in the background of one panel. Making fun of nerds is good copy, I guess.
Over the past few years, I have seen the hard work of the festival organizers and every professional who takes part in this show turn it from a tiny local weekend 'fest into a show nationally recognized in the national comics community as one of the best of the year. It is a show I personally spend weeks preparing for, because it is my hometown showcase of both immense talent and the goodwill of the community. When a self-aggrandizing, pointless attack comes from within, as in this case, and is then given the singular chance to disseminate that nastiness to the entire town via the Mercury only days before the show, it is a mind-boggling and hurtful event. Though I don't know Mr. Parker, I have known Ms. Main for years and never imagined such vitriol lurked under the surface, aimed at the very community of people who have embraced her as one of their own. This incoherent mess fell far short of its target of "loving parody" and went straight into a cess-slinging smearjob.

What a disappointment. If this was the "tempered" and "less mean-spirited" version, I'd hate to see the original. This was ugly, both in execution and in spirit.
Jesus, if all the Mercury wanted to shit out a terrible comic about the Stumptown Comics Fest designed to alienate comic book professionals and potential attendees alike, I would've done it for free:

I've seen some claims online that it was the Mercury editor that forced Parker and Main's hand towards making the comic more mean-spirited than what it was originally supposed to be, but after seeing a few panels from the original version floating around online, it's obvious that it was Parker and Main's original intent to be hipper-than-thou mean-spirited jackasses from the start.

I'm the last goddamned person on the planet to think that the Stumptown Comics Fest should be treated with awed reverence, but this comic (when combined with this week's "OMG COMICS=NERDS DUR HUR" cover) was just a big mistake.
Wow, nerds have thin skin.
Jeez guys, relax! I guess some people see vitriolic smearjobs in anything...

Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Calm down people. The comic was drawn by a nerd for nerds. If you don't understand self deprecating humor than perhaps you should stick with Family Circus.
Word Nerd!
I put up a post about this whole kerfuffle:…
Throughout the last couple weeks I have been looking for a good reason to go to this year's Comic Fest (I have been to all but the first). Still no reason to go this year. Disappointing.
The comic shouldn't have been drawn "for nerds" or whatever dumb stereotype Stumptowns audience is perceived to be limited to. Considering this show hasn't had as much outward promotion (it seems to me) as in past years this was a prime attempt to get the word out to as many people as possible... preferably a large number of non-comics readers. This does the opposite and its one of the biggest pieces of media that non comics people/ the general portland population is going to see.

There are a LOT of people who work very hard through-out the year to come to this show (and others like) it to help make rent and food money. This isn't just a club meeting or a giant portland comics scene pat on the back... for some this show is a boost to their livelihood. It's their jobs... some spend real money and real time to invest in making the products they sell and in getting to attend. I don't think its out of bounds for many of them to want that to not be perceived as a just a gross joke or reduced to a stereotype in front of the largest potential audience they might have. Self depreciating humor is one thing... this doesn't have that. Its just dumb.
What an overboiling crock of self-important horseshit. Even as--or maybe especially as--a gigantic comics fan, I'm embarrassed that a small group of people who spend their time writing and/or drawing comics lack the ability to laugh at themselves. I mean, seriously, your genre is called COMICS.

Lastly, just because you've thrown some doodles into your stupid little emo diary doesn't make you a comic creator. Oh, Portland.
Mercury, Allison, Erik, Carolyn, sorry everyone's so sensitive. To those losing their shit over this, our town and our indie comics fest will be just fine. No, it's not a club meeting, it's a great show that people come from thousands of miles away to see, and this comic doesn't take away one bit of that. This strip is a roast, guys, and most of the Mercury's readers are probably hip enough to understand that. The Mercury has done a lot for the comics fest, and if they didn't do all of it with the proper awe and reverence, I'm sure you can go read some boring shit in the Willamette Week.
The real crime here is what a poorly executed turd this comic is. The group that should be most offended is humans with eyes.
I am writing as Carol's sister, and I can attest that she is the biggest nerd I know. Calm the hell down. It was a joke. If you can do something better, than do it.
Damn! You people attacking this comic are acting like I would imagine Moslem fanatics would act if their prophet were denigrated in their eyes by, say a Comedy Central animation show.

I can only wonder how batshit crazy you would all get if one of the nerds turned out to be Santa dressed up in a furry costume.
Seriously, you nerds need to chill the fuck out.
Comic book fans and Mercury readers -

As a co-creator of the comic currently causing so much ruckus on this website, I have no obligation to explain or justify any of the content that you find so objectionable, but as a friend of Carolyn Main and Alison Hallet, I do in fact feel the need to jump into this conversation. Alison approached Carol and I to make this comic because she knows of Carolyn's deep-rooted connection to the Stumptown event itself (you have no doubtedly seen her handing out awards to all of you professionals in past years), and our love of independent comics. We were honored that she came to us to do this feature, and excited about including as many references to our favorite characters and artists that we possibly could, while still making something that was entertaining and self-contained as a story. We went through a lot of ideas, and the one that jumped out at us as being the most fun to make was the one where all of the comics came to life and fought some unkown enemy, as it would make for a lot of unique pairings and give us lot of room to show off the character designs of our favorite artists and comic creators. However, we were in no way interested in giving all of these artists visual handjobs - we buy their books, we promote their work among our circle of friends, they have our support - so we thought instead of blowing kisses up their skirts that we would make harmless little jokes at their expense, some of them a tad meaner than others, but all of it out of respect. For example, the meanest joke in the piece is made at Jeffrey Brown, and I personally am big fan of his work and own all of his books. I love Jeffrey Brown, all three of us do, which is why Carolyn and I mention his name and give him his own panel that he shares with Nicole Georges and Greg "Clutch McBasterd," two more journal comic artists (local) that we love to pieces. You should also know that the second panel in the comic, the one about Craig Thompson, originally contained the line, "Blankets... how appropriate, all the damn thing did was lull me to sleep," a line that was cut to apparently protect you, the reader, from what most consider mild snarkiness (now that I've whitnessed all this hubub over nothing, I can see why it was cut). This is what we call a joke, people. You can say it's dumb, or cheap, or too easy, but I think it's funny, and what makes it even funnier to me, is how much I love that book. I have purchased Blankets three seperate times in my life but don't own a copy, because I keep giving it away to friends who need it. That's how much that book means to me. I give it to people I care about when they are in a bad place emotionally. If Craig Thompson sees this, and is offended by this joke we made, well then fuck Craig Thompson. As much as I like his work, if he can not take a joke, and if his fans can not take a joke, then I want nothing to do with any of them. He's famous, he sells lots of books, I've bought three of them at twenty-nine bucks a pop - I think I've paid the price to make a joke, and one would think the boy could handle it.

Through the process of making this comic, Alison Hallet was very supportive of both Carolyn and me, and clearly understood what we were going for. She knows where we are coming from and gets the joke of the piece, and she believed, as we all did, that the general audience would see through the schtick and recognize how much we like, respect, and care about comics. Our first draft of the story was 32 panels, and it had a lot more references, positive and "negative", and made more sense as a story, but we had to cut it down for space. It was out of our hands, there was no more space to give us, and because of that none of us could publish the comic we wanted to publish the way we wanted to publish it. Carol and I even turned in an alternate comic to try and eliminate the problems with sizing, but it just didn't have the same zip (and believe it or not it was even "meaner" than what's in the paper now, but you must remember, this is when we assumed that the Portland comics crowd had a sense of humor). So with no other options, the three of us took a hatchet to our original comic and ended up with what is displayed before you. Not our best work - it says "Words by Riley Michael Parker" but that is hardly even the case anymore - but considering our limitations, I feel like we did a swell job (and there were MANY limitations, in size, content, et cetera, from sources outside of mine, Carolyn's, and even Alison's control). Now I'm not about to get it tattooed on my back or anything, but I am proud of the comic, and everyone involved with it, and feel no need to apologize to anyone about its content or tone. It could have been better, but that could be said about just about everything. And here we are.

Also, it's pretty. Carol did a fine job with her line work - Fone Bone looks like Fone Bone, Boilerplate looks like Boilerplate - and they all fit together fairly well. I noticed that some of the people leaving rude comments about our comic are other comic people who already don't get along with Carolyn and/or me for other reasons, and that just cracks me up. The Mercury didn't ask you, they asked us. You don't like our comic, we don't like yours, or you, and that's why you didn't end up in one of our panels. Get over yourselves. Move on.

And keep the insults coming, if that's what you feel you need to do. We have a sense of humor and can laugh it all off, and we all know internet fanboys have nothing better to do, which is how you became internet fanboys in the first place. We know our intentions with the comic, the respect that we hold for the industry and for the creative people working within the medium, and we stand by our work. My only regret is that we cut most of the "mean" jokes from the final product, as I now wish we would have left them in and really given you something to bitch and moan about.

So long Mercury readers, I'm off to have a cocktail and get on with my life, as I suggest you do as well. And to you my dear Carolyn Main and Alison Hallet, if either of you wonderful, talented, and accomplished young women want to join me for a drink, well you know where to find me.
At the point at which the editorial hack and slash was required to get something to press, it might have been sensible to print the one you liked for distribution (ritual burning, whatever) at the Merc booth and gone with yet another gushing review/event listing of the event itself. Because I agree, the dichotomy between the coverage of Stumptown and the coverage of the comedy thing was striking to a reader with no stake in either of them.
I agree that the anger toward the comic is unnecessary at best and damaging to the reputation of comic nerds at worst. I have very little desire to be involved in a group that grabs their torches and pitchforks over something so obviously not mean-spirited. I hope you kids realize what you've done and go to your rooms until you've sorted some things out.
That strip is fine. I think the cranky people are blowing it way out of proportion, and honestly, given the way the Mercury loves to piss people off over shitty comics like Dinosaur Comics, you're actually doing exactly what they want.
I ran into someone from the Mercury at the Comics Fest. They summed it up by saying "I think I'm going to go to the Bridgetown Comedy Fest where people know how to laugh at themselves."

Lighten up people. It's free press, which is better than getting no press at all. Which, I have a feeling, will happen next year.
As an independent comic creator for the past twenty years, I thought this strip was hilarious and in no way insulting. All you folks all in a constipated bind about this need to grow some thicker skin. If this is what gets the comics community out there all riled up, I'll buy you all a baby soother. Lighten up!! Yeesh...
Actually, based on his laborious overexplanation above, the writer of the comic strip seems to be the most sensitive about his "art" - and by taking himself this seriously, he seems the most unable to laugh at himself.

The strip art looks okay. But the writing didn't work. Comic fans = nerds? cutting edge! This just in: retired people like to eat dinner at 4pm buffets! Ha! You know what I'm talking about, people. Good stuff.
Wait, was that joke (Joe) from the new Techno Tuesday? Usually it just is about technology but I'm waiting to hear about how old people do funny stuff too.
Comic book fans to Mercury: "You have no right to publish what you want!"
Mercury to readers: "We don't care what you think, or if we've offended you!"

Both are wrong. But the one true thing about the Mercury is it's taking the Stranger's path to being a paper that is down on everything, unless it is about someone that works for the paper or is dating them. I hoped it wouldn't happen, but it seems DS's tentacles can reach at least 200 miles. Your sardonic whit and insight into what only you know is cool is so refreshing!
I wanted to leave a witty retort, but the button for "BALLOON DIALOGUE" is missing from the preview / post comment menu.
Are "Nerds"still the hip trend?I think the do-do needs a comeback.