"I'm Burnin', I'm Burnin', I'm Burnin' for [comics]"
How an Ohio comics convention rekindled that loving feeling for the sequential form
This October, I (Nora) was lucky to experience some of Ohio’s thriving comic scene in the form of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC).
CXC is an absolute powerhouse of comic delights. The geographic location, squarely in the center of the state, at the nexus of highways going in all directions, feels appropriate to CXC’s environment, where one can find a panel on lettering (“What We Talk About When We Talk About Bad Lettering”), a roundtable on the intersections of “Punk and Comics,” a kid-friendly talk from Raina Telgemeier, and a night with the inimitable Dan Clowes. Enter the book fair and you feel the same accessible and welcoming vibes, with tables from established publishers and artists, to the zines and minicomics of up and comers. No corner of the comics world is made to feel unwanted.
No matter how old I am, walking the floors of a con makes my heart beat faster and skin sweat. For me, it’s a heady combination of approachable talent–I still can’t believe that the illustrator of March, a book I’ve taught in numerous classes and witnessed the moving effects of, is right there, open to conversation. That the creator of Fetch and Calling Dr. Laura took such care in signing a book for me. And the mind behind Your Black Friend and Sports Is Hell will talk with me about football while I figure out what book of his to buy next. CXC made my dormant fan girl (of the medium, the history, the community!) bubble to the surface. After a long period of most of my sequential art time going to teaching comics, and trying to make deadlines for an academic article (oh the formatting…the formatting!), to be reminded of my old love and that original inciting incident that pushed me deeper into my hometown library’s stacks, was like a time warp. The hush of a darkened auditorium waiting for Daniel Clowes to speak (and damn, he is worth hearing) made me feel 20 something again, magnetic with a burning impatience to see what would pour from Seth or Anders Nilsen or Lynda Barry on a cold Chicago night. (My past with comics in Chicago is another post; shout out to Devil’s Due Publishing for my professional entry to the comics world!).
And Clowes was great–funny, wise, informative–but what really animated the old synapses was the post reading-reading, at a local brewery. I had never seen a comics reading at a bar, didn’t even understand, really, how that happened (would they just project an image for us to read silently?)! They are comics, after all, needing that visual and sequence. But, the creators knew how and wove such funny, terrible, awesome, and fearsome tales with their projected comics, voices, deliveries, insights. I had known of some of the creators, but many were new to me, and their work will be stuff I eagerly follow.
I guess what I want to say about CXC is that it revealed that no matter where you are at in your comics journey, in that continuum of career or creation, you should put yourself in situations that remind you of the pure pleasure of the form and innovation of the formers. Whether that’s in your town’s local convention, an online or in-person workshop, your library or local comic book store, a drink n’ draw, or a comics reading, there is worth in protecting that initial love, and when you can, letting some oxygen in to create new flame.
Some more highlights!
-attending a bittersweet panel on the end of The Nib. It was a stark reminder of the true loss, but, I was introduced to Emi Gennis’ reporting on the “urine therapy” community in a very memorable way!
-learning that the Emerging Talent Prize winner, Evan Salazar, is from Tucson, AZ - I love hearing about Southwest comics and really dug his work in Rodeo #1, which I picked up there.
I wanted to give a shout out to another convention I got to experience in the Buckeye state - Lit Youngstown’s annual fall conference is a gem of an event, bringing in creators, thinkers, teachers, students, and more to the plucky rust belt backdrop of Youngstown, OH. I had the pleasure of presenting on poetry comics, many of the ideas forged along with the beautiful brain of Amaris.
Also, I think O.F. Stapledon could use a little reminder of the alchemy evident in comics, as evidenced by his interview on the “end of comics history” in Solrad. Pronouncements were made! Feathers were ruffled (including mine)! What do you think about his belief that “comics have stopped developing as a form?” Let us know below. Or tell us about a recent heart pounding comic experience!