stumptown in the ground



you’re looking at neil “the libido” brideau as he surveys the expanses of his dominion, affectionately referred to by his loyal subjects as the 2009 stumptown comics fest.

this man is the best table-mate anyone could ever ask for ever. he’s friendly and funny and brainy and he showed up both days with a box of vegan doughnuts and bags of soy jerky. he never once demonstrated the annoyance he most assuredly felt at hearing my “this-story-takes-place-over-the-course-of-a-year-and-is-thusly-laid-out-to-mimic-the-format-of-a-calandar” spiel literally hundreds of times, and his friend and host schlep even brought me a beautiful blue sheet with which to cover my table, because my own forgot to come to portland with me.

i shouldn’t even be telling you this, because now, knowing you, you’ll probably try to steal him from me, you frackin’ jerk.

but even if you aren’t sitting beside him, there are a lot of reasons to be happy this dude’s around. first of all, he arrived saturday morning with brand-new empty word-bubble tattoos on either forearm. i know, it’s almost too awesome to handle. then there’s his new all-ages mini, what is this, which will be published and distributed in may by the amazing uncle envelope paper arts subscription service. another new mini, entitled anxiolytic, recounts the anxiety dreams he had in anticipation of this very event. my copy had this original page taped into the back:


in anticipation of hugs, the first collection of his brilliant, bizarre, and deeply adorable webcomic sock-monster, is published by and available from short pants press. and of course, there’s my middle name is albert, collecting his lovingly remembered, shockingly honest, word-for-word autobiographical transcriptions of his haunted childhood, his untimely death and subsequent undeath, his robotic romance, and the time he ate a chef (the one faltering step from his otherwise strict veganism). and that doesn’t even include his boxes and baskets of free comics, buttons, and stickers.

in case you hadn’t yet noticed, i’m pretty gay for this kid (as is the stumptown trade review).

at the next table, the personable and prodigious mike lawrence was promoting the first issue of his new series, the salamander king, and selling large, lavish prints of its graceful pages. the story, to the extent it can be discerned from this first all-too-brief installment, reads like a eulogy for endangered suburban daydreams and the children responsible for (and to) them.

across the way stood the ever-affable josh shalek, always ready to greet my exhausted, unfocused gaze with a smile and a skyward thumb. i picked up a copy of the great wave of falling rock, the first collection of his charming webcomic, which offers a retrospective of its likable, quotable coterie in their formative strips.

and around the corner was corinne mucha, whose work is so wonderful and whimsical and honest and fun that i don’t even know what else to say about it. just get her comics. seriously.

in short, the neighborhood rocked.

i realized, when planning out the first oubliette, that i was creating a lot of work for myself with all the folding it would require. what didn’t register was how that work would multiply with each subsequent issue published.

girlcate folding

fortunately my table had an amazing and deeply under-compensated all-volunteer staff, headed up by boy blue’s director of field operations for folding initiatives, girlcate. it was a good thing, as these little rascals generated somewhat more interest than i’d anticipated, including a lovely write-up from garbanzo at stumptown trade review, and a flattering mention from lauren hudgins of describe the ruckus.

grego (whose butt features prominently in the newest addition to the oubliette) was responsible for the pineapple (won by an observant visitor during the festival’s final hour). he and his lovely assistant jessica helped dress the table, and even manned it so i could have some time to walk around and geek out, which is definitely what i miss most about not exhibiting.

greg and jessica

there were, of course, a lot of folks making clever use of folding formats, most notably the endlessly experimental and super-friendly jon chad. his mini-comic whaletowne is almost identical in construction to an oubliette, but notably more fun. the illustrations, reminiscent of colin thompson’s, make brilliant use of the ever-doubling page size, and the comic is actually packaged inside a whale. equally awesome is leo geo acquires ancient knowledge, which unfolds to reveal an informative guided tour of a perilous castle.

the here, eroyn franklin‘s affective execution of an accordion format, tells the story of a street (a neighborhood? a nation?) from, i would (and do) contend, three perspectives. the first, a conversation between longtime residents, reads from the front of the book to the back, and intersects with the second, a frustrated discussion between lost visitors, which begins at the end and ends at the outset. the third, which only becomes apparent when the entire book is unfanned, is the progression of scenery and architecture of which this unnamed but familiar place is in the midst.

and then there was trillian spencer‘s giant, striking, hand-silkscreened-on-newsprint account of a cryptic and unnerving mass job interview. it’s apparently the fifth and only installment of a larger story that i’m eager to see expanded.

over at the boston kids’ table i picked up the fluffboy comic, which includes a “marshmelodrama” by superfriends liz prince, joe quinones, and maris wicks that documents the process by which fluff is made in loving, carefully researched detail. in fact, having twice shared in the joy of peering through the glass into the franz bread factory with these folks (*highly recommended*), i suspect i actually witnessed some of said research being conducted.

also out of beantown came robert sergel‘s eschew, a sad and unsettlingly sterile diary comic that employs an architectural precision to illustrate communicative breakdown. in its first story, two kids need to get plastered just to connect. this backfires in the usual way, and as the book progresses, it seems to suggest that the only person you can ever really be honest with is your cat.

who knew boston had so much to offer the world?

i, like you, can’t believe we’re still in the recommended reading section of this post. but there was actually this much good stuff floating around this year, so stick with me.

like, for example, bird hurdler, a second strong collection from a coalition of portland’s indie presses. (last year’s edition, you may remember, went by “nerd burglar,” and i’d like to take this opportunity to register my vote that next year’s be titled “word turtler.”) highlights include julia gfroerer‘s vivid recollection of her encounter with a witch-king, and theo ellsworth‘s harrowing cautionary tale about the perils of sharing one’s bed.

i also picked up mssr. ellsworth’s gilded “narrative sketchbook,” always somewhere nearby, whose illustrations, mind-boggling in their intricacy and expressive abstraction, leave me feeling disappointed at the mundanity of the waking world.

the ninth papercutter anthology is its usual awesome, elegantly produced self. it hosts some particularly compelling visual storytelling from hellen jo, and one of my favorite nate beaty endpaper illustrations to date.

randall kirby‘s bop! comics made me laugh. kind of a lot. it’s a real rarity for a humor comic.

i highly recommend a visit to lacey van nortwick‘s flickr stream, where you will find a wealth of breathtaking and affective drawings, illustrations, comics, and other treasures i wouldn’t even attempt to classify.

if you haven’t yet found your way into jonathan case‘s strange, smart, exquisitely illustrated sea freak, well, you should get on that. it’s a damn-near perfect comic, the kind of thing that’s simultaneously deeply humbling and intensely motivating.

i decided, after pre-ordering the fourth chapter of sarah oleksyk‘s virtuosic ivy, that i wasn’t even going to read the preview she was handing out, so as not to spoil it for myself. it was like hovering over an open bag of cookies, and i lasted maybe ten minutes.

also, someone traded me these great little stickers. i wish i could figure out who.


my host was dear friend and local entrepreneur jed lazar, which means i basically lived on soupcycle soups for the last week. having done so, i can, without any hesitation, advise any among the shrinking number of portlanders who hasn’t yet soupscribed to do so. i certainly would, but for some dumb reason they’re unwilling to bike to greenpoint.

every successive trip to portland makes it harder to remember what about my current digs seemed like a good idea. it smells good and they’ve got way cooler dogs and seriously, people, pick-up games of capture-the-flag. if only it were possible to have a city so beautiful without everyone being so freakin’ friendly all the time.

until next year, city of roses and allergies and freakishly helpful kinko’s employees.

me and my pinapple
photo: ocean yamaha

3 comments on “stumptown in the ground”

  1. Hi. Thanks for linking to us. I noticed that you had misspelled my name. I have an “ins” rather than the possibly more common (but definitely more infamous) “ens.”

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