This year's Stumptown Comics Fest, held September 29 and 30 at the Lloyd Center Doubletree in Portland, Ore. (its fourth venue in four years of existence), was easily the biggest to date. The focus of the show is on individual artists more than publishers or stores, although a few Portland comics retailers were present, as well as Pacific Northwest publishers Oni Press (selling out $2 dent-and-dinged copies of back-catalogue graphic novels), Fantagraphics, Top Shelf and Dark Horse. But most of the show’s 128 exhibitor tables were occupied by cartoonists, largely from Oregon and Washington State—print and Web, indie and mainstream, hanging out and chatting with their readers and each other.
Organizer Kip Manley was happy to see the "excellent turnout" for the show, with well over a thousand attendees—about as many customers turned up on Saturday alone this year as on both days last year—and he reported that the programming that ran all weekend was generally well-attended. Panels included spotlights on the show’s guests Matt Wagner, Mike and Laura Allred, Shaenon Garrity, Ted Rall, Peter Bagge, Sarah Oleksyk and Carol Lay, as well as a life-drawing class from Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School and a full day of cartooning workshops.
There weren't a lot of new book collections offered this year—a few publishers mentioned that they were planning new releases for the Small Press Expo in a few weeks. There was an expanded hardcover edition of Carla Speed McNeil's Finder: Sin-Eater (Lightspeed Press) and the second collection of Christopher Baldwin's online strip Little Dee, both debuting at the show. But minicomics and handmade art objects were everywhere. Oleksyk premiered the second issue of her Ivy series, and other buzz books of the show included Mike Bertino’s experimental minicomic Pinwheel, Erika Moen’s DAR, and the nearly complete manuscript Paul Guinan was showing off of his long-awaited Boilerplate book.
A raucous Saturday night party at Cosmic Monkey Comics featured the now-traditional Cartoon Art Battle (in which pairs of artists took on five-minute challenges to draw, for instance, an original cartoon built around dialogue from an old Mary Worth comic strip) and the Trophy Awards, a new award for comics on display at the Fest, voted on by the show's attendees. (Disclaimer: I was on the awards’ ballot committee and sat in on a few Fest planning meetings.)
McNeil took home the Outstanding Debut award for Finder: Sin-Eater, while the trophies for Outstanding Art and Outstanding Writing respectively went to Joëlle Jones for 12 Reasons Why I Love Her (Oni Press) and Jason Shiga for Bookhunter (Sparkplug). The Maisie Kukoc Award for Comics Inspiration, a cash prize for minicomics, presented on Friday night at a party at Guapo Comics, was won by Andy Hartzell for the original (self-published) edition of Fox Bunny Funny.