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3 Days in the (Willamette) Valley

by  in Comic News Comment
3 Days in the (Willamette) Valley

Or; how to piss your wife off simply by going away!

On 20-21 September, I visited the Rose City Comic Con. I didn’t get to Emerald City this year, because real-world stuff interfered, so I was very keen to get to Portland for this convention. You might recall that I lived in Portland from 1993-2001, but I hadn’t been back since, and as both my wife and I are quite keen to move back, this was a fine opportunity to check in and visit some old haunts as well as talk to excellent comics creators. So away I went!

I decided to fly in on Thursday the 18th, because I wanted to catch up with some friends of mine. While I was communicating with some of my old friends, one of them – my ex-Latin tutor – offered me a place to stay. She has a “retreat” attached to her house – it’s a decent-sized room with a bathroom, and she told me I could stay there. That was pretty keen, because the motel I had gotten was more expensive than renting a car (which I wasn’t going to do, as the motel was right on a main road and Portland has great public transportation), and I ended up saving some money. I got in on Thursday afternoon, got my car, and drove into town. I cursed a lot as I drove, as in: “I love this fucking town!” I really do. Portland is awesome.

I got settled and then told my host that I was taking her out to dinner. She called her boyfriend and we all went out to Foster Burger. My host said that they had really good burgers, and she was absolutely correct. I got a burger with a fried egg on it, because absolutely nothing can’t be made better by throwing a fried egg on it. We also had French fries … with squid ink. Yep:

After that, I told them we were going to Rimsky-Korsakoffee House. My lovely wife and I used to go to Rimsky’s quite often, and we always had a grand time. It’s a cool place – there’s no sign, so you kind of have to know it’s there, and it has some weird stuff going on inside. One table rotates like a clock, very slowly. One table goes up and down, one goes into the wall, and each table is dedicated to a different composer. The bathroom is bizarre, with a mannequin in a canoe that freaks you right the hell out when you walk in even if you know it’s there, while the walls are painted as if you’re underwater and there are two legs dangling from the ceiling. It’s a kooky place. My host hadn’t been to Rimsky’s in years, and she thought it would be dead, but there was a piano player and a bunch of people enjoying themselves. It was a groovy scene.

I spent the next day driving around the city and getting reacquainted with it. I drove all over the place – downtown, up to the Northwest, back downtown, then into the Southwest for a while. I drove past two of our old apartments, then up to Council Crest, which is the highest spot in the city. I drove back down to the Southeast, past the final place we lived in Portland (in Sellwood), and then up to Excalibur Comics. Excalibur is awesome. It was the store I went to for almost the entire time I lived in Portland (it took me a few months to find it), and it’s still the best comic book store I’ve ever shopped at. I’ll have to write it up soon, because it’s that excellent. Then I had to meet another friend of mine for lunch downtown at Tandoor. She works at the Bancorp Tower at 111 5th, affectionately known as the “Big Pink,” and Tandoor is about a block away, so we met and ate their buffet, which is pretty damned good. I was already eating well!

On Friday night, I went out with my tutor again, this time to the Veritable Quandary. The VQ is another one of our favorite restaurants, and it’s another place my tutor hadn’t been in decades, so she was jazzed about it. It’s a wonderful restaurant, and we had a great time. We sat on the terrace, and it was an absolutely beautiful night in Portland. Thursday had been a bit overcast, but by Friday, it was gorgeous, and the night was balmy and clear. We ate fantastic food and drank excellent alcohol, and we had a wonderful time. When I was leaving, I mentioned that I was heading over to the con, and they told me that an ex-employee was exhibiting there and I needed to check him out. Did I? DID I?!?!?!? You’ll just have to read on, won’t you? While I was eating dinner, I exchanged a few texts with my wife, which is why she was pissed off. She wanted to come with me, but we couldn’t get my parents out to Arizona to watch the kids, so she had to stay home with them. I need to pre-book my parents a year in advance, I guess, because I think my wife would kill me in my sleep if I went back to Portland next year without her.

The next day, it was time to head to the con. I used to go to the conventions in Portland back in the Nineties, when they were run by a different group. Rose City, I think, is now run by the same people who run Emerald City, and they did a nice job. Back in the day, the cons were in the basement of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and they were okay, I guess, but nothing special. Recently, the Stumptown Comics Fest joined with Rose City, and while I would have liked to go to Stumptown, I figured there would be a lot of neat comics creators at Rose City, and I wasn’t wrong. Plus, Portland has become a mecca for comics creators. There’s far too many creators to list who actually live in the city, and it’s just one more reason why it’s the most awesome city in the country. You know it’s true!!!!

This time, the con was held at the Oregon Convention Center, which is a much nicer venue than the Coliseum. The con is not very old – I think it’s the third or possibly fourth year it’s been held – and it was crowded but not packed, which was nice. I got my media badge (I try to abuse my position in Jonah’s CBR empire as much as possible) and hit the con. Before I started checking out the people I wanted to talk to, I wanted to check out some of the publishers and whatnot. Almost immediately I found Andres Salazar, writer of Pariah, Missouri. You might recall that our own Other Greg, Mr. Hatcher, reviewed this comic, but what you may not know is that Mr. Salazar sent the digital copy to me, too. Did I review it? Of course not, because I’m terrifically behind on reviews – those daily posts continue to kick my ass (which is why this post is almost three weeks late, as well). I told Salazar that I felt bad about not reviewing it, but that the samples Greg showed were enough to make me really excited about it, so I was glad he was at the con so I could give him some money. Not only that, but he had a hardcover with “director’s commentary,” and I’m a total sucker for stuff like that. So now I have a groovy hardcover of Pariah, Missouri. Now I just have to read it!

I wandered around a bit and ended up at the Boom! booth, because I figured they might have some Lumberjanes swag that I could buy for my daughter (she digs the comic and swag). Sitting there was Aubrey Aiese, the letterer of Lumberjanes, who I had met in Phoenix in June with my daughter. She vaguely remembered me (mainly because of my daughter, who’s awesome), and we talked a bit while she was signing copies of the comic, as it is, of course, wildly popular (as well it should be). Like a sucker, I bought the “convention exclusive” of issue #6, the cover of which Aiese drew (she’s a good artist), and I asked her to sign it so I could give it to my daughter (I was getting the regular issue #6 at my store the next Wednesday). My daughter, naturally, was very happy to get MOAR SWAGGE.

I visited the usual suspects, creators I really like talking to (I have no idea if they enjoy talking to me – I’d rather not go there!). I stopped at Lucy Bellwood’s booth, where I picked up her latest comic, plus the six extant issues of Cartozia Tales, to which she is a contributor. The idea is neat – a bunch of creators came up with a map of a fantasy world, and they divided the map up. Each creator told a story set in that part of the world in the first issue, then switched to a different section in subsequent issues, where they could pick up the story or just come up with new stories from that part of the world. Bellwood told me they’re planning ten issues, and you can check out more about the series here. Then I said hello to Natalie Nourigat, who had recently returned from a year in France. Nourigat is a good artist who’s just getting better, and her graphic novel with Jamie Rich, A Boy and a Girl, was one of last year’s best. She was nice enough to give me the three issues of It Girl and the Atomics she drew, and of course I haven’t read them yet. Yes, I suck. It was great to say hello to Nourigat, because she’s awesome. I wandered over to say hello to Jeff Parker, who introduced me to Sandy Jarrell, with whom he did Meteor Men. They had copies of the book, but of course I couldn’t buy it, because I pre-ordered it! Confound it! It should be out pretty soon (next week, I think), so I’ll get it then. I’m looking forward to it! Then I chatted with Steve Lieber for a few minutes, because I always like talking to Lieber. I bought the second trade of Superior Foes of Spider-Man from him and got a nice sketches from him and Rich Ellis, who drew an issue in the trade. I told Lieber that I was impressed the title actually made it as long as it did, and he said it was pretty cool of Marvel to let Nick Spencer wrap up his story instead of just canceling the book out from under him. That’s always nice.

Of course, I always have to stop and say hello to my two most favorite people in comics, Erika Moen and Dylan Meconis. It’s always excellent to talk to them and their significant others, who are also awesome. Meconis is preparing the second volume of her webcomic, Family Man, for print, so I’m looking forward to that, and Moen will have a print version of her webcomic, Oh Joy Sex Toy, out soon. I’m bummed that I didn’t know about the Kickstarter for it, because I would have pledged something for it! So I’m looking forward to those books. You should really give Meconis and Moen all your money, because they’re so very cool and their comics are superb. If I haven’t convinced you about that yet, I fear for your taste in comics. I really do.

Meconis told me to check out Sam Orchard, so I did. I know what’s good for me! Orchard is a New Zealander cartoonist, and he’s a hell of a nice guy. I bought some stuff from him, because that’s why you go to conventions! Orchard was touring the States for the first time, and I hope he had a good time. It’s always nice to meet new comics creators! I also found Colin Westerfield, the ex-employee of the Veritable Quandary. Westerfield was selling White Knuckle Birthday, the comic he and artist Mac Cooper created a few years ago. They’re launching a Kickstarter on 17 October to get the entire thing printed, so check out their web site if you’re interested. Westerfield and Cooper were nice guys to talk to, and I’m keen to see the rest of their project. Plus, Westerfield attends Pacific University in Hillsboro, Oregon, where he’s training to be an occupational therapist. As someone who knows that OTs are in short supply in this world, I think his choice of vocation is pretty awesome.

After saying hello to Orchard, I wandered over to Brandon Seifert’s table, which he was sharing with Lukas Ketner and Zack Davisson. Seifert and Ketner, you might recall, are the creators of Witch Doctor, which is tremendous comic, and Seifert has been writing some other stuff for a while. I picked up the trade of Seekers of the Weird, which he wrote for Marvel (Karl Moline does the art), because when it was solicited, I figured it would be a good thing to trade-wait and also because I think my daughter would like it. Davisson has translated a bunch of manga and has a new book coming out about Japanese ghost stories. He has book launch parties in Seattle next Friday and the following Saturday, if you’re interested!

My next stop was Jason Copland, who I met a few years ago after following his artwork for several years. Copland is an excellent dude, and it’s always fun to chat with him. I’ve been Facebook friends with him for a while now, so I communicate with him every once in a while, but of course there’s no substitute for actually talking to someone face-to-face. Copland and I talked for a while about a variety of comics-related topics, which is always neat to do with actual creators. Copland, you might recall, is the artist on POP, which I checked out here. He’s a superstar in the making, I tells ya! Go buy POP, ya nuts!

Earlier in the day, I had seen Joëlle Jones, who said she technically wasn’t at the con, as she was just doing one panel. I was disappointed, for reasons I’ll get into right now. Later that day I stopped by to see Jamie Rich, who is a frequent collaborator with Jones. I bought their comic, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, even though I’ve owned it for a while. Why would I buy it again? Well, a few months ago, my wife was putting food in our freezer, and she accidentally left some chicken out … on top of the book shelf in the garage that holds some of my comics. So of course it melted, and chicken grease dripped down over some of the books. I was able to replace a few of them, but my copy of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her was ruined. RUINED!!!! I’ve replaced the other comics, but my copy of that comic was signed by both Rich and Jones when I bought it in San Diego in 2009. So I was a bit bummed. I told Rich about it, and asked if he could sign and maybe get Jones to sign it and mail it to me, and he told me that after her panel, she was doing a quick signing at the Dark Horse booth and then she was leaving. So that made me happy. I got them both to sign it, and life was good!

I made it over to the booth where Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari were hanging out. I’ve been a fan of Fialkov for a long time, and it’s always fun to talk to him. I hadn’t met Infurnari yet, but I’ve enjoyed his stuff for a while, too. They were selling The Bunker, of course, but I’ve been buying it since it started, so I couldn’t give them money for that, but Infurnari was selling his issues of Time Fucker, so I bought those. Yes, Time Fucker. It’s about a guy who goes back in time to have revenge sex with other people’s mothers. Because why not? I haven’t read it yet, but come on – I had to buy it! I also forgot to tell Fialkov how keen I was that Punks: The Comic was coming back. The first issue came out this week, and you really owe it to yourself to go check it out.

My last stop of the day took me to Dan Schkade’s and Jesse Snavlin’s booth. They’re the creators behind San Hannibal, which is quite an awesome comic, and it was nice to meet them in San Diego, so it was nice to talk to them again. I picked up their collaboration, The Private Files of the Fowl, which is very keen-looking. Go buy San Hannibal – it’s a good comic! Travis likes it!

It was late in the day, and I was ready to head out. I had taken the bus, which in retrospect was a bad idea. I was tired, my shoulder hurt, and I didn’t feel too good. I wasn’t sure why – I usually have a pretty good constitution, and I had eaten lunch with another friend, so I wasn’t starving (believe me, it’s very easy to forget to eat at conventions, at least for me). But I felt like crap. And I had to wait for the bus. So that sucked.

I was going to go out on Saturday night, but I didn’t because I was too beat. I hung out with my host and her boyfriend, and we talked about Doctor Who, among other things. They’re big fans, and they were trying to convince me to watch it. I WILL NOT!!!! Well, maybe eventually. But not right now.

The next day I was back at the con, feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (I have no idea what that means, but I like it!). I had a plane to catch, so I couldn’t stay too long, but I still got to see some cool people. First I said hello to Joshua Henaman, writer of Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman, which he’s been sending to me since it began. He sent me the last issue recently, and I swear I’ll get around to writing about it! Then I talked to Anthony Del Col, co-creator of Kill Shakespeare, for a while, because he’s a cool dude. He had a lot of business at his booth, and he kept telling me to pitch the book to passers-by for him, but I refused! The fourth trade should be out soon, and so should the board game, which sounds pretty neat. He has some cool comics he’s working on, so I’m looking forward to them. I wandered over to say hello to Arnold and Jacob Pander. I had never met them before, but they were really nice to talk to. I bought a couple of their older projects, and they told me a bit about their new graphic novel from Dark Horse. The Panders have been making movies for a while, but I guess they’re just digging the comics, man! I moved on and bought the two volumes of the Amelia Cole books by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride, and Nick Brokenshire. I didn’t talk to them too much, but the books look pretty keen. My last stop was at Matthew Southworth’s table, where I spoke to him for a little bit. He told me a story about his cat (it was pertinent, I swear!) and a little about his upcoming work. Southworth is a hell of a nice guy, and much like Copland, I’m Facebook friends with him, but I still like talking with him in person. As I noted above, talking in person is always better!

I was ready to leave, but before I did, I wanted to buy one more thing that I had forgotten to get earlier. So I walked over to Andrew Kafoury’s booth and bought No’Madd: City of Empty Towers, which he wrote. I had stopped by his booth the day before, but I didn’t buy his book because I wasn’t sure I’d have room in my tiny carry-on bags. But I had room! Huzzah!

So that was Rose City Comic Con. Did I take pictures of cosplayers? No, I did not. Did I take some pictures of the crowds? Well, sure.

I had a really great time at the con and in Portland in general. I’ve missed the city, and going back for three days just made me want to move back there even more. My wife wants to move back, too, so perhaps we will soon. In the meantime, next year I’m going back to the con, and I’m taking her to Portland with me, so let’s hope she won’t be angry at me anymore. That would be nice.

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