Last Saturday at Short Run

The Short Run Small Press Festival, to be exact.

I've been casting around for something to take my students to, some kind of field-trip thing, in the fall. All our other events and trips-- Comicstravaganza, the Emerald City Con, the Olympia Comics Festival-- have been held in January or later, and the fall semester kids deserve to go do stuff too. So when I heard about Short Run it sounded ideal. It was way too late for me to pull together a table and they were sold out anyway, but I figured we could take a busload of students to see what it was all about, and maybe scout it out as a possible show for us.

And it was an awful lot of fun. I decided not to take the younger classes-- the list of exhibitors sounded a little too adult for my middle-school cartooning kids, but for the intrepid new high school Young Authors class that we just launched this year, it was just about perfect.

The show was held at the Vera Project, an all-ages music and art venue down at Seattle Center.

Short Run is a small-press show, with the emphasis on comics, but there were also prose and poetry chapbooks, animation exhibits, all kinds of cool stuff.

I took a lot of pictures, so I think I'll just run those and tell you about each one.

Here's the gang from Alice Blue Press.

Their stuff is amazingly well-crafted, it's like bookbinding from the 1800s. I was so impressed with the work I ended up buying a copy of Monster just to admire. But the poetry's not bad.

Here's my student Autumn going through the Vera's own 'zine archives.

I was honestly worried at the beginning of this school year that high school might be too tough for me and that the kids would be harder to engage with, but I shouldn't have worried. "I can put you in print in front of a real audience" tends to trump everything. If anything, my high school Young Authors are even more driven than my middle-school kids. Watching Autumn open up has been great fun-- she was a little reserved at first, but all she needed was an outlet. She's planning a 'zine as her senior project, along with submitting a story for the Young Authors anthology.

We have some familiar faces from middle-school Cartooning in high school Young Authors, too. Here's Carlos, as manic as ever.

I just cut the kids loose to wander around the show and see whatever they wanted to. Then Julie and I walked the show floor ourselves, saying hello to old friends and doing a little shopping.

Julie fell in love with this print from Nicole Georges.

For my part, I fell in love with a book on her table, Bad Room Mate Zine.

Really, it had me at the title, and it is hilarious. A 72-page anthology of horror stories, in both prose and comics form, about The Worst Roommates Ever. I'm just sorry I can't use it in class-- it's far too profane and, at times, vomitous-- but it is actually a really good example of a theme anthology. What I can do is recommend it to you all, though, and I am. if you've ever been in Bad Housemate Hell, this is the book for you.

Here's Chelsea Baker having a stretch, and that's Breanne Boland next to her.

Chelsea, of course, we know from the Olympia Comics Festival, and it was nice to see her again. As it happened she was stuck for a ride back to Olympia after the show, so we offered to run her home.

Once that was all arranged, Julie and I drifted over into the 'animation room' to see what was going on there.

What we found was.... interesting.

It started well enough. We came in on a fun multi-media presentation-- a live reading of one of Sean Christensen's comics, "The Church of Awesome Thought," with different people doing the voices and live musical accompaniment-- including a remarkable demonstration of virtuosity by the woman playing a theremin.

Sean's was followed by a considerably less successful performance; it was called "The Art of Leisure," and I'm not ashamed to admit that we Just Didn't Get It.

In fairness, he DID have trouble with his projectors, and I think the room was too small for him. But the idea seemed to be that he would project film clips on a loop through his projectors, overlapping images, while he frantically tried to speed-paint some kind of live-art thing to create a third image layer. But it ended up as kind of a mess, and the faint smell of overheating plastic from the projectors kept distracting us with worries about the wiring catching fire. It was a heroic effort, though, and he got applause at the end. Seattle arts audiences are AMAZINGLY supportive.

But that was enough for Julie and I, and we went out to wander the floor again. Said hello to some more people, and bought some more cool stuff.

I was all set to get David Lasky's new graphic novel bio of the Carter Family, but he was already sold out.

Still, it was great to see him, and I ended up getting his Rocket From Krypton 'zine instead, which I actually liked better-- and I can use that one in class as a theme anthology example.

I also picked up Lane Milburn's Death Trap from the Profanity Hill table. That was mostly because I felt guilty about taking up so much time talking to the young lady manning the table; we were talking about the arts group she is part of, and ways of using them as a class resource. When I am monopolizing someone at their table like that I feel like I ought to spend money. But it turns out I really like Death Trap, so it all worked out.

And stopping by the Sparkplug Press table I couldn't resist a copy of Jason Shiga's Bookhunter.

Meanwhile, my students had found a table to settle in and talk, and when Julie and I caught up to them, I enjoyed just watching them. The show had really got them geared up, they were on fire to get their own book out, bouncing ideas back and forth and talking about what they'd seen.

So I filed that one under mission accomplished. While they were busy talking, I catalogued my own armload. For a middlebrow, mostly-mainstream guy like me, it turned out to be quite a haul.

Reluctantly, I gathered my tribe and we all went out to the bus. Getting the gang back to school and then the bus back to the YMCA was so completely painless I thought for sure I'd forgotten someone or screwed up somehow. It never goes that well. Or maybe we're finally just getting good at it.

Of course, we then had to double back to the Center and go pick up Chelsea in our own car, but that was fine too. We really didn't mind-- Julie enjoys driving, and Chelsea is congenial company.

We did get a nice bonus out of it though. Chelsea had offered gas money, but we weren't going to take her cash; I have too many artist friends who are living on the razor's edge with household budgets. Then it occurred to me that we could trade for 'zines. My kids love Chelsea's Daily Comics books and this way honor would be satisfied. It sounded good to Chelsea too and so that's what we did.

But we never expected to be immortalized in a strip ourselves. That's us in the last panel there. (Julie was thrilled to be depicted so thin.)

All in all, it was a great day. When you get a case of the blahs with Marvel and DC stuff, which I've had lately, nothing shakes me out of it like wallowing in the indie comics scene for a while, especially with a group of bright young people. Works every time.

I'd encourage any of you who are feeling that way to try it. There's a lot of great indie stuff out there. Check it out. After all, if a grumpy old geezer like me can do it, anyone can.

See you next week.

Detective Comics #996

More in Comics