s.p.x.tra, read all about it.

matthew ocasio and neil brideau sell some zines

it was my first year attending s.p.x. as a civilian (rather than exhibiting), and i quickly remembered how much i enjoyed festivals, how much more i wanted to be there, back when they were play, before the time was spent worrying about my “career” and the many ways in which i was failing to advance it, before the whole enterprise seemed like something i was doing wrong. to be sure, i missed having a home base, and trading affectionate barbs with my tablemates, and the sense of being part of what all the fuss was about. but i finally had time to roam the floor, to pick up unfamiliar minis and chat with their creators, to be surprised by and excited about comics.

and comics are pretty exciting. if you didn’t make it down to bethesda this year, or weren’t similarly liberated to wander about, here’s a few things you might have missed:

SPX 2011 haul

[ read all about all of that, below the fold. ]

thunderbolts and lightning

lightning duck pin-up

the worst consequence of missing mecaf this year was forfeiting my spot alongside hugh tims, a delightful artist/self-publisher/gent who lives and draws and farms and teaches yoga and various martial arts in rural maine. ancillary perks foregone include the pleasure of his company, getting to soak in his wood-burning jacuzzi, and getting my hands on the new issue of lightning duck.

[ i fulfill a lifelong ambition to draw anthropomorphic ducks, below the fold. ]

rocks will fall

guest strip: welcome to falling rock national park

three aprils ago, on an unexpectedly sunny day in portland, oregon, i first made the acquaintance of the strange and lovable creatures that inhabit falling rock national park. from behind my table at the stumptown comics festival i thumbs-uped a passing gent with a tidy ginger beard and an obama t-shirt. he approached and asked if i’d liked to trade a copy of tick for a collection of his daily comic strip, bound in a small volume bearing a striking resemblance to the iconic mass-market edition of allen ginsberg’s howl, only without the “h.”

[ my first foray into owl art, below the fold. ]

first fest in the second city

the bean

i just got back from the proverbially* windy city and the unexpected delights of the second annual chicago zine fest. on the floor, i had the opportunity to introduce my patient civilian hosts mad dogg and travis to the work of some favorite third-coast artists, including aaron renier, laura park, neil brideau (one of the fest’s organizers), and lilli carre, whose beautiful new double-sided mini of the essence tells the brief story of a long life, twice.

[ other notable finds and zinester prom photos, below the fold. ]

i miss you most when i’m photoshopping.

mocca 2010: neil and girlcate man the fort

[ neil and girlcate prepare for the morning rush. ]

look, i’m not complaining. mocca was, in my opinion, more or less back to its old, awesome self this year.

and the armory is growing on me. sure, it’s impersonal and climatically oppressive on even the balmiest of april days, but it also allowed for smooth flow of foot-traffic and reasonably egalitarian table assignations, neither of which were merits boasted by the festival’s old digs. and, while one should always exercise caution disagreeing with ms. tryharder, i will admit to loving the cluster of out-of-the-way reading tables. and okay, exhibitor space is still impractically expensive, but a critical mass of us remain willing to lose money when doing so is this much fun.

my only serious lingering complaint is how freaking terrible my pictures look. they leave me longing for the flooding daylight and luminescent walls of the puck building, which, despite its crowded corridors and unreliable climate controls, gave us such picturesque memories.

but whatever. the point is, comics:

[ get to the point, below the fold. ]

boy blue review of books

hunger by frida ulvegren beside midnight

[ frida ulvegren‘s “little furry book” with its new friends midnight and cloud. ]

the months are quiet and cold from a.p.e. to stumptown, as long as their days are short. we get out less; we begin to miss friends in our own neighborhood, to say nothing of those who reside in the far-off lands to which our festival travels bring us. likewise, we bring less in, and the ‘zines and minicomics and other self-published wonders which surely would help us to pass the winter hours become considerably harder to procure. we make use of what recourse we have, and begin to mistake benjamin linus and lorelai gilmore for the friends we’ve been neglecting.

but this off-season has proven somewhat less bleak. thanks to the wave of new local comics shows and the tireless efforts of postal services around the globe, wondrous little tomes of unsung literary and graphical achievement have continued to trickle our way through the bleak midwinter, bringing with them glad tidings of acquaintance new and auld.

[ recommended reading, below the fold. ]

a.p.e., rinse, and repeat

girlcate loves her some grugere

breakfast at tartine is so totally worth the wait.

[ other matters of interest to the wandering northeasterner, below the fold. ]

s.p.xile.

i think neil said it best: comics rule.

[ specifics below the fold. ]

in my day, mocca was held in a cardboard box under the b.q.e. and 86% of attendees were stray cats

mocca 2009, as viewed from behinf my table

times, as you may have heard, have changed. comics, however, remain unfalteringly awesome.

[ all manner of mocca goodness, below the fold. ]

stumptown in the ground

neil

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.

[ more on the merits of this magnificent man, along with stumptown standouts and recommended reading, below the fold. ]