You’re a book nerd and a lover of novels. But can you be a comic book nerd and a fan of graphic novels? Purist snobbery won’t make you more educated, cultivated, or sophisticated. The Stumptown Comics Fest took place on April 28 and 29, and you should have been there. Here are a few things I saw that might pique your interest:
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
What is it?
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) is (in their mission statement) “a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals.”Oregon has free speech protections written into the state constitution, so it’s no surprise that the CBLDF receives abundant support in Portland. At Stumptown, the CBLDF offered a selection of comic books for donation and hosted signings with Craig Thompson, Dan Piraro, and Ron Randall. Stumptown supported the CBLDF by hosting a raffle and by donating a portion of the proceeds from their party on Saturday night to the CBLDF. Why should I care?
Any supporter and defender of free speech should support the CBLDF. Censorship of any kind of storytelling is a universal issue. I hate to use the slippery slope argument, but if our freedom to publish and view images in conjunction with text is restricted, then our freedom to publish and read books may be next.
Oregon History Comics
What are they?
The Oregon History Comicsare written by Sarah Mirk and published by the Dill Pickle Club, a non-profit organization that promotes knowledge of Portland’s past. Individual issues tell stories like The Life and Death of the X-Ray Café, how women’s suffrage was achieved in Oregon, and what happened in the Vanport Flood—each illustrated by a local artist. Mirk sold colorful boxed sets of ten issues at the Stumptown Comics Fest. Why should I care?
If you’re a history buff, then you know why you should care. If you’re not a history buff, then perhaps you’ll find that it’s more fun to learn about important events in Oregon’s past when there are entertaining pictures involved.
The IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center)
What is it?
Founded in 1998, the goal of the IPRC is to “provide the community with space and resources to create and publish their own writing and artwork.” As a proponent of DIY culture, the IPRC encourages its members to bypass mainstream media by providing access to publishing equipment and tools such as a letterpress, printers, copiers, and computers with design software. The workspace is available to the public for $5/hr or $45-$100/year, on a sliding scale. The IPRC recently moved from its downtown location (next to Reading Frenzy) to SE Portland on Division St. The grand reopening takes place this Friday, May 11.
Why should I care?
The IPRC doesn’t just help people publish comics. It also provides the materials and expertise to publish zines and books: in fact, the IPRC has a Bind-Fast 5Perfect Binding Machine for book assembly. Additionally, they offer year-long certificate programs for writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as training in print and ebook publication and marketing.
Here are two publications I recommend to ease you into comic book fandom:
Written by MK Reed and illustrated by Jonathan Hill, this coming-of-age graphic novel tells the story of a teenage boy in small-town. conservative Oklahoma and his attempts to fight a ban of his favorite fantasy novel from the local library. Artist Jonathan Hill, a Portland resident, was at the Stumptown Comics Fest to hawk the comic. (photo)
Soon-to-be Reed College graduate Lucy Bellwood wrote True Believer as her senior undergraduate thesis. It’s a thirty-six page autobiographical comic about devoting herself to comics and losing her IPRC mentor, the late Dylan Williams. She created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the costs of self-publishing. Originally aiming for $1,500, she garnered so much support that she adjusted her ambition to $8,000. She sold out of her first print run at the Stumptown Comics Fest.
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