By Sarah Soards
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I arrived at the Stumptown Comics Festival. Maybe some live reenactments of Superman’s death? Were catgirls going to be trolling the booths looking for hugs? I had been to an anime convention a few years ago, and was shocked to see cosplayers lined up in the hotel hallways with cardboard signs saying “Hug Me” in thick black Sharpie. Luckily, I was saved from having to give any hugs to strange, sweaty teenagers dressed up like Snake from Metal Gear Solid.
Booths were packed like sardines into the event space—it was a veritable comic book-filled labyrinth. It took a little getting used to, but once I figured out how to navigate the narrow aisles, it became less overwhelming. Dark Horse, Oni Press, and Top Shelf were just a few of the companies that filled the room at the Oregon Convention Center. With my trusty press badge around my neck, I plunged forth into a sea of comic books, graphic novels, merchandise, paintings, and chapbooks.
Now, I love comic books and graphic novels, but I am certainly no connoisseur. I can generally tell if the art is not so great, and I can separate a good story from a bad one. But there were so many amazing comics to look at and choose from! A bit overcome, I stumbled into a booth where a man declared that he had created a new type of superhero graphic novel.
The story follows a young man as he battles the forces of evil in order to save his city from destruction. The young man also happens to be gay. The comic’s creator explained to me that as a young, gay teenager he enjoyed the action and storylines of comic books, but was never fully able to relate to the protagonists. So he created his own superhero that he and other people in the community could connect with. He stressed that the comic still contained non-stop action and all of the standard superhero tropes, but that the lead character just happens to like men instead of women. It’s a story about a modern superhero for a modern audience. We had a great conversation, and I realized that this man was not the only one writing LGBT-themed comics.
I walked around a little longer, breathing in the stale air and smiling like an idiot. I ended up purchasing two graphic novels, even though I had told myself that I was attending purely as a press person. But there was so much excitement and hope squashed into that little room, how could I not buy anything? It’s an incredible community—they constantly support one another, which is how they have been able to keep growing over the past few years.
There weren’t any hugs, catgirls, or people yelling in Japanese, but there was still a sense of giddiness. There are so many paths that the industry can take—the possibilities are endless. Whether it’s a web comic or a perfect bound hardback, the comic book world will continue to push and explore boundaries, and that is something we can all look forward to.