The Stumptown Comics Fest is a great place to meet folks who make comics in the mainstream (Spider-Man's Randy Emberlin) and the underground (the prolific and adorable Jeffrey Brown). It's a good place to get autographs signed or to try and pitch your own book. But most of all, the Stumptown Comics Fest is a great place to blow a bunch of cash. We went ahead and made some suggestions in that department.
For Portland Girls
Gingerbread Girl (Top Shelf)
Part Archie Comics drama and part science-fiction pulp novel, the new book from the Portland power couple of writer Paul Tobin and cartoonist Colleen Coover will charm even folks who aren't fans of either trope. The book's dual protagonists, Annah and Chili, deliver frequent soliloquies—actually, all the book's characters, including a handful of animals, give long-winded soliloquies—as they solve mysteries both romantic and scientific in nature. The book, set in Portland, is gorgeous and a hell of a lot of fun to read—largely because Tobin and Coover seem to have had a blast putting it together.
Alternates: Ivy (Oni Press), Stumptown Vol. 1 (Oni Press).
For the College-Bound Idealists
The Adventures of Unemployed Man (Little Books)
Unemployed Man attempts to explain the state of the U.S. economy—everything from outsourcing to bailouts, Social Security to deregulation—by creating superheroes and villains who represent various economic and social phenomena. Yup. Characters like White Rage, Alien Greenspan and the Invisible Hand all make appearances. Think this conceit is a little too tenuous and collegiate to hold your interest? It might be, but it'd be good reading for a high-school senior or a college freshman. It's also beautifully drawn (by committee) with plenty of visual homages to guys like Jack Kirby and Joe Kubert. So even when the metaphors grow too long, Unemployed Man is something to see.
Alternates: Twilight of the Assholes (Fantagraphics), Supersized: Strange Tales From a Fast-Food Culture (Dark Horse).
For the Passive-Aggressive, Recently Over-The-Hill Types
Mid-Life (Drawn and Quarterly)
Who knew that traumatizing stories about dead cats, porn, problem drinking, office drama and the post-40 dating scene could be this fun? Shades of Office Space color Canadian cartoonist Joe Ollmann's Mid-Life, but it's a deeper effort than his one-liners and cluttered Sunday strip-style artwork would suggest. Especially for middle-aged dudes and those of us who are terrified of getting there, Mid-Life is an entertaining—and terrifying—primer.
Alternates: Wilson (Drawn and Quarterly), The Book of Mr. Natural (Fantagraphics).
For the Big Geeks with Aesthetic Taste
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Volume 1 (Fantagraphics)
Fantagraphics has done English-speaking comics fans a huge service by publishing the works of famed French cartoonist Jacques Tardi. The stories in this first volume of Adèle Blanc-Sec books are quirky, genuinely suspenseful and—as with all of Tardi's work—beautifully drawn. Vol. 2 is due out in November, and the first in a series of Luc Besson movie adaptations, released to most worldly audiences last year, is bound to make an appearance in Portland sooner or later.
Alternates: The Littlest Pirate King (Fantagraphics), Night Animals (Top Shelf).
COLLECT 'EM ALL: The Stumptown Comics Festival is April 16-17 at the Oregon Convention Center. $5 students, $7 adults. Two-day passes also available. See stumptowncomics.com for a full exhibitor list.