When the wildly popular writer Brian Michael Bendis (Powers , Alias , Ultimate Spider-Man ) said in an interview with slushfactory.com that he lives "in Portland, with 85 percent of the comic-book community," he was only half-joking. Cartoonists are all over this town, and they just keep moving here. Ever since Mike Richardson founded Dark Horse Comics in 1986 and started moving writers and artists here en masse, the city's influence over the small but passionate industry has been growing every year. We have three successful comics publishers (Oni, Top Shelf and Dark Horse), a thriving artists' collective (Periscope Studios), a dozen good comics shops, one of the finest library collections of comics in the country and arguably the most vibrant DIY comics scene anywhere (distributed primarily through Reading Frenzy).
In fact, the enormous number of creators in Portland is entirely out of proportion with the population of die-hard comic-book fans. It's no wonder, then, that the fourth annual Stumptown Comics Fest, happening this weekend at the Lloyd Center DoubleTree Hotel, caters primarily to artists. Here you won't find the overwhelming geekery of Chicago's Wizard World or the big-money marketing frenzy of the San Diego Comic Con. 'Round these parts we enjoy our comics, both as art and entertainment, freely and without shame. In that spirit, we asked a few local artists who'll be attending Stumptown this year—we also talked to one we really wish would move to Portland already—to give us a taste of the city through their eyes.
HOMETOWN Boston. Moved to Portland in 2005.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a cartoonist as versatile as McClaine. The Savannah College of Art and Design grad is probably best-known for his serialized Web comic tribute to Hergé (creator of Tintin ), Johnny Crossbones , for which he was nominated for an Eisner award, but he also draws the dada-pulp series The Middleman , published by Viper Comics, and Life with Leslie , a semi-regular autobiographical Web comic. Since January he's organized a monthly "drink 'n' draw" at Northeast Broadway's Rose&Thistle pub for Portland cartoonists (see portlanddrinkndraw.blogspot.com for more info). McClaine says he moved to Portland "primarily for nicer winters and a more relaxed atmosphere," and says of the Stumptown Comics Fest: "It's a lot more relaxed than other cons [conventions]—a gathering of cartoonists selling their work to each other." See more of McClaine's work at evilspacerobot.com
You've probably never heard Meconis' name before—her first full-length published work, Wire Mothers: Harry Harlow and the Science of Love , a nonfiction project written by Jim Ottaviani—was just published this July. But if you're a fan of Battlestar Gallactica and The Simpsons who spends any time online, you've probably seen "Battlestar Galacticsimpsons," her drawing of characters from the former show in the style of the latter, which was briefly, wildly popular last December, and still generates more traffic to her website than anything else she's done. Meconis, who started her first Web comic (Bite Me! , a vampire epic set during the French Revolution) at 17, now splits her time between Periscope Studios and the Portland design firm XPLANE. An organizer of the Stumptown Comics Fest, she says the local comics scene takes its cue from Portland's "homegrown" culture as a whole. "There's an emphasis on independent comics and graphic arts coming out of the Pacific Northwest and West Coast, but ultimately everybody is welcome as long as they contribute to the cartooning community," she says. "There are plenty of great cons, big and small, but none that are quite so intimately attached to their specific location." See more of Meconis' work at
AGE Top secret (he "grew up in the '60s and '70s").
HOMETOWN Roseburg, Ore. Now lives in Lakeside, south of Reedsport.
It's been 15 years since this former newscaster took the independent comics scene by storm with Madman , a cerebral pop-art twist on the superhero genre that finds its schizophrenic protagonist fighting mutant beatniks with pop guns and yo-yos, and he hasn't stopped working since. With his wife and creative partner, colorist Laura Allred, he's worked for both Marvel and DC, created Red Rocket 7 , another independent series, appeared as himself in Chasing Amy , started pre-production with Robert Rodriguez on a Madman film, and produced The Golden Plates , an ongoing adaptation of the Book of Mormon. (Allred himself is Mormon.) He says cartoonists flock to Oregon for the same reasons as anyone else: "The beauty of the land (including instant access to the best coast in the world), the clean air and water, a largely progressive populace, the music scene, and all the terrific bookstores." See more of Allred's work at aaapop.com.
HOMETOWN Portland, Maine. Been in Portland "about six years."
Oleksyk started reading graphic novels around the age of 10. "Japanese comics about the atom bomb dropping on Hiroshima, [Art Spiegelman's holocaust epic] Maus ," she remembers. "Pretty much really freaky human-atrocity stuff. That's what I was into back then." Her own style is less disaster-centric and more personal. Oleksyk champions detail in her writing and her inking style, which is reminiscent of another Portland resident, Craig Thompson. "This is the most inclusive group of people I've ever had around," she says of Portland's cartooning community. "People have been getting together and having comics night. It's great. I didn't expect to see any of this happen, but I feel like its really been developing and it's incredibly helpful." That sort of environment, Oleksyk says, is what the Stumptown fest is all about. "You get a chance to meet these people, hang out with them, go party with them afterwards." Oleksyk has worked on various self-pubished zines and comics including Roadside and OK/Not OK , and has contributed art to various local publications. Her current project is the graphic novel Ivy , which she has shared with fans via her website. She says she'll print sections of the book in comic form specifically for the Stumptown fest.
See more of Oleksyk's work at saraholeksyk.com.
Stumptown Comics Fest will be held at the Lloyd Center DoubleTree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah St., stumptowncomics.com. 10 am-6 pm, Saturday-Sunday. $5 per day. See wweek.com for more original art from local artists.