While news of great corporate conglomerates headlines the comics world news of late, it must always be remembered this is an industry of people and art, and the vibrancy of the the two coming together. Frank Santoro has been running an awesome series of “Local comics scene” reports at TCJ, and they are welcome reminders that the indie spirit of like-minded souls sitting in diners and sketching and talking over coffee and Strathmore is alive and well. We’d love to visit each and every one of these scenes. It’s also of note that in these economic hard times, sometimes creativity thrives where money is scarce.
Jim Rugg’s another one. I’m surprised that dude still puts up with me in any way. When we first started hanging, he just started his Street Angel series for Slave Labor and I was a 21 year old idiot who was more of a nuisance than a cartoonist. I still remember our first real experience hanging out. We have another cartoonist pal, Jasen Lex, who does great work. It was the 3 of us sitting there with sketchbooks, a fresh batch of that weeks new comics, coffees for them and an Italian soda for me. We were sitting there projecting about books and ideas were were going to put together in the future. Jasen was talking about a series that eventually became The Science Fair (published by Antarctic Press), Jim was talking about wanting to do enough Afrodisiac material that he’d be able to collect it all in a Marvel Treasury Sized edition.
Institutions vital to the Philly scene include the comic shops Brave New Worlds and Locust Moon Comics. Brave New Worlds is a mainstream-centric comic shop in the gallery section of Old City. BNW has a great gallery space featuring local comic art in the front of the shop that regularly draws hundreds of visitors during First Friday festivities. Locust Moon Comics, by contrast, is a smaller DIY operation in University City that is always happy to stage events for local artists looking for an excuse to drink cheap beer. Other important spaces include the world renowned SPACE 1026, which often features great art comics work from around the world; Pterodactyl Philly, a great gallery space that moonlights as the small run digital press Fireball Printing; and Cha Cha-razzi, a studio space that has recently hosted various comics-meet-music events.
This is the first place I’ve lived where I draw anywhere I go and people ask ‘Are you a cartoonist?’ instead of ‘artist.’ The villagers know what’s shakin’. Although, if you asked me to describe our activities in three words I’d say “costumes, games and animals.” I’ve pet more goats, pigs and more pigs in my time here than my combined 13 years in Texas.
Of the few places I’ll talk about in this report, Velocity is probably the biggest scene. It’s just the best comic shop in Richmond (if not Virginia?), so a LOT of customers, creators, etc. stop by and peruse it’s fine selection. Also, with it’s proximity to VCU, it always seems to be hopping. Patrick Godfrey runs the store, and he does a great job of it. I like the fact that I’ll more or less find anything I’m looking for, as well as enlighten me to some locally produced work. He also organizes get togethers with local creators that I wish I could attend… but it seems I’m always busy.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.