New CAF: CXC in Columbus from Smith and Spurgeon

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And here’s the official word on that new comic arts festival that people were alluding to at ICAF: Cartoon Crossroads Columbus or CXC, which will be a lot more than a CAF, really. The event will debut in 2015 as a two-day event (held October 2-3) and then grow into a four day festival in 2016. The show has a four person executive committee consisting of Cartoon Books’ Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer, Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon and Billy Ireland Library founder Lucy Caswell. Smith is the Artistic Director, while Spurgeon will be the Festival Director. Can you say heavy hitters?

You can read more about the event in the PR below. Obviously using the Billy Ireland library for a CAF-type event is a no brainer and given the muscle behind the show, it sounds like it will quickly move into a pre-eminent spot on the calendar. But, there is still the crowded calendar to contend with. There’s an existing show in Columbus, SPACE, which, while small, has roots that go back to the birth of the CAF with the Spirits of Independence tour. SPACE has staked out the spring slot, leaving October for CXC. While that’s a very crowded time slot, CXC is well placed to take advantage of cartoonists who may want to continue their tour after SPX, and perhaps on to the revamped APE.

At any rate, given the massive comics related resources located in Columbus, this is an exciting development, and another step on the growing importance of the CAF circuit for comics.

A tumblr has been set up here.

The Columbus, Ohio based Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) has announced its formation and intention to stage a four-day, yearly comics festival beginning in Fall 2016.

The group also announced the CXC Launch Event for October 2-3, 2015. The CXC Launch Event will be a two-day show split between the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (October 2) and the Columbus Cultural Arts Center (October 3). 

The October 3 portion of the event will be a one-day comics expo featuring up to 35 exhibitors.

The four-person Executive Committee for Cartoon Crossroads Columbus is:

* Lucy Caswell, Founder, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
* Vijaya Iyer, President and Co-Publisher, Cartoon Books
* Jeff Smith, Award-Winning Cartoonist and Co-Publisher, Cartoon Books
* Tom Spurgeon, Editor and Co-Publisher, The Comics Reporter

Smith will further assume the title of President and Artistic Director. Spurgeon will serve as Festival Director, and will relocate to Columbus in early 2015.

”We’re extremely excited to try and bring a first-class comics festival to Columbus, Ohio,” said Jeff Smith. “I’ve attended and enjoyed so many great shows over the years, and hope that CXC can take its place alongside them.”

”I share with the council members a belief in the comics art form and a love for the American Midwest as a great place for comics,” said Tom Spurgeon. “We also share a passion for the professional development and infrastructure issues facing so many cartoonists. We hope that CXC can become a positive force for a better community and more effective industry.”

The group’s organizational status, its advisory council members, its initial sponsorships, details on the 2015 Launch Event including exhibitor application information and initial plans for the 2016 Festival and beyond will be announced in early 2015.

A placeholder site can be found at cxcfestival.tumblr.com

A twitter account can be followed @cxcfestival.

On the Scene— Jeff Smith at CCAD/MIX: Avoiding Garfield

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by Christian Hoffer
As part of the Columbus College of Arts and Design’s MIX Comic Symposium, Tom Spurgeon (of Comics Reporter fame) interviewed Jeff Smith at the college’s Canzani Center Friday evening. Smith was the keynote guest of the two day academic symposium, which featured a variety of panels, workshops and presentations about the art form, and had participated in a panel about alternative comics earlier that day. Spurgeon had also participated in a panel discussing the growing Columbus comic scene moderated by local creator James Moore.

The event was attended by a standing only room crowd of about 400 art students, local creators and fans of Smith’s work.  For two hours, Smith discussed his past works, including Bone, RASL and Captain Marvel and the Monster Society of Evil, the challenges of self-publishing, and his upcoming Tuki Saves the Humans webcomic, before taking a few questions and signing books.

Spurgeon opened the interview by asking about Smith’s ties to Columbus, and how the community influenced his work. Smith discussed how the rolling Appalachian foothills outside of Columbus was his favorite type of landscape to draw, and how Old Man’s Cave from Bone is actually located at Hocking Hills, a state park located outside of Columbus.  When visiting the cave as a child, Smith’s imagination would run wild, and he pictured a Tolkienesque fantasy unfolding at the cave.

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Smith discussed his early influences in comics, how he used to read comic strips like Peanuts and Uncle Scrooge as a child, and how his father used to read Mad Magazine to him as a kid.  Mad Magazine was influential in helping Smith understand the pop culture landscape in the 1960s, which was filled with bad television and even worse commercials.

Smith credited his wife, Vijaya Iyer, for supporting and encouraging him while researching and working on Bone.  When asked about his decision to self-publish Bone instead of pursuing more traditional outlets, Smith discussed his frustration with the newspaper comic syndicates.  He recounted an incident in which an editor asked Smith to have his characters talk in thought balloons instead of word balloons, because “Garfield talks in word balloons.”  That spurred him towards self-publishing, as he didn’t want to ask for permission to write the story he wanted to write.  Of course, Smith mused, he still needed to ask for his wife’s permission.   He also mentioned that Mark Askwith, the developer of the Canadian magazine show Prisoners of Galaxy, was the first person to reach out to him as a fan of Bone, and sent him a video tape of Neil Gaiman praising the series on a recent episode of the show, which blew him and his wife away.

Spurgeon and Smith also discussed the subversion of traditional fantasy tropes in Bone and Smith’s use of story beats and strong characterization to advance his story.  Spurgeon added that he thought that Smith was underrated as a scriptwriter and as a designer, and pointed out several examples from both Bone and RASL on how Smith excels with dialogue and panel design.  In particular, Smith stressed that logo design is critical, and pointed out how Bone’s logo was designed so that the logo would stand out even if the rest of the cover was obscured.

The conversation ended with a discussion on Tuki Saves the Humans and Smith’s exploration of webcomics and digital publishing. Smith mentioned Kate Beaton’s Hark a Vagrant, Zac Gorman’s Magical Game Time and Sam Alden’s Haunter as webcomics he was currently following.  He stated that he was intrigued by digital publishing and added that the world was moving towards digital distribution and publishing.  With Tuki Saves the Humans, Smith hoped that he could find a distribution model that could help other cartoonists make money off their webcomics, and pointed out how First Second Publishing handled Faith Erin Hicks’ webcomics as a potential model to follow.  He also added that he still planned to collect and publish the Tuki Saves the Human eventually, and that he saw computers as a way to facilitate art, not to create it.  While both coloring and lettering are done digitally, Smith still draws and inks his comics by hand.

Smith finished by thanking students Christopher Castorano and Tyler Crooks for building a lifesize sculpture of RASL, complete with mask, dimension hopping engines and a discarded bottle of Maker’s Mark.  The sculpture accompanied an exhibit of original artwork from RASL.  After the keynote ended, Smith stayed to sign books, including the recently released RASL color hardcover, for a lengthy line of fans and admirers.

On the Scene: The 2012 Ignatz Awards at SPX

By Hannah Means-Shannon

The Ignatz Awards are known for their quick-fire pace and sense of humor but that doesn’t mean they downplay the often very personal extremes indie comics creators face in pursuit of publication.  Jerzy Drozd acted as MC of the 2012 awards and crammed a lengthy shopping list of emotional highs and lows typical of comics production into a few brief moments of reflection. The circumstances he listed as typical were typical enough to be universal and recognizable to the audience. Comics creators work full-time jobs, Drozd said, jeopardize friendships and health, and give 5 years of their life and soul to a project, whose demands are immediately forgiven when a proejct finally reaches publication. Misunderstood by friends and family, the work often goes unread and “thrown in the trunk of a car”. Drozd’s fast-talking narrative reached its crescendo with a visual aid, a slide declaring “I AM GOD HERE” at SPX, a voice of triumph for professionals given one night, at least, on which to be understood. Drozd attested to his experience teaching comics that indie comics are “5 years ahead of the comics curve”, because they continue to “tell a story with singular vision” in a field full of “courageous people”. Drozd honored not just the Ignatz winners or nominees in his statement, but all the attendees engaged in the production of comics in many forms.

The award for “Outstanding Mini Comic”, was presented by Sally Carson who lauded minis produced with an “idea, some paper, and some courage”. It went to THE MONKEY IN THE BASEMENT AND OTHER DELUSIONS by Corinne Mucha, published by Retrofit Comics who had a very strong presence at SPX this year.

The award for “Outstanding Story” was presented by John Green who reminded us that comics creating is one of the few professions where you can “do it without pants” and the fact that you can “manage to make all these comics without wearing any pants” is remarkable. The category was thronged with worthies, but went to “Return to Me”, from LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES #4, by Jaime Hernandez and published by Fantagraphics. Jaime thanked voters for “breaking a perfect record of no awards this year”. The presence of the Hernandez brothers at SPX this year brought a great deal of energy, and often hilarity, and the Ignatz awards were no exception.

Mark Mariano presented the award for “Outstanding Comic” to Brendan Leach’s PTERODACTYL HUNTERS from Top Shelf. While the work seemed to be a fan favorite, the win was unexpected enough to prompt surprised and lengthy applause.

“Outstanding Anthology or Collection” went to Kate Beaton’s HARK! A VAGRANT, continuing her winning streak from the previous week’s Harvey Awards.

Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez presented the “Promising New Talent” award to Lale Westvind for her self-published comic HOT DOG BEACH. Having received her brick from the mighty Hernandez brothers, it’s not surprising that she declared “I’m going to do comics forever”.

The award for “Outstanding Online Comic” was presented by Ashley Quigg and Kasey Van Hise, and it went to SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY by Jillian Tamaki, another win that prompted a great deal of affirmation from the floor.

Chris Hastings, presenting the award for “Outstanding Series” took a moment to challenge the attendees to “recognize exceptionalism” in comics in “a world where not necessarily the best things always happen”. For Chris, this was an opportunity to set the world to rights by handing the award to Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez for LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES from Fantagraphics. “See what happens when you keep doing comics”, the Hernandez brothers quipped, perhaps as much a warning and as an encouragement to comics creators.

Nick Abadzis presented the award for “Outstanding Graphic Novel” in his “comedy British accent”, and moved through a series of “funny voices” including a German intellectual and a radio announcer before handing it over to BIG QUESTIONS by Anders Nilsen, published by Drawn and Quarterly, with great aplomb.

There seemed to be a particular build-up to the final award for “Outstanding Artist”, only confirmed by its distinguished presenter, Francoise Mouly. The award went to Jaime Hernandez for LOVE AND ROCKETS NEW STORIES, published by Fantagraphics, and produced a definite high note in an already exuberant evening. That tallied a total of three wins for the Hernandez brothers, but their buoyant presence at SPX as well as all their signing and sketching for fans was just as much fun for attendees as seeing them accept their awards.

Tom Spurgeon also took the stage to present the first ever “Golden Brick Award” for lifetime achievement in the Ignatz Award’s 15 year history to Richard Thompson, who was also honored at this year’s Harvey Awards for CUL DE SAC as “Best Syndicated Strip”.

In a year already boasting record sales at SPX and the largest number of vendors ever accommodated on the expo floor, the Ignatz Awards also brought home the astonishing array of talented individuals currently working in independent comics setting and raising the bar on production. The ground-swell of support within the community at the expo and the awards also reinforced the truism that comics creators are also comics readers who have a voice in putting forward and supporting works that deserve to be recognized for, as Drozd put it, their “singular vision”.

 

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on  WordPress.