Speaking of Stumptown, we were recently alerted to a local brouhaha, namely, last week’s preview of Stumptown in The Portland Mercury. Shockingly, despite the mayor declaring Comics Month and Portland generally being Cartoon-town, USA, the Mercury ended up running this weird “comics are for losers” comic by Carolyn Main and Riley Michael Parker, apprently as an attempt to do something more clever than the “Comics Are For Everyone!” message we’ve been seeing for the last few years. However, it backfired big time, as the comment section erupted with comments from folks at Dark Horse, local cartooners like Erika Moen, Paul Guinan and Sarah Oleksyk and the artists and editors of the Mercury, including editor Alison Hallett defending the Mercury’s comics-loving bona fides::

Our entire books section is devoted to comics this week. (It was last week, too—and I’m just about positive we run more comics coverage throughout the year than any other local paper.) And while you might object to the cover, it was commissioned and conceived by an artist appearing at Stumptown (as was the feature, for that matter). We also listed Stumptown as a pick in our My, What a Busy Week! section, and we’ve covered it every year since it began.

If you don’t like the comic, you don’t like the comic—but that hardly constitutes grounds for concluding that the Mercury has a bias against Stumptown. Also, I’m not sure what original drafts Carol posted on her Facebook page, but our #1 concern about their first draft was its mean-spiritedness. The final draft was tempered considerably.

Hallett’s later blog post on the subject drew more ire from insulted cartoon-types.

We’ll add one more piece of evidence to the “comics hating” side of things: the online version of the strip is posted so small that you can’t even read it. Perhaps a good thing all around.

The moral of the story: Don’t mess with the comics!

UPDATE: Wow, here’s the cover of this week’s issue, comparing a comedy festival going on the same weekend to Stumptown…seems even more misguided from where we sit. Now The Beat is offended!


  1. Gut reaction? The comic/cover of the weekly I saw was immediately loathsome and didn’t have any sense of gentle, self-deprecating humor. But that’s just me.

    Stumptown itself rocked. Writeup coming.

  2. The truly sad thing is that I bet there are dozens of people in Portland who thought that writer was super-clever for coming up with that Nerd Prom line.

    I support in general articles that fail to support local institutions, though. Playing jester if it’s honestly won and worked at should be such a publication’s job. I can’t believe the creator and the editor felt the need to defend themselves.

  3. Also, some irony: the responses from the editor and writer were WAY more hyper-involved and defensive and voluminous and thus, yes, nerdy, than any of the complaints made by the comics people.

  4. I’m just wondering if there was supposed to be some satire there….the “woman” calling the comic guy a loser seems to be much more of a loser herself… with the cigarette, drink, etc. It’s certainly not funny but is it possible some message just got lost in translation somewhere? :)

  5. The arts editor of the Mercury is Allison Hallett.

    Tom, they felt the need to defend themselves because they are part of a small, very tight-knit community that pretty much exploded over this comic in the middle of a festival where the entire community was gathering. Like the comic or hate it, the backlash on the ground was palpable and significant far beyond the comments on the actual post. I probably had no less than 15 conversations about this in 2 days that I did not initiate. The Mercury has been very supportive of the Festival over the years, so having respected local creators publicly accuse them of having an “anti-Stumptown agenda” is kind of a thing.

  6. Wow, really? People are offended over this? I really don’t understand the outrage, this is a mild as a wet cotton ball.

  7. The online version is a thumbnail which you can click to embiggen and read quite easily. I can’t find my outrage beneath my confusion. It seems like the writer was trying to be satirically edgy and hip but she may also have been drunk and/or stoned when she wrote it. It’s mostly nonsense. I’m not clear on why it’s caused such a dust-up. It doesn’t deserve all of this airtime.

  8. Maija, thanks to your sleuthing, I finally found the full-size version, and now that I’ve read it, I’m even more baffled.

  9. I read the strip (blown up in a JPEG viewer) as an attempt to promote Stumptown in an alt-weekly manner, with “breaking the fourth wall” elements. The creators weren’t deliberately insulting creators or comics as an art form. FWIW,”nerd prom” is a self-deprecating name for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.


  10. The cover is by the mega-talented Tim Root, and is just the kind of redneck hillbilly shit he tends to draw. He also loves Conan, the comics of chris cilla and is in the upcoming studygroup12#4, all of which he name-checked on the cover.

  11. Getting a mention for our local conventions in our local alt-weekly is defnitely a mixed bag. I actually asked them NOT to have a certain writer write up our conventions due to his previous attempts at making fun of us nerds. I have hopes for this year, when they are supposed to be doing a big article abut all the fannish stuff going on, but the writer was still trying to find controversy, asking us why the 501st wasn’t planning on doing anything at LepreCon this year, “did they not like us?” I pointed out that we didn’t have any Star Wars guests so they weren’t interested and that when we did bring over Karen Traviss, the came out in force, did a room party and set up their Death Star wall. But they don’t have much interest in Charles Vess or George Martin, so they aren’t involved this year.

  12. Not the greatest comic ever (though the Jeffrey Brown line made me chuckle), but I don’t get the huge level of outrage. After years of largely positive coverage, they ran a comic that delivered some slight zingers. Buy an ad if you want all positive all the time.

  13. It’s tempting to try to speak on behalf of the PDX comics community, but that would doubtless only serve to get me in hot water. Speaking on behalf of myself, I agree with the “tempest in a teapot” comment.

    Three problems I see with the Merc issue in question: (1) The strip wasn’t very funny (sorry, kids). (2) The cover “gag” is way tired, and the colors hurt my eyeballs. (3) Bad timing combined with poor communication–OK, they covered comics “for real” the week before, but the issue in question was on the stands the week of the show, and it offered a confusing portrait of what lay in store for attendees.

    I think that same confusion is the reason the local comics community flipped out: No one knew what to make of it when it hit the streets.

    That said, I will confirm that the Mercury has, in its own snarky way, been very supportive of comics in general and Stumptown in particular over the years. Not my favorite paper by a long stretch, but not Evil Incarnate either.

    If anyone is still feuding/fuming over this, I say let it go and do something useful with all that energy.

  14. I don’t really like potty-humor, but I love Tim Root and was very happy to see this extremely talented and underrated artist on the cover!

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