This was it, no more messing around. After a week or so of intensive comics production, including last minute trips to the local Kinkos, I was Pittsburgh bound. So Friday, when 5 o’clock rolled around, I hopped in the little Alero and headed out.
Not only was I making this short pilgrimage for comics (the love of comics), but I was also going to be reunited with my dear, dear friend Dr. (pending) Veronica Fitzpatrick. Besides being a member of my tight-knit high school family, Veronica has the distinction of having inspired Amelia’s desire to “disappear completely” in Spoilers. We hadn’t gotten to spend much quality time together in a very long time, so I was glad that she agreed to host me for the weekend.
So, after getting slightly lost for the first time (out of many) in her neighborhood, I finally rolled up to her cute-as-hell little apartment later on that night. She fed me my first tofu scramble (thanks Steven) and expensive ice cream, after which we watched Single White Female.
I crashed on the couch with some of the warmest blankets I’ve ever wrapped myself in. Still, I ended up waking up a lot through the night for whatever reason. Nerves? Who knows. Early the next morning I let myself out and headed down to the Guardian Storage center in the strip district (where the strip clubs are) so set up my first table.
The space was really beautiful and it was nice to see Katie Skelly and Pat Lewis were already there. I picked a table behind Katie and tried to get over mild regrets for not ironing my table cloth.
When I was coming back in after moving my car from the loading dock, I got to meet my friend-of-the-near-future Dan, from Cupcakes and Comics. More on those dudes later. Things were feeling good. We got menus for lunch that at first seemed a bit too pricey, but then I sold a book or two and it all suddenly seemed so possible. I’m the kind of person who feels really great when someone I’ve met before remembers that they’ve met me before, so it was pretty cool that Frank Santoro remembered my name. Everything was really coming together.
So what do we got here? Of course, I was selling PUPPYTEETH, but I also pulled out my stack of the new pushups to try out. As my official “old book” (even though I had older work there), I was not sure how it would be received. Honestly, I had low expectations, but you know, I was going to have fun one way or another. The rest of my table was all free stuff (I love it)! In addition to the Spoilers flyer I had put together for SPX, I was giving out free mix-CD soundtracks, featuring a number of tracks that have been featured in the strip or directly relate thematically or lyrically. In addition to that, I was also giving away the curious Melting Pot zine from Chris McD (featuring my lizard eyes), old old old copies of Worry Turtle and my “At Least Three” pamphlet. Enough about me though, because I was also giving away samplers for Liz Suburbia‘s amazing Sacred Heart, Matt Czap’s Eat That Toast humor strips as well as postcards for Niki and Michael‘s In Maps and Legends. There was something for everybody at the Czap Books table.
My neighbors were Tom Zombie-Soybot and Karen Artnoose (not their real last names, either of them) of Ker-bloom! zine on the one side, the latter becoming something of the show star for hammering out custom stories on her typewriter, priced by rating (G to X — I ended up getting an R). On my right sat originally Juan and Caitlin repping Carnegie Mellon, but they had some other friends set up across the room, so they split. Soon to be replaced by Lena and Paul from the prestigious Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. Equally friendly, if not more so. Across the way were their classmates, Carl and Max, with a third, Bill, somewhere closer to cupcake territory.
At around noon, I headed downstairs to join the three-deep crowd attending the Jim Rugg, Frank Santoro and Kevin Huizenga panel. Turns out the other two folks sitting in on the panel were a part of the infamous Bowling Green Mob (think Wu-Tang Clan), who had impressed the hell out of me with their book which I picked up at SPACE earlier that year. Jory and Geneva were good sports (even if Jory doesn’t have a website) and it was a great panel. Frank was acting moderator, swinging the mic back and forth as Jim and Kevin talked about mini-comics and professional work (the difference? one you get paid for). It was all recorded for Comics Comics, so I’ll link it up when it gets posted.
Turns out the new pushups did a lot better than I ever thought it would be, actually outselling PUPPYTEETH. Maybe because it was in color? Frank and Kevin H both picked up copies which was really an amazing feeling. I got a lot of compliments for my design work on all the books so that was also a nice thing.
Eric Kubli came over after a little while, saying he remembered my Czap logo from SPACE and I soon became friends with the entire Bowling Green Mafia. I even learned that the untouchable Keith Pakiz lives right here in Willoughby Hills. Watch out, man — I’m recruiting you into my gang. After a couple hours, the guys with lunch finally found me to deliver my sandwich.
Also of note on that first day is I blew Liz Suburbia’s secret identity (no not that one, let me essplain). I overheard a fellow exhibitor tell my CCS neighbors that she was from Northern Virginia, and hey, I’m from there, so I asked where at? Fairfax. Well, in that case, take this Liz Suburbia sampler, she stomps around those grounds as well. In fact, she works at a comic book store there. APPARENTly, this girl, Carolyn was a regular customer who knew Liz pretty well. HOWEVER, Liz does not give any impression to her clientele that she is a burgeoning comics master. She needs more readers anyways.
Other folks who I re-met included Katie Omberg and Sally Bloodbath, from SPX, and Joe Kuth, who you might remember me talking about from my SPACE write-up. Ed Piskor was also there, defending his title of absolute best-dressed of every show. Seth can have his 1930s, but I’m totally down with Piskor’s dookie chains and Adidas.
Before you even knew it, the first day of the show was over. Since Veronica was still grading papers, I headed off in the direction of the after part at the Brillobox. It was not as Warhol-themed as I was picturing, but it was still a pretty cool place. They gave us free perogies and carrots upstairs, where I talked more with Carolyn, Joe and Rafer, who was in and out. After those kids left, I got to talk a bit with the man himself, Bill Boichel, who organized the whole thing. He also runs the comic shop that I’ve often dreamed about, with minis and art comics out the ass (it’s still a dream place, haven’t been there yet, but I did get to look through some of their wares at the show).
V gave me a ring to let me know her grading was done and she was ready to hang, so I went to go pick her up. I got pretty lost, getting sent in circles all through Pittsburgh, but an hour later I got back to S. Braddock and we were off. Well, first we went to pick up Veronica’s buddy, Javier. Then we were off.
First we grabbed some food at The Cantina. I was still full from lunch and perogies, so I just got chips and salsa (very good, by the way), but I did try a bit of the sweet potato dish they got (another winner). Where we were sitting seemed to be in the middle of an in-progress middle-aged birthday party in a half-heated tent (the half that was heated was the upper half, our seats were in the lower). All that aside, it was a very pleasant experience, fine food with fine friends, spanning time.
Afterwards we went to Kelly’s, a cute diner/bar dressed in pink. The three of us talked about the finer points of writing English papers and whether Javier liked anything if he didn’t even like the Descendants.
I was mesmerized by this guy who looked like the Hollywood stand-in for my brother.
I was pretty destroyed by this point from lack of sleep, having spent at least four second winds. After Kelly’s I was getting my sleep on, no joke.
Day two, ready for more sweet comics-life. There was a lot of speculation about whether Sunday would be dead or not, the usual Sunday slowdown combined with a big Browns/Steelers game that night (ah! torn!). What really happened, however, was the show maintained a healthy foot traffic all day! I was able to use my experience on Saturday to rearrange my table display into a better configuration (all the free stuff on the right, marked with a sign), as well as fine-tuning my sales pitch.
The day went by pretty quickly for me. There was no lunch delivery that day, but it would turn out that I was saving room for some of the most amazing food I will ever eat. But more on that later. I had a bag of chips left over from the day before, a peace offering for being so late with my lunch. I also made the wise decision of trying out some of those cupcakes over at Cupcakes and Comics. Dan and his sister Kerry have a pretty solid business model — first, be really nice and cool to hang out with, and then sell some cute comics about cupcakes that come with actual cupcakes! These cupcakes were great, not just all sugary, but they actually had real flavors, like a muffin. I got to try the Apple and the Pumpkin, which were excellent, but they have even more kinds. I came ’round their table a few times throughout the weekend, just to enjoy the pair’s company.
Other cool things that happened include talking with Jim Rugg about webcomics and teaching, and then being officially documented as part of the first PIX. First it was in Rafer’s video podcast, then when Karen Lillis photographed my table, and finally having the honor of doing a mini-interview with Professor Frank Santoro (If it ends up on Comics Comics I’ll be sure to let y’all know).
Traded some comics, sold some comics, had a whole lot of fun. The second day was as good if not better than the first. Anyway I size it up, PIX was an outstanding success for me, as it was for most of the folks who I got to meet. Looking forward to next year.
Bill Boichel, in the white PIX shirt, who I mistook for David Mazzucchelli when I saw him walking around SPX. He did an amazing job putting this whole thing together and I am really grateful for all the work he put in.
Dan and Kerry of Cupcakes and Comics. First-class dudes.
The always great Katie Skelly. Check out that fucking print of hers! Amazing.
The whole Bowling Green family, otherwise known as Apple Juice Press, barely contained within one camera lens. From left to right, we’ve got Jessi Z, Kelli F, Eric K, Jory G, Geneva H and Keith P. And the thing of it is, people, each and every one of these dudes does amazing comics. I told you a bit about that before, but really, there’s much more. Shit.
From Frank Santoro’s longbox. He had a great labeling system in place.
When all was said and done, and everyone was packing up and going home, there was a lot of great memories to reflect on. A fine weekend to be sure, but it was not over for this human being.
I went back to Veronica’s and watched REC while she finished dinner, which she had been slaving over all day while I had comics fun. The thing that I’ve put off mentioning so far is that Veronica is an amazing chef and baker. As you can see from her blog, she makes some amazing deserts, and I’ve always dreamed of having the opportunity to enjoy something she’s made. Well, tonight was my night.
We had a delicious squash soup as we watched Project Runway and then, for desert, we had this:
I’m going to have a hard time describing how perfect this apple tart was. The crust was just perfect. You can tell a little bit from the picture, but to actually taste it… Really and truly an amazing desert, topped with homemade whip cream. It was one of those happy moments when reality turns out to be better than your wildest dreams.
Before the night was over, V’s roommate Steven returned from a knitting show, so it was nice to see him again (last time I met him was way way back in the day during Andy and I’s Surprise Michigan trip, which has a solid spot in my top ten life-experiences list). He joined us on the tail-end of PR which helped to relieve some of the tension (such an emotional episode!). After it was over, things were looking like it was time to head back to Cleveland.
Ok, I know I will not have the time or space to list all the awesome shit I got from people at PIX, and I feel terrible leaving anyone out. HOWEVER, I’m going to list some notables here, so check it.
- “Thursday” by Jessi Zabarsky — I’m telling you, these kids understand comics. As if the beautiful purple silkscreened cover weren’t enough, Jessi’s beautiful cartooning and no-less-than inspired formal play make my brain sweat like crazy. She takes the marginalia tricks Eddie Campbell was using in Monsieur Leotard and builds this short comic around it.
- “I know where I am” by Eric Kubli — Cute night-time story with some really pretty word balloons and lettering.
- “Crumble” by Kelli Fisher — Page design with (at least to me) a strong manga influence. I remember I was going to pick this up at SPACE but decided to catch more birds with “Stampy.”
- “Zero Over Nothin” by Jory Griffis — Really handsome cartooning and great balance of blacks. A line full of personality. This one’s got a bunch of short little works, some of which are reruns from “Stampy,” but I don’t mind seeing them again. I’m in love with the covers on this.
- The Condiment Squad by Keith Pakiz — I didn’t actually get this book, but looking at Pakiz’ work online, I’m kind of kicking myself about that. This man is a cartooning machine, straight from the Watterson school. A lot of straight talent. I guess he lives close enough I can track down a copy easier than any of the other stuff I saw at the show…
- RPM Comics #1 by Rachel Masilamani — A blast from the past, Xeric winner from 10 years ago. A really nice book.
- “iNterruption” by Lena Chandhok — A little comic in the shape of an iPod, the simple restrained cartooning inside matches the concept. It’s the kind of comics you would expect to find inside an iPod.
- “Untitled (Architecture)” by Blaise Larmee — “What Blaise was doing before he discovered Christopher Forgues.” Larmee might not find much use in making comics like this anymore, but it’s really a great work. While the cover is in the vein of what we saw in the Abstract Comics anthology, the inside is fully rendered versions of Blaise’s child-adults. Really nice stuff.
- Secret comic by Kevin Huizenga — Kevin was saying he didn’t really want people to know about this, but I had seen a picture of it somewhere on the internet beforehand. Regardless, it’s all great, but what else would you expect?
So that’s just a tiny sampling of the great stuff that was on hand at the first ever “Pittsburgh International Comics Festival.” Mad shout outs to all my comics dudes, new and old. Check out all those links I posted above, it’s all great stuff.