Monday, April 21, 2014

A Trip to LineworkNW 2014

The Norse Hall. No Grendels allowed, not even Matt Wagner.
One of things I am most looking forward to living in Portland is the fact that it has such a vibrant comics and zine community. I got a sample of this when I visited the first time, and attended Rose City's second-ever con.

More recently, though I didn't get a chance to write them up, I went to two signings in Portland when I was here to sign a lease. Both were great times with a good group of comics creators and publishers.

My official first con as a Portland resident, however, was the first-ever LineworkNW show, held on April 12 inside the comfy Norse Hall, in Southeast Portland. If the size of the crowd, quality of the participants, and large number of purchases by attendees is any indication, this won't be the last we see of this particular comics show.

A view looking into the crowd. Note the lack of garish banners!
When I walked inside after the show had been running for about an hour, I was immediately impressed by the size of the crowd. Pound for pound based on size of the room, it was easily as filled--if not more so--than SPX. People were lined up elbow to elbow at every table, ranging from the bigger names (Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, Oni) to established indie favorites such as Alternative Comics, Sparkplug, and of course, show co-founder Zack Soto's own Study Group. Filling in around them were a plethora of incredibly talented creators, such as Alec Longstreth of Basewood and Dylan Meconis, just to name two.

Best of all, they weren't just looking around--they were buying things. I think this is a severely underrated part of small press comics conventions. Sure, it's awesome to get the gang together, find an excuse to hang out and drink, share each other's work, and have a general good time. But unless you are local to the area--and granted, a lot of folks at the show were Portlanders--traveling to a con costs money. Perhaps more importantly, it also costs time. Every minute you are in a plane or a car or behind a table is time lost to create more comics. If that time doesn't net you sales, it's about as useful as playing Candy Crush Saga, and (probably) more expensive.

Jim Woodring and his giant pen.
So while my own finances were extremely limited*, meaning I only came home with two things from Study Group, I was extremely pleased to see money changing hands and tablets coming out on a regular basis to take credit card orders.

I really liked the construction of the show. The biggest names were given spaces that were maybe a little larger than those around them, but they did not dominate. No huge "HEY LOOK AT US WE QUALIFY FOR PREVIEWS" status symbols were in evidence. Dark Horse and Oni, the two biggest local pubs, had nice layouts, don't get me wrong, but they were appropriate for the venue. They were a part of the gang, as it were, not the superstars who suck the air out of the room from everyone else. I liked the equality of the arrangement, and I hope that even as the show grows inevitably bigger that the organizers will stick to this plan.

Similarly, it was nice to see the focus on two guests only: Mr. DeForge and Mr. Woodring. Over time, I'm sure the feature guest list will increase, but as with the placement of the big names, it helped to show that "we're all artists here" by not over-emphasizing the guests at the expense of the other creators. This reminded me quite a bit of Locust Moon or a zine fest in that regard, and I for reacted extremely positively to it.

Anyone got to try the pen, for a small donation.
I only watched one event, which I actually caught by accident because Jen Vaughn reminded me about it: Jim Woodring's giant fountain pen. I'm really glad she did. Watching him draw lines (and later, others create actual visuals) with an insanely large writing tool was a lot of fun. Like everything else at the show, it was low-key and democratic. For an extremely small donation--anyone got some time with the pen.

Before I left, I caught up with Zack and Francois and both agreed the show had been a huge success. I am very happy for both of them and for Portland as a creative community. This was a pitch-perfect opening for a new endeavor, one that, while not a Stumptown replacement, definitely fills a similar need. I will miss my East Coast shows, knowing there's bound to be another LineworkNW in 2015 makes me very happy for my future convention-going here in my new city. Especially since I expect to have money to spend by that time, and can fully participate in what I hope will be the second of many, many great shows in LineworkNW's future.

For more of my pictures from LineworkNW, click here.

*With the transition to a new city, until we get settled, I have to watch how much I spend on anything that's not rent, food, or the internet.

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