Thursday, November 19, 2009

Portland 09: As good as it gets! PT 2

Sunday came quickly, and that meant it was time for the Portland Comic Book Show (if you just walked in on this blog, this is Part 2 of my wrap-up of my weekend trip to Portland! Part 1 can be found here).

Breakfast consisted of a trip to the infamous, 24 hour VOODOO DOUGHNUTS on SW 3rd Avenue. VOODOO's doughnuts come in all shapes and sizes, from a doughnut encrusted with Captain Crunch cereal to doughnuts shaped like...well, doughnuts for bachelorette parties!! I mean, these folks make all kinds of exotic, erotic and eclectic types!

Me, I finally got the one I flew all the way up to Oregon for:

The bacon maple bar!! Now that's a breakfast power bar I can sink my teeth into...

We soon made our way to the Memorial Coliseum and once we entered the exhibit room and I had a look around the place, I got the sense that this was an old-school comic convention. There were tons of back issue dealers, as well as vendors selling all kinds of comic-related/superhero emblazoned products. Drinking glasses, action figures, vintage toys. Plus I saw numerous publishers and artists selling mini-comics, zines, comic books, graphic novels. No tables for out-of-work actors or retired wrestlers were to be seen. Although I would have been excited if Portland-based wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was signing!

The show was held in the basement of the center, adding to the old-school ambiance. Richard Finn, whose been running the show for 31 years, really kept on top of accommodating his guests. It's always great to have the Guest status and the perks you get with it. Makes you feel that you bring something of value to a convention. And the free box lunch wasn't too bad either!

One thing I was more than happy to do as part of my 'bringing value' to Richard's line-up was to conduct a panel. Jason Martin, my fellow cartoonist and host in Portland, had mentioned to Richard a few months previously that I could do a panel, and so I did. I was actually pleased to see a bigger turnout than I had expected, given the size of the show and subject. "D.I.Y. Comics: The Secrets of Self-Publishing", a presentation I first debuted at GEEKS Comics in my hometown of Whittier, CA, certainly kept the audience's attention. I think my approach, keeping the presentation focused on my real-life experiences, really let's people appreciate what us self-publishing cartoonists have to go through to get our work, and names, out there.

I never sugarcoat the experience of self-publishing. In fact, I find that sharing some of the more difficult times I've been through and then explaining how I worked through them actually benefits the audience in that they see how perseverance pays off. There were some insightful questions asked, and I would try to answer them with an example of something I myself had been through. I've found that over the years I try to keep my anecdotes as 'real world' as possible. Theories and step-by-step plans aren't the only way to connect to an audience, especially if you want to lead by example.

Jason working on a commission for a fan.

I've been neighbors with Jason at a few shows in the years I've known him. We met at San Diego Comic Con back in 04 (I believe). One of the things I've always admired about him was his skills at using the internet for networking and branding himself. He's actually a lot more savvy at that than a majority of my dear friends and fellow cartoonists (sorry folks, you know who you are!). He and I will talk a lot about the industry and how we as DIY creators fit in and how do we get our brand names in front of more people. Shop talk, basically. He and I don't actually have a lot of the same reading tastes, as far as the current stuff on the market, but that doesn't prevent us from yapping away on our topics.

A friend of mine from Portland was exhibiting at this show as well, Kevin Cross!

Kevin is known to one and all as a Rad guy. He's currently getting ready to launch his web comic MONKEY MOD, and a bit of animation to go along with it. Kevin is a freelance illustrator as well as co-host of a popular podcast BIG ILLUSTRATION PARTY TIME. The show, co-hosted by Joshua Kemble, deals with the ins and outs of freelance illustration. PARTY TIME is very informative, and I have to say, it's delivered with a happy dose of good-natured fun.

One of the nice benefits of hosting that panel was that some of the audience members would come by my table afterwards to chat and pick up some of my books. It's always a good thing when you make some new fans wherever you go, and if some of them actually get inspired enough to make their own comics, that's gives me even more satisfaction.

Overall, I had a great time at the show, and really appreciated being invited as a guest. I'd certainly consider coming back next year (and this time I would like to buy some of the cool things I saw the few times I walked around the hall!).

I was really looking forward to Monday, because Jason and I made plans to drive out to the Oregon Coast, about an hour from his home. Turns out to get to the coast, we have to drive through some mountains and forests! The rain started kicking in too, so it made for quite a drive. Well, Jason's used to it, but for me it was funny that I was sightseeing in ever-increasing high winds and rain! Once we got to the Coast, all bets were off!

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach.

You can see in that photo just how active the weather could get. There was one time we stopped at viewing spot where I opened the door and it flew open. We shut the door and smoothly drove off! Actually though, there was a natural beauty seeing these displays of Mother Nature along this beautiful stretch of coast. Most of the seaside towns were drove through were free of tourists. Many of the shops and restaurants were actually closed, but at the same time there was a nice ambiance about being one of the few vehicles driving through these villages.

There was one place I wanted to make sure we stopped at. My pal Kevin had told me the day before that if we stopped in Rockaway, we could get the best dang crab cakes at the Morning Glory Cafe. Well, we stopped in town and found the restaurant and...boy oh boy! Thank you, Kevin!

These crab cakes, with the sauce they provided, were heavenly and oh-so filling! Man, I'm craving one right now. These things were served hot off the grill and made for a great meal. The gent working the place, (and thank God they were open!!) had a tanned, fishermans face, with a hospitable demeanor. He was actually from Idylwood, CA (down near Palm Springs) and about 6 years ago came to Rockaway, saw the coast, and moved up there. I told him I was thinking of doing the same!

These picturesque little seaside towns, with dense pockets of trees on one side and the rocky coast on the other, make for a very enjoyable ride. Through in some turbulent weather and you get one memorable adventure. Another place we stopped at along our drive was Tillamook, a coastal town famous for it's cheese. The place to visit is the Tillamook Cheese Visitor's Center, a unique experience where you can visit the plant where they make their cheese and diary products. They even have an ice cream shop where you can buy their freshly made products. Which we did!

From the observation window looking down at the cheese processing plant.

Besides buying some ice cream, we also were able to sample the wide variety of cheese produced at the plant. At this point, I don't need a comic book convention to get me up to the Northwest again!

The following morning, Tuesday, we were watching the news and the lead story was the thrashing the coast received from the high winds and rain. A building in one of the towns had it's roof ripped off! Tami, Jason's wife, laughed at the fact that he and I were out there sightseeing, enjoying the drive and eating ice cream! Sometimes, sometimes, you gotta enjoy life even when it's being difficult, ya know?

In the 12 years I've been making comics, I've been to many conventions in lots of cities. All of them have been memorable and enjoyable. But this trip, with the one-day show sandwiched between days of endless exploring and adventure, has to rank as one of the best. Thanks to everyone I met along the way while up North. And thanks to my hosts Tami and Jason Martin. Even their cute little chihuahua, Choco, took a liking to me. Last year Choco was a little leary around me, but this time he would sit aside me and be a chum.

Tami, a great conversationalist, and super nice person!

And a tip of the hat to Mr. Jason Martin, a real stand-up guy, dedicated comic creator, and the best tour guide I could hope for! (Let's do it again, huh??)


Jim Lujan said...

Looks like you had a great time. Jason and his wife seem like really wonderful folks. Hope to meet them one day. Kevin Cross! Yay!

Greenblatt the Great! said...

Wow, that Oregon coast looks amazing. And Tillamook cheese! What a whirlwind tour. Jason was a champ whisking you through all of Oregon's greatest hits in like three days! What a great state!

Rox said...

Wow! That trip looks awesomely awesome! Great pictures.

Now I wanna go, too.