Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Portland 09: As good as it gets! PT 1

I got back home Tuesday from my trip to Portland, OR., and lemme tell you, I wish that wasn't the case!

I traveled to Oregon for the Portland Comic Book Show on Sunday, Nov. 15. I was actually a Guest of the show, with a table and plane ticket tossed into the package. My trip started Friday morning at Long Beach Airport, a rather small and quaint little airport that reminded me of something from the Rocketeer, with it's 1940s So Cal art deco look.

(This photo is from the airport's website, which is way nicer than the one I took)

Starting off with this sunny, palm tree-lined classic, pcituresque airport, my trip was only going to get better from this point onward...

Upon arriving in Portland, I asked my friend Jason Martin (and gracious host who was listed on the convention website as 'co-sponsor' of my appearance!) to take me to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK PIZZA! My good friend and LA-area cartoonist Michael Aushenker (and no slouch in the dining recommendation department!) had recently been to Portland himself and directed me to try this pizza!

I don't often come across New York style pizza in LA, but this one was excellent. That's Jason giving his approval, with my two slices in the foreground awaiting my hungry maw!

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK PIZZA is located on 23rd Street, one of the many little cool, bohemian neighborhoods making up this city. Just on this block alone were dozens upon dozens of eateries, galleries, shops and an old-school theatre showing martial art films! I knew we were off to a good start.

Traveling through the hills to get from downtown Portland to Jason's home in neighboring Beaverton, we passed through what I love to call Bigfoot Country. Dense forests of trees with pockets of homes scattered throughout. The weather was cold and between showers, but after that pizza, it wasn't anything to worry about.

Arriving at my room at Casa Martin, I was greeted by this lovely sign, courtesy of Jason's wife Tami. And I was also welcomed in by their dang cute chihuahua, Choco!

(Tami must have used a lot of chalk on that sign, cause I think there was some chalk dust in my eye.....)

Saturday morning was rung in with a homemade breakfast courtesy of Chef Martin (Thanks Jason!). Eggs, sunny side up, hash browns, maple syrup flavored sausage and toast....Mmm mmm. Believe it or not, that wouldn't be my only meal of the day whipped up by a cartoonist!!

A good part of our Saturday was taken up with a whirlwind tour of no less than 4 comic book shops, each one located in these wonderful, unique neighborhoods. Also, there are no less than 3 comic book publishers in the area. Milwaukie, OR. is the home of DARK HORSE COMICS, the other local publishers being Oni & Top Shelf.

(Gotta agree with this sentiment!)

Across the street from the Dark Horse building was the comic chain, THINGS FROM ANOTHER WORLD, and a cool antique mall that had an old-fashioned soda shop in the back. My camera batteries died out so I couldn't take anymore pictures, but what a great place. Later, we moved onto EXCALIBUR COMICS, which was located down the street from an old movie theater called The Bagdad. They were showing THE WARRIORS that evening, but we already had dinner plans. EXCALIBUR had a huge back issue selection, as well as old Treasury Edition comics and lots of b&w comic magazines from the 60s and 70s.

The other shop we went to was COSMIC MONKEY, another huge comic shop filled with isles of just about every trade paperback in print! The had an upstairs loft jam-packed with mini-comics, zines and underground comics. While we were there, local writer Brian Michael Bendis walked in with out-of-town guest David Mack.

Later that evening, Jason and I visited FLOATING WORLD COMICS, a real nice shop featuring lots of independent comics and a great collection of art books. They even have an art gallery. I actually contributed to a ROM, SPACEKNIGHT art show a couple of years ago. While we were walking to FLOATING WORLD, we came across this little gem:

This is the infamous 'Church of Elvis/24 Hour Art Gallery'! I could not believe what I was looking at. A more bizarre and ridiculous idea I could not imagine, which is why I loved it! Like an ATM, it was embedded into the wall along the street. Except instead of getting money, you give it money and see art and um, praise Elvis!!?

After the coin-operated Elvis church, we attended a dinner party hosted by comic book writer/inker Karl Kesel. Karl usually hosts a get-together for the out-of-town creators attending the Portland Comic Book Show, and he actually cooked up about 6 main dishes, everything from a shrimp lasagna to a pork dish and even a red velvet cake! What an amazing generous thing to do. Other artists who attended were Gene Ha and Steve Lieber, and some other artists from Portland's PERISCOPE STUDIOS.

Me, Jason and our affable host, Karl Kesel.

The food was amazing, the dinner conversations were engaging and Karl's collection of original art was a joy to behold (Dick Sprang BATMAN, Chester Gould DICK TRACY, Alex Toth SPACEGHOST, Milton Caniff's STEVE CANYON..etc). Thanks to Karl for hosting us, and for Richard of the Portland Comic Book Show for arranging the evening. I hadn't even been to the comic book show yet, and already I was having more fun and comic goodness round the clock! Yeah, Portland is my type of town...

I'll stop here at Pt. 1, and will dutifully post Pt 2 of my Portland trip within the next 24 hours! Come back for my DIY Comics panel at the show, a drive along the Oregon Coast, and the best dang crab cake you could ask for!


Jason Martin said...


Good times indeed...
I'm truly spoiled to live in the great city of Portland, amidst the great NW, AND have it grow into a hub of comics on top of everything else!!!
Nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to remind one of things taken for granted! ;)

Now, a couple (minor) corrections :D

1) Escape from NY Pizza is located on NW 23rd, but Cinema 21, the theater you referenced is actually on NW 21st, and the whole area is known as NW Portland...
but yes, they do have some of the best pizza (true NYC style) in town!!

2)It's the 24 hour church of Elvis... world renowned baby!!!

And yeah, wow, the Long Beach airport looks quite unique! I stand corrected!!!

Looking forward to part 2 fine sir!

Javier Hernandez said...

HA!! You and I were joking about the fact that you'd probably find some snafus in my post! Thankfully I didn't refer to Salem as the capitol of Portland!!!! :)

Greenblatt the Great! said...

wow, looks like Jason showed you one hell of a good time. And you got to see every hip comics entity in town! Plus you met Karl Kesel and Steve Lieber! Karl's the guy who wrote FF#56, in my Golem article, in which the Thing is revealed to be Jewish. Lieber drew one of the Road to Perdition prequels and that White Out graphic novel. Exciting dinner companions, Javy!