Another year, another trip to Cartoon Crossroads in Columbus. For all of the non-Ohio readers out there, Cartoon Crossroads (CXC) is a convention put together by Jeff Smith (he did a little book you might know by the name of Bone). Because Jeff is from Ohio, the convention is held in the Columbus Library, which is an amazing place. Cartoon Crossroads is a bit like SPACE (you know, that OTHER convention I prattle on about), because there are a lot of small press/indie creators set up in the library. However, with a name like Jeff Smith attached to it, this convention is able to bring in some other big names. But don’t think like Wizard World, these aren’t people from movies and TV, no these are other creators that a lot of people on the indie scene look up to. So, needless to say, I’m going to unpack my experience here!
If you follow my social media, then you know that I went to CXC with the intention of listening to alt. comix cartoonist Peter Bagge give a talk. Last year at CXC they hosted Stan Sakai and Garry Trudeau, and I chickened out of seeing them both (that was my first year at CXC). So I vowed not to make the same mistake. I went, I (miraculously) found parking, and I waited for the talk. When I walked in, I saw Peter Bagge sitting at his table. Seeing famous comic creators in person is still something I’m getting used to. Now, if you’ve read any of his stuff like Hate or Neat Stuff, you will understand that my first thought was “he must be one angry guy!” His comics often centered around some seriously pissed off characters. But time has moved on. When he began his talk, he was calm and wise. He spent most of the time talking about his most recent work, which was really interesting to me. He has done some biographical stuff on Margaret Sanger (founder of planned parenthood) and Zora Neale Hurston (an author from the 20th century.)
What was really interesting was his talking about the blend of his cartoon-y art with a serious subject matter, like a biography. This is of personal interest due to the fact that, as you might have noticed by now, I’m not known for realism. It was an interesting concept, to merge the two styles. But he said “My drawing is just how I express myself.” And that really opened some doors in my mind for me to think about how I could maybe, one day, do some more consistently serious stuff.
Once Peter Bagge was done talking, I went to leave the room and realized that, the whole time, I had been sitting behind famous cartoonist Chris Ware. He’s the author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, and Building Stories and is a pretty big deal! If you’ve not read anything by him, I recommend picking something up, he’s not like anyone else. I couldn’t tell it was him by the back of his head, but when I made the connection I was too nervous and just tried to watch him from afar like the beautiful bird he is. But talk about a cool moment!
So I bought a book from Peter Bagge, and tried to talk, but was still pretty nervous. I mingled with the people tabling, a lot of them I know from the circuit. It was good to see my fellow creators again, on the grind. I picked up a lot of good material. Actually, I spent a nice chunk of change, but who cares? Creators support creators as my friend Steven Trickey says. As I made another loop, I was told that Kyle Baker also had a table. Kyle Baker is a great cartoonist who’s published books like Nat Turner and the Cowboy Wally Show, as well has having a quite successful run on my favorite stretchy super hero, Plastic Man.
By this point in the day I was able to overcome that social anxiety and actually talk to him. We probably talked for about 25 minutes, and it was really great! We talked about comics, and his career, and cartooning. His take on Plastic Man has not been matched to this day. In his care, Plas has unlimited potential as to what he can do with his body. I talked to him a little about my stuff (maybe he remembers my name!)
Throughout the rest of the show, I also ran into Derf, another Ohio writer who is the author of My Friend Dahmer (you probably know that book). I bought a book from him called Punk Rock and Trailer Parks and when he opened it up to draw something, there was already a picture of Joey Ramone. I’ll take that any day! He didn’t even remember it was in there, which was pretty funny. And not too far from Derf was Nate Powell. You might know his name. He worked on the trilogy of graphic novels called March, about the life of John Lewis (also really good stuff). We chatted for a bit about comics, John Lewis, and the show, and I bought some of his collected short stories. I think he was surprised by how easy a sale it was, but c’mon, I was looking to buy!
Shows like CXC are my favorite. They showcase local and indie talent in a way that doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of huge cons. They are affordable and, best of all, people actually want to talk about comics and art. I am able to stop and talk about the process of making comics with pretty much everyone, and make new friends and contacts. In a field where it’s easy to get discouraged, shows like this are where you go to get super charged. It’s where you meet the people who are in it just like you. I can’t wait for it next year, and I’m sure that you’ll be hearing me gush on about another show here pretty soon. In the meantime, check them out yourself. If you hear about a show near you, go and see what it’s all about!