Since my Dad’s stroke back in May, my life has been pretty hectic, focusing on family stuff and letting the studs kind of trail behind. I already had this trip planned before everything went to crap. Thankfully my good friend Brandon Graham get’s given hotel rooms to stay in because people like him, so I carefully ride his coattails for an opportunity to have somewhere to stay at a comics show. You can read Brandon’s report on our trip here.
CXC aka Cartoon Crossroads Columbus is a comics show out of Columbus, Ohio held in October. This was the second year of an interesting growing show. The show is run by The great Tom Spurgeon of comics reporter fame. I have a lot of respect and affection for Tom. He’s been on the studs many times for the critics roundtables and I love his depth of questioning and knowledge. Tom is joined by an executive committee that includes Jeff Smith, Vijaya Iyer and Kathleen Glosan from Cartoon Books and Billy Ireland Library founder Lucy Caswell. I think Caitlin McGurk from the Billy Ireland is involved too, but i can’t remember her actual role, she’s one of those powerhouse community organizers that makes me feel like I am way too lazy. CXC is a very Columbus affair that features the city as a central figure and touches on the city’s varied art and academic institutions as community partners focusing the wide range of comics interest that’s become more normalized.
This is going to be a length report with a million photos so click read more!
Brandon stayed over at my place the night before our flight. We had to be out of the house by 5am, so it just made sense. We watched about an hour of Superman Vs Batman before I needed to crash hard. I had already seen it. and it wasn’t particularly great. We got up early and just made it to the airport in time to get breakfast. We went to a canuck themed restaurant. We had breakfast at the same restaurant on our trip to SPX back in 2014 for the East Coast leg of the Inkstuds 500 roadtrip. Life was a lot less stressful then. I miss it. We still have to finish that book, but I think we will have it complete in the new year. I apologize to everyone, but i hope the interviews posted made it worth the investment.
As this was my first vacation in quite sometime, it was nice to be able to get away. Our first flight was from Vancouver to Chicago. Midway through the flight I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet seat and it cracked right under me. I realize this may be TMI, but I don’t really care, it’s my blog. I tweeted some shame tweets at United Airlines for what happened. the staff were nice, but it was a pretty embarrassing situation to get cut my toilet seat breaking under you. United has offered me $350 in compensation. which is pretty much nothing for a major company. blah.
Brandon was amazingly delighted by what happened. I had never seen him so giddy about it. He immediately drew the incident in his sketchbook and ran through all of his butt jokes that he could come up with. He’s couldn’t wait to tell everyone that night.
The Chicago airport is surprisingly gross and stuffy. I think the worst thing about travelling is the air quality. I really wanted fresh air, but there was none to be had. Thank you freedom.
We got to the hotel and had naps. Brandon was excited because there were about 20 pillows on the bed. He threatened to move the beds together. Thankfully he was too tired.
While we were chilling in the lobby waiting for a ride out for dinner by convention volunteers, there were hors d’oeuvre being handed out and they were delicious. I met I Hate Fairyland cartoonist Skottie Young and Comixology dude, Chip Mosher in the lobby. I had never spent anytime with either guys, but very quickly added them to my list of folks i would happily hang out with again.
We were taken to a bar for a special guest event. As usual I rode Brandon’s coattails into some free dinner. There was a handful of people there when we got in. The first group I saw was Seth holding court with Stan Sakai and Sergio Aragones. I know Seth because all Canadians know each other, so he introduced me to Stan and Sergio. I was pretty intimidated by Sergio. I told him i had met him more than 25 years ago at a signing in Victoria. For some reason he didn’t remember me. For the week leading up, Noah Van Sciver had been telling me I need to do a Sergio interview. I know it would be super fascinating, I am just way to freaked out by him. Sergio, Don Martin and Norm Breyfogle are strongly imprinted on my childhood. For a guy who’s built his life into a home surrounded by comics, that’s my foundation.
This was my first time meeting Ben Katchor. I have been asked by listeners to interview him, but I don’t know if i could really do him justice and I think his comics work in such a unique place that a podcast interview doesn’t really fit. Love his comics. It was nice to chat with Jeff Smith. He’s a fan of the inkstuds. It really means a lot knowing someone like him listens to it. I don’t say that to humblebrag. just that when you do a show like this in a bubble, getting any nice words are great.
The last time I saw Ronald Wimberly, was in New York when we interviewed him over lunch while a crusty punk peed behind us. You can see Joe McCulloch behind us. He had a life altering experience meeting Sergio. You can hear him talk about on his report from his podcast. Everyone has a podcast.
It was really nice to get to know Skottie Young. I had no idea he was so into the Insane Clown Posse. I knew that was a thing in the midwest, but he was super hyped by the selection of Faygo at the bar we went to after. The bar was cute, but the only music that would play, would be from a shitty jukebox that we couldn’t find anything good on.
This sign is bullshit. there was no Shoe Artistry, just a messy hotel lobby bathroom and a coke machine.
Our cabby driving us back, got a ticket for doing a uturn. Maybe I am really naive, but had never experienced that. it was weird, POC driver with really rude white cop. The cabby told us it happens all the time to him. He’s always able to get the ticket cancels.
That first day in Columbus, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump were all in town campaigning. It was far from delightful. One person told me about how they were staying in same hotel as the Trump staffers and just how rude they were to the overworked staff.
When we got back to the hotel finally, joined by Ron and Jeff, the guy there to represent Image comics. we saw Keith Night working on his comic strip. Everytime he had downtime, he was working on it. Skottie was working up a furious hunger throughout the night and ordered 4 giant pizzas. I suggested getting 1. By the time we ate, Ron and Keith had gone for the evening and we had a mountain of pizza. It was ridiculous.
The next morning we made our way for breakfast with Skottie and met up with Joe and Chris. I found us a delicious place near the university. I ordered the Biscuits and they were all out. Between this and the toilet seat on the plane, my life was really sucking. CAN NOTHING GO RIGHT. After lunch we went to the famed Billy Ireland Library at Ohio State University. It is as good as everyone says. They had a special selection of pages to look at in rare book room. Joe almost cried when he saw a Ditko page.
For realz, the library is amazing. I would love to go back when it’s not event time, just to get to spend time going through things. The staff were very busy hosting everyone. A lot of people got an archive tour.
There was a state of the industry panel moderated by Tom Spurgeon as a part of the academic programming held in conjunction. Most of the folks on the panel are involved in the comic strip field, which really isn’t my wheel house. I was still pretty tired at this point from jet lag. It was nice to Rich Tommaso. I hadn’t met him in person yet. He’s sitting the far right on the panel.
I got to meet Joseph Remnant and Stephen De Stefano and smiling in the middle is Gregory Benton. Joseph, Noah and I had snuck out for drinks with Charles Burns and Eric Reynolds. Even thought I didn’t take a photo it did happen. It was difficult to find somwhere nice. We ended up sitting outside on a patio, since most of the bars are pretty collegy brofests. Not our scene. I tried hard to convince Charles Burns to draw my cats. He politely declined. My life mission is to get him to draw my boys. Someone help me. I’m looking at you Frank Santoro. Help an inkstud out!
I went out for dinner with Team Alternative comics, Sean Ford, Bak, Julia Gfrörer and more. I forget all. We walked the long trek from the Billy Ireland to even that night. We got some mexican for dinner. It was ok. I would give it a 5 out of 10. It was great to see Sean. His guest hosting has been an invaluable assistance for me. i hope he decides to do more. I would be happy to have him on anytime.
That night was party hosted by Katie Skelly. It was a in a bar that had free arcade games everywhere. I think that’s great for comics folks, if they needed a break from talking and general anxiety ridden actions. I played a fighting game and really sucked at it.
I used to be super comfortable in these big party situations. I dj’ed in clubs back in my early 20s. Hosted many a function and been generally out and about. Since my dad’s stroke, I have hated any kind of small talk. I just don’t really feeling like chatting about how things are, because honestly, they suck. I was happy to see Ryan Sands of Youth In Decline. I know him well enough to be able to talk about what’s going on personally and not be doing polite comics festival talk. Brandon, Skottie and I met back up at the party and snuck to walk Katie back to her hotel and then jumped in an uber to a pizza place. Skottie loves pizza. This time we got slices instead of giant pizzas. We had taken one of those pizza’s from the other night and left in our room. Brandon was snacking on it for breakfast.
I don’t know why, but I took no photos at the actual festival except for the room i interviewed Sean T Collins in. I also interviewed Seth and Noah Van Sciver that day. it was a good one. Here are some photos of drawings people did for me. I brought a sketchbook that i didnt realize had perforated pages.
This was my first time finally meeting Carol Tyler. Her comics are as amazing as people say. she’s an important voice and you need to be reading her work now. I know Brandon bought a bunch of Sophie’s comics and really liked them. They are very good.
All four of these artists need to be on soon. Josh told me about a big project he has been working on that should be out next year. Scott sent me an amazing Riso flip book he did. It is honestly the best. I don’t think I can say anything about Nate Powell that you didn’t already know. He’s on top of the world right now. Whit Taylor has been doing some really interesting work and good writing on comics.
Joseph Remnant sat for quite a while with this drawing. Kurt Ankeny was sitting next to Whit Taylor. He just sent me his new book, In Pieces, which looks very nice. I hung out a bunch with Ted Stearn that evening for drinks. He’s such a talent. I dont know why I didn’t talk about Rick and Morty with him.
We went back to our hotel which had bar named after James Thurber and had a bunch of art by him all over the place. it was fine as far as hotel bars go, but it was really nice to be able to swap stories with Seth and Noah. We had just done that interview, so this was the off record part. Seth told Brandon how much he liked King City. I think that shocked Brandon.
I rode Brandon’s coattails to the Image dinner that night. It was at this weird old timey steak house. It was very tasty. Thank you Image comics. i didnt realize that green stuff was mouth wash, so I sprayed it all over my hands.
Rare Selfie. Enjoy folks.
After dinner we showed up late to the saturday night party for Stan Sakai. We missed pretty much everything. I saw Charles Burns again, but was too chicken to bug him about drawing my cats. Everyone loves Carol Tyler. Her new place sounds pretty amazing.
That night after a short visit to the party, we went back to the hotel lobby and Brandon and Skottie spent the next 2 hours talking about comics being published now in mainstream market. I was bored. Crashed hard that night.
We were woken up in the morning by terrible music being cranked for a marathon happening outside our hotel window. I was not happy. I don’t want to get woken up at 8 am by Michael Jackson.
Sunday night was the dead dog party. We went back to the Thurber Lounge with team fantagraphics. I gave my phone to Chris Anthony Diaz to take this photo. For some reason he gave me a couple of extra neck rolls.
It’s Brandon’s spirit animal.
Neither Brandon or I have Uber on our phones, so we luckily grabbed a ride from Jordan Shiveley and David Nuss. Thanks boys! The Sunday party was kind of located in the middle of nowhere and for a couple of Canadians, we don’t want to get lost.
One of the big challenges for the show, is that there wasn’t a lot of clarity for spaces where things are happening. It’s a new show, and i think each year they get a little tighter.
The next morning we went to track down Ronald Wimberley at the Thurber House. He was in the middle of a residency there. Last year Eleanor Davis was the guest. The house links up their residency to have a comic person for when the festival happens. It’s a nice creepy old house. Here are sculptors outside the house.
I forget how tall Brandon is. So fucking tall. Ron had an art exhibition up at a major gallery near by. It was closed but they snuck us in. It was pretty great.
Tom Spurgeon met up with us there and took us out for lunch with his brother Whit. Whit’s a nice guy. I like him. Tom kept asking us if we are doing ok. I guess this year has been pretty rough for me and Brandon in our own ways. A group of little old ladies came by our table to tell us how nice and quiet we were. That was odd.
We were both very excited to get home. It’s been a good trip, but I missed my cats. When we were checking in, the flight told us that there might be a delay. When we got to the gate, we found out that we would miss our connecting flight in Chicago. Our only option was to stay in Columbus over night and fly out the next day. I wasn’t excited to do that, so I got them to fly us to Seattle and then we can fly home first thing in the morning and be home at a decent time. It was a brutal and epic trip.
We flew to Houston and got a connector to Seattle there. Airport food is terrible. We got a hotel in Seattle from United. The hotel had a weird layout. They made a big deal about us getting balconies with our rooms. Turns out the balconies looked out over a parking. the other side had balconies that looked out over a lovely lake. Thanks a lot.
But bad news, he made us listen to Toby Keith the whole way home. I think this was the most traumatic part of the trip.