Spurred on by an invitation (and offer of free room and board) from festival director Tom Spurgeon, my friend Joe McCulloch I attended the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus festival, held in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend.
If you want a full blow-by-blow account of our trip, check out the latest episode of Comic Books Are Burning in Hell (shameless plug). What follows however, is a (somewhat) brief photo diary of my adventures. It was a good time.
As mentioned, I stayed at the home of the mighty Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon, who had a host of rotating house guests sleeping on his couches and floors throughout the show. As you could well imagine, Tom’s home boasts an impressive collection of graphic novels and original art, as well as two Eisners, perfectly displayed above his kitchen sink.
The first event we attended was a lecture at the Ohio State University by animator and Winsor McCay biographer John Canemaker on how McCay’s interest in depicting motion and movement led him to be a pioneer in animation. The best moment was easily when Canemaker attempted to re-enact McCay’s vaudeville banter with Gertie the Dinosaur and coaxed the audience to join in.
Hot tip: Hanging out with the festival director can get you invited to all the cool kid parties, like ones where the drink tickets are designed by Jeff Smith.
We spent most of the next day examining the wonders of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, also on the OSU campus. Much has been said about the Billy Ireland and all of it is true. The good stuff anyway. This place is a treasure trove of comics art. They even have Chester Gould’s drawing table!
The museum was also hosting open house tours on the hour as part of the festival. This gave visitors a chance to sneak into the climate-controlled rooms and see things like Milton Caniff’s life mask and original Terry and the Pirates art.
There was also a reading room, where visitors could examine books on the shelves or handle some of the original art on the tables (provided they wore the proper white gloves). There was classic work by Robert Crumb, Steve Ditko, Rory Hayes, Greg Irons and Neal Adams all lying about for perusal.
Toward the end of the day, an informal opening ceremony was held, the highlight being the awarding of the Master Cartoonist award to Sergio Aragones and Carol Tyler.
The next day (Saturday) was day one of the expo part of the festival, held in the impressive Columbus Metropolitan Library. It was a relatively small affair but included such notable artists Brandon Graham, Katie Skelly, Skottie Young, Jim Rugg, Julia Gfrorer, Sacha Mardou and others.
As far of books of note at the show: Fantagraphics had the latest iteration of Love and Rockets (now back to a magazine-sized pamphlet) and Sunday Press Books had a new oversize collection of Dick Tracy Sunday strips. (this was apparently the first comic show Sunday Press had done outside of San Diego).
I got a mixed reaction from the exhibitors I talked to on the show floor. Some said they were having steady or even great sales. Others were less enthusiastic, saying things were slow at best. Hopefully, Sunday was better for these folks.
There were also a number of panels and signings. A long line of young girls and moms snaked around to get Raina Telegemeier’s autograph, and there was a nice crowd of people to see Sergio Aragones and Stan Sakai chat, with Jeff Smith serving as an informal moderator.
No trip to Columbus is complete without a stop at The Laughing Ogre.
To wrap up our trip, we attended a talk by Charles Burns, who ran through his entire career from early influences to latest work, Last Look, showing how his childhood interests shaped his contemporary work.
Sadly, we couldn’t stick around on Sunday so we thanked Tom and bid adieu to the Buckeye State.
While still in its infancy, CXC shows ambition and a good deal of promise, especially in its desire to blend the educational and academic comics world with the more traditional aspects of the average indie comics show. If it can pull it off in the years to come, it will be a show worth attending regularly.