Stumptown Comics Fest

Lured by the promise of something interesting and by the beautiful poster, I made my way over to PSU on Saturday to take a look around at the Stumptown Comics Fest. I woke up late and hopped a streetcar over to PSU where I made the poorest decision of the day (possibly of the week, or even month) when I decided to try a chicken bento from Rice Junkies. Having attempted to eat it (and failed) I must say that even if you are on the verge of starvation DO NOT EAT THEIR FOOD. The rice was dry and almost inedible and the chicken 1) didn't look like any chicken part I've ever seen and, 2) was dry, chewy, and flavorless. The sauce brought on another entire level of the inferno that was my lunch, adding an insultingly bitter twist to the injury of the food. After ditching the so called meal in a nearby trash can, I made my way to the Fest itself. The exhibition floor was scattered with an impressive selection of artists peddling their wares, chatting with curious readers, and happily sketching away. All of them seemed very pleased to be there, reveling in the community that was their own. I felt a little out of place, not knowing much about the 'scene' that was represented, but after wandering a bit it didn't seem to matter. As usual, the things that I noticed as I examined the work leaned towards layout , printing techniques, and other designy elements. Several books caught my eye not because they had a compelling concept and amazing illustrations but rather because the hand-lettered type was so beautifully executed. When 5:00 came around it was time for the Comic Art Battle, an amazing no-holds-barred war of pictionary on something psychotropic and highly illegal. The opening event was a 'foundation challenge' between two local comics journalists, one from the Willamette Week, the other from the Oregonian. The audience chose the actions of gargling and grave digging (simultaneously) and the artists took to their easels and drew their interpretations of a volunteer audience member performing these actions. Five minutes later, the winner was chosen by audience applause. The Big O took the cup, but both drawings were greatly amusing. It was then time to move on to the main event of the afternoon. For the four-round comics battle, this years theme was 'Girls vs. Boys'. After a quick introduction of the players (with The Final Countdown playing in the background) the first round began. Again the audience was polled, this time for an adjective, a verb and a noun. As the selected artists from each team began their drawings of an inebriated elephant playing soccer, insults such as "Of course she can draw an elephant, she's a republican!" were flung between the contestants and the audience responded with appropriately shocked gasps. Round 2: The Battle Royale. Two artists compete on the same piece of paper, illustrating a battle between audience chosen armies. Soon beavers and giant squid filled the paper, using teeth, harpoons, tentacles and the INK ATTACK to wage a mighty war. Round 3 was drawn by volunteer artists from the audience. A young boy named Rolly (probably spelled wrong) who had been eagerly suggesting topics, raising his hand, and jumping up and down excitedly went up against a girl whose name I wish I could remember, but can't. They bravely illustrated an audience member ice skating. The final round was a collaborative six-panel strip with two artists from a team working together. Once again, the audience came through with a great topic: botched surgery. Both entries were amusing, but the girls' took the cake in terms of completeness and plot. In the end, the girls were declared victorious and the battle came to an end. It was entirely too much fun while it lasted and I laughed long and hard. The next time someone needs an idea for a comics fundraiser they should just do this. It was ten times funnier than much of the improvisational comedy that I've seen and it lets the audience see the artists at work.

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