Short Run Comix & Arts Festival was packed this year. There were quite a few booths I had to skip because of people eagerly blocking them. This is good — I was there a few hours after opening, and more than one artist I talked to spoke about being sold out of some items.
My favorite from last year, Laura Knetzger was back with a few new issues of her delightful comic Bug Boys. One of the stories, Issue Thirteen, was a kind of inner-journey psychedelic bug nightmare. It was a dark-night of the bug soul and a kind of peyote journey in the bug desert. In Issue Fourteen, Stag-B and Rhino-B accompany their friend the Bee Queen on a journey. Kntezger loves to put her bugs in underground contained architecture, placing them in situations of awe and fear, and evoking their truest natures. I find her work a great balm of philosophical thoughtfulness, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when her little heroes stumble on a new adventure.
Like Paul (our time at the festival overlapped, but we didn't see each other), I picked up Coyote and Butterfly Woman from Noel Franklin and Anne Bean, and appreciated its modern retelling of an old legend, especially for its Seattle setting, its tragic explanation of masculinity sadly pertinent this very week.
Hatem Imam, from Beirut, had a few interesting pieces in his booth. I picked up The Passing, a four-part story told largely in engravings and minimal text. The cover of each book was an intaglio copper-plate etching from the last story in the book, a nice tactile treat, and a very sober, serious presentation.
I said hi to Aaron Bagley, and picked up a set of small comics that he produced with his wife Jessixa Bagley, telling fictionalized mythologies centered on his parents house in Utah. I also bought one of his hand-illustrated greeting cards, a cat in a polka dot dress taking a picture of her spaghetti and meatballs dinner. (Secret about Aaron: he has a vast knowledge of outsider metal. If you like the heavy stuff, he always has good tips for obscure Japanese drone bands.)
I picked up the Colleen Frakes The Saint’s Eyes, fairy-tail(ish) shorts that were clever, often with fun or funny little twists at the end, and looked through her NaNoDrawMo book as well, which was interesting and fun and now I wish I had picked it up as well.
Emily Eagle had a great table, with many little projects, and a big print in simple blue hand-done type that read “this means your heart works”. I picked up her Giant Feelings, which is also her URL, and kind of perfect.
I walked away with (I paid, I promise!) a copy of RSVP by Gabrielle Bates and Catherine Bresner, what they call a “Poetry comic collaboration”, and that’s true. The art is primarily collage, and echoes some kind of Americana DNA that it was good to see conjured for uses of art.
Probably my favorite pieces I bought this year were from French artist Kerascoët, which is the pen name of married couple Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset, who manned the booth together. I sought them out after the recommendation from a friend, and I’m glad I did. Miss Don't Touch Me is a story set in the 1930s, a woman investigating a murder of someone close to her by joining a high-end Paris brothel as a never-to-be-touched dominatrix. The other, the Eisner nominated Beautiful Darkness, starts with fairy-like creatures emerging from the corpse of a dead girl in the woods, a horror countered by the cuteness of the characters.
When I first came to their table, the man in front of me, blood draining from his face, said "Wait, you're her…them? I'm a huge fan!" It was as if he had just met a Hollywood star. Marie took the time to draw beautiful inscriptions on both his — and my — books, which was worth waiting for. Crayon, pen, and characters, an artist drawing something for you right there at the table. Isn’t that what it’s all about?