Short Run: I second that

Martin McClellan

November 03, 2015

You've hopefully already read Paul's definitive guide to the Short Run Comix and Arts Festival, but I wanted to share what my more personal experience of what the day was like.

I was with my five year-old, who was pretty excited as soon as he figured out that he could trick 'r treat at most of the tables, so long as they showed a little pink indicator sign. This was ingenious, so thank you to all of the tables that participated. I especially liked the fellow who said "none of my comics are safe for kids, so it seemed only fair to have candy." My boy walked away with plenty of that, a piece of painted clay candy corn, little pinbacks, and a handful of tiny comics. All that, even though his father neglected to put him in his Darth Vader gear (I'm reluctant to call it a costume. "Identity" might be more accurate).

Here's the kid's haul — he even got a friendship bracelet!

But, of course, even the most ebullient kid this age has limits to his patience, so I had to move through pretty quickly. That didn't stop us from discovering some great pieces, albeit mostly kid-friendly (although, I did sneak a copy of Bloody Pussy when his back was turned, since Paul took the copy that was sent to us).

I stopped by Aaron Bagley's table and picked up a couple of his comics, Cat City (with a full color poster centerfold!), and Greetings from Cat City (which, like a 45, is b/w The Gluten Free Hobo, a book that mistakenly includes a strip printed twice, the second instance with a sticker over it that read "Pardon our printing error! This booklet was printed on equipment shared with wheat, tree nuts, and idiots"). Aaron's work is playful, humorous, whacky, and his style shows a winking nod to George Herriman.

Aaron's wife Jessixa Bagley wasn't on hand, but I picked up all four volumes of her I [heart] Twin Peaks, little chapbooks with a character portrait on each page. Jessixa's first (non-indie) children's book Boats for Papa came out this year, and she has another due next, so it was fun to see something a bit different and smaller scale from her.

Like Paul, I was excited to see Mita Mahato, since I loved her reading during Lit Crawl. I think her paper-cut style, and topics drawn from her dreams, are both compelling and unique. Feel free to drop the common advice not to share your dreams, if your subconscious does half the work of hers. I took home Sea, richly patterned paper-cut tableaus of underwater sea-life. It's dimensional and vibrant, which wouldn't be a normal description of a book in a Seattle-sky gray monochromatic palette, but this is not an ordinary book. It's so nicely done, with a hand-sewn binding and a paper-band wrap. One thing about short run is the care artists put into their work, and Mahato obviously has a book-arts background. That shows, too, in her mini-comic Nightmare, with its accordion fold story of an elevator that descends, and opens to reveal a menacing clown. The form of the little book was as good as a jack-in-the-box, and my son (who likes scary things) excitedly insisted on showing this his mother first thing after we got home.

At the table for The New Foundation I picked up an oversized tabloid of Andrea Geyer's Revolt, They Say, a project mapping the relationships of female artists and creators back to the three women who founded The Museum of Modern Art in 1929: Lillie P. Bliss, Abby A. Rockefeller, and Mary Q. Sullivan. The outside of each sheet is printed with the pencil-drawn map, the inside with the biographies of the women appearing on the outer leaf (and typeset, appropriately, in the Baskerville revival Mrs. Eaves, named after Baskerville's housekeeper, business partner, and then second wife, Sarah Eaves — a face designed by the most influential designer of the modern era, Zuzana Licko). The New Foundation is an arts support organization founded by philanthropist and art collector Shari Behnke and director Yoko Ott. Jen Graves (of course) has the scoop on them.

Cornish College of the Arts was there with a table, and I stopped by to say hi, both because I'm an alumni, and because they had a little Kelsey table-top letterpress set up to print bookmarks. I got to meet Dan Shafer, who took over running their letterpress shop after my teacher, the book artist Jim Koss, retired.

I picked up Elissa Washuta's My Body is a Book of Rules, because like many of you, reading a review by Paul Constant makes me want to read what he has, and because it's so nice to meet artists in person and buy their books directly from them.

The favorite of the day, for both my son and me, is Laura Knetzger's Bug Boys. This is a big collection of episodic comics about a friendship between a stag beetle, Stag-B, and his best friend, a rhinoceros beetle, Rhino-B. Knetzger has weaved a complex, rich world for these bugs, who pray (and debate the value of praying) to a chrysalis that may contain a corpse; interact with humans they can't understand; live in mushrooms in a bug village; hitch rides on the backs of furry dogs to go to the beach and surf and find treasure; meet a spider librarian who tells them that many of their favorite stories were, in fact, human stories that were translated by bugs who snuck into human's houses, and then re-wrote and re-contextualized them so that they'd make sense to bugs. The book is brand new, and only available for pre-order. I feel lucky to have scored a copy after taking a chance at her booth.

Because it's utterly charming, and richly philosophical in a way that kept the attention of both the parent and the kid, and that's a tall order. The stories never go where you expect, and the bug friendship is sweet, but also thoughtful and sophisticated, despite feeling pared down and seemingly straightforward.

Last night when my son came to give me a hug goodnight, he insisted I call him Stag-B, and he said "Goodnight, Rhino-B!" to me as he ran off. Of course, we all love becoming submerged in the story we are reading, but that Knetzger's delightful work was able to push Darth Vader out the window? That's pure magic.

Books in this review:
  • Bug Boys
    by Laura Knetzger

    November 02, 2015
    352 pages
    Purchased by SRoB
    Pre-order now
  • Sea
    by Mita Mahato

    October 31, 2015
    16 pages
    Purchased by SRoB
    Buy online
  • Nightmare
    by Mita Mahato

    October 31, 2015
    6 pages
    Purchased by SRoB
    More information
  • Greetings from Cat City b/w the Gluten Free Hobo
    by Aaron Bagley

    October 31, 2015
    14 pages
    Purchased by SRoB
    More information
  • Cat City
    by Aaron Bagley

    October 31, 2015
    12 pages
    Purchased by SRoB
    More information
  • I [heart] Twin Peaks
    by Jessixa Bagley

    October 31, 2015
    28 (7 each) pages
    Purchased by SRoB
    More information
  • Revolt, They Say
    by Andrea Geyer

    May 01, 2015
    20 pages
    Provided by publisher
    More information
  • My Body Is a Book of Rules
    by Elissa Washuta

    August 01, 2014
    224 pages
    Provided by publisher
    Buy on IndieBound

About the writer

Martin is a co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. He's a novelist (his first, California Four O'Clock, was published in 2015 by a successful Kickstarter campaign). He designs websites, apps, and other things for a living.

Follow Martin McClellan on Twitter: @hellbox

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