Outside the panel

In June 1938, people reeling from the effects of the Great Depression caught their first glimpse of a nearly unbelievable sight: a man clad in red and blue lifting a runaway car from its cowering would-be victim. Superman had come to save the day.


By the mid ’60s, the world had been introduced to a panoply of great heroes. The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Batman and Wonder Woman were all thrilling audiences with their tales of fantasy.

But today, the mainstream comic book industry is falling down. Marvel Comics recently told the Wall Street Journal that it would begin moving away from comic book publishing and toward movies and videogame licensing. Marvel even signed a licensing deal with an online casino firm.


What, then, becomes of the comic book convention? That hoary tradition of the pock-faced and pocket-protected? In Portland, a veritable comic book Mecca, the 300-pound gorilla, the Portland Comic Book Show has recently taken on the smell and luster of a flea market. The March show’s featured guest? Lorenzo Lamas.


But Stumptown Comics Fest is here to change that.


Mild-mannered web developer by day and comic convention organizer by night, Indigo Kelleigh is anxiously penciling a new kind of convention story.


“I don’t go to comic conventions to meet old TV stars,” Kelleigh said.


Kelleigh a 31-year-old longtime Northwesterner lives and breathes comics. He has an ongoing web comic (www.circleweave.com) and one graphic novel to his name. But with the convention he can do more than contribute to the art. He can help elevate it.


The Stumptown Comics Fest, being held this Saturday in the PSU Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom, is more First Thursday than nerd cavalcade. Fans of Giant Robot, Reading Frenzy and The New York Times Magazine’s new Funny Pages should take note. Finally there is a comic convention for you.


“There’s just so much good comics stuff going on in the Northwest I’ve just always been surprised that there wasn’t a unified convention supporting it,” Kelleigh said.


That’s not to say that those who are looking to meet the scribes behind their favorite men and women in tights will be disappointed. Nearly all of the artists at Mercury Studios, a Portland hotspot of high-profile comic art, will be there.


But even the majors at the Stumptown show are uniquely Portland.


“From what I understand, [Mercury Studios] is the only place in the country where you have people working on DC, Marvel and Image together in the same place,” Kelleigh said.


And Kelleigh is quick to say that he isn’t trying to compete with the old guard of the Portland Comic Book Show, instead, the Stumptown fest is trying to build something else entirely.


Take convention speaker Michel Gagne for example. Gagne has done work for Lucasfilm and Warner Brothers, but it’s his book “Insanely Twisted Rabbits” that has gathered a cult fan base.

With more than 80 other artists and writers in attendance and presentations from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. attendees will have the opportunity to dive into the world of independent comics for the first time, or all over again.


Kelleigh, who has financed this year’s convention with his own money, just hopes that the art continues to thrive and thrill people. And if a convention can raise the visibility of Portland’s burgeoning comic-art scene. It’s risky business, sure. But so is the art that he loves.

“What I love about the independent stuff is the experimentation, trying to push comics as an art form, to see what it can do.”


Stumptown Comics Fest 2005

Over 80 booths and even more artists and writers from the Northwest and beyond will huddle close in the Smith Ballroom this weekend.

Where: Smith Memorial Student Union, Third floor Ballroom

When: Saturday, Oct. 1

Cost: $3