To Be Known, If Only for a Moment: Thoughts on Cartoon Crossroads Columbus 2016

This weekend was Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC). This year represented the show’s first major expansion as it continues to grow.  There was an academic conference on Thursday and Friday, with events throughout the end of the week; the CXC Expo and Marketplace happened
Saturday and Sunday this year, and I was fortunate enough to attend both
weekend days. 

It sounds like the stuff Thursday and Friday was very good. A lot of folks talked about the Friday night programming in glowing terms. 

In some ways I think that the show is still growing. From a size perspective, the Marketplace is smaller than SPACE, another small press show in Columbus, but the level of talent is a bit higher? There’s a higher level of publisher involvement, at least. Fantagraphics, Uncivilized Press, Alternative Comics, and Image all had representatives at the show. The whole thing is curated, but there were a lot of familiar local faces as well as some nationally recognized talent. There was also a small international contingent, mostly from Canada. I think that CXC can certainly be another great North American Comics show, and I think it exists in a place that is uniquely invested in comics. I’m excited for things to come.

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The programming was nice. I went to a few things over the course of the two days, and I live tweeted the Sacha Mardou feature out of some sense of journalistic responsibility (a thing I have no right to claim, honestly, since I’m a critic, not a comics journalist). I let others do the work at the Sergio Aragonés feature, which was quite charming.

I know these shows can be exhausting. After a full day of talking shop with a long list of creators, I was able to spend a nice evening with a few cartoonists getting awesome tacos and ice cream. By the time I got to the after party Saturday night, my brain had about had it. I had to retreat and regroup. I think that show attendees don’t see the behind the scenes sometimes. These weekends can be grueling, working all week on comics or
on a day job and comics, only to work an entire weekend selling comics. It’s a lot.

I bought a lot of books. Three new pieces from Marnie Galloway, which seems like a lot. The new Roman Muradov book, the new Julia Gfrörer book. I’m very excited about all these. I picked up a lot of mini comics, and hopefully I’ll find something new to love.

Being a critic at these shows is always a little strange. You have the capacity to talk to folks at length about stuff, and the inevitable question is, “Are you tabling?” and the sometimes awkward discussion about where I come from, what I do, that’s not at all my forte. I’m bad at planning – I should have brought cards or zines to pass out, but I didn’t think ahead.

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The biggest event of the show for me personally was Kevin Czap being awarded the Emerging Artist Award, which comes with a substantial cash prize. In the picture above, I’m off to the left, crying like a big baby. Kevin has been one of the most wonderful supportive people to me over the last two years. I owe them a great deal. I’m so happy.

I also had a lot of smart, interesting conversations, and generally had a wonderful time. I don’t feel the need to call out everyone who I talked to, but you know who you are.

 I’ve been worn down and not so productive over the last 2 months, and part of that was not having the booster shot of SPX or CAKE to wake me up and bring me back to life after a long hot summer. I’ve got a lot of reading to do, but I’m hoping for the next few months to be more productive.

I had a small conversation about the show with a friend, saying how wonderful these events in general are, but how personal CXC felt. “It is good to be known,” I said, “if only for a moment, if only in a small way.” And as they nodded and we went our separate ways, I dwelled on that thought. It is good to be known, if only for a moment. Thanks CXC. Thanks for that moment. See you next year.


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