I don’t know much about comics, but I enjoy reading them and am inspired by the local creators who work hard to build a strong scene. When I heard there was a panel called “A Voltron That Has Yet to Assemble: The Columbus Comics Scene Past, Present, and Future” at CCAD’s Mix comics symposium, I had to attend. Moderated by James Moore (2-Headed Monster Comics), the panel included Bob Corby (S.P.A.C.E.), Ken Eppstein (Nix Comics), Jenny Robb (Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum), and Jeffrey Stang (The Laughing Ogre). Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter) was the featured guest. As I typed notes, the guy next to me and the lady in front of me doodled cartoons of the panelists. Spurgeon, the lone panelist not living in Ohio, offered a refreshing perspective.
“Columbus has all of the earmarks of a classic emerging comics scene,” he said. “It was always this terrifying weird city that people talked about but no one knew about, sort of like the South Carolina of cities.” He referenced our nationally known comic shops and matter-of-fact cosmopolitanism (Ha! He knows us.) Thanks to our large volume of students and institutional support, he thinks Columbus is a “potential juggernaut” in the comics world.
“The Midwest has real audiences of arts enthusiasts,” he said. “And it’s actually kind of a nice place to live.”
Spurgeon established himself in Seattle, where he encountered “a mix of angry old people and angry young people.” He name-dropped a bunch of people he worked with that I’d never heard of. And Gary Larson*.
“Do Columbus comics feel a close connection with one another?” Spurgeon asked. Moore responded that most of them feel a real sense of community. They frequently hang out and share meals together. “One thing that we all have in common is music as a topic,” Moore said. “A lot of local comics are about musicians.” Eppstein, who actually molded his business plan after those of local indie bands, aims to publish a monthly cartoon newspaper. “Columbus is one of the best cross-sections of American culture,” he said. “If you can come here and build an audience, that audience will follow you to other cities.”
When the OSU Cartoon Museum reopens in November, Robb hopes to better serve local comic creators. She’d also like to start a graphic novel book club. In her eyes, when it comes to the future of Columbus comics, “the sky is the limit.”
* Okay. I vowed not to be That Girl who ran up to him afterward, babbling about how I wrote my college entrance essay about Larson and that two huge compendiums of Larson’s work live in my kitchen. But I thought about it.