by Kevin Czap
For the third year in a row, comics invaded the Beachland Ballroom this past Saturday for Genghis Con, Cleveland’s underground and independent festival. From where I’m sitting, the show this year was an unparalleled success on all fronts. Moods were high, attendance was up, sales were great and the work on display was really something. Since the first show in 2009, the Genghis Con has represented for me the state of Cleveland’s comics scene, and this year I’m having a hard time getting over my excitement with where we’re at. I’ll do my best to reign in my biases, but just know I’m very damn proud of this town of ours.
I got to the Beachland way too early as I usually do to help set up, but for the second year in a row, the ballroom crew was on top of it, so we walked through the door to find everything in place and the show floor spotless. I was in go mood by the time other exhibitors started to fill in. Not only were Cleveland’s finest on hand (at those who weren’t away on holiday), but we also had a bunch of guests coming in from Toledo, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philly and Chicago. One of the bigger accomplishments for me was having John Porcellino be there with Spit and a Half. It felt really important to have so much quality work from the wider world of comics available to Clevelanders, especially since, unlike previous years, Astound! (basically the only shop in town you can buy indie comics) wouldn’t be selling anything.
By the time everyone had arrived and set up, the space was packed. That being said, I think the size of this show is perfect – one of the smallest shows I’ve done, there’s enough to have it not feel empty or sparse, but not too crowded that it’s overwhelming for attendees (or exhibitors for that matter). Everything felt really casual, the open bar and complimentary donuts helped set the relaxed atmosphere the that Genghis Con prides itself on.
From the time the doors opened until the end of the show, there was a steady stream of traffic that, again, wasn’t oppressive. Just right. One of the cool things about this show is each exhibitor is encouraged to make a little freebie that the attendees collect. That way people can go home with something for their $5 entry even if they don’t buy anything else. And since tables are free for exhibitors, there’s not as much stress involved with trying to recoup show costs. Also, I talked a bit about food in my previous show report – the Beachland Ballroom has a full service kitchen at the bar, so exhibitors were able to eat well without having to step foot outside the premises.
For me, as with most of these shows, the most rewarding part was the community aspect. Especially for a homebase show, where you don’t have to leave the city after it’s all over and pine away about all the new friends you might only get to see again after a year. The show this year represented a definitive step forward in bringing Cleveland cartoonists toward an active scene. After the show a bunch of us went out to the popular grilled cheese restaurant Melt, and everything felt right.
Of course, now the mission will be to make Genghis Con 2012 even better. Hope to see you then.
King Cat Classic, John Porcellino — Collection of the first several years of the legendary King Cat. Coming into the world at the time and place I did, my interaction with this comic has tended toward the most recent issues, which have an accomplished simplicity to them. It’s interesting then to see some of the very first comics from over 20 years ago, and to see the progression from then to now. The earliest pages have a prototypical zine-comic look to them. If only every zinester had the fortitude to stick to it for so long. link
King Cat #72, John Porcellino — The new King Cat, which I believe debuted at this show. Beautiful and melancholy.
Dark Tomato, Sakura Maku — Out of all the intriguing books released through Austin English’s Domino Books, this one has stood out to me the most. I’d been putting off buying it for a while, finally resolving to pick it up when it made its way to Cleveland. Gorgeously fluid drawings mixed with collage elements and bold painting are set to the dreamlike story. Highly recommended (on Derik Badman’s Best of 2011 list!). link
“Who Am I?: A Monkey-Moonbeam Mystery,” John Porcellino
“Can Dance!,” Liz Valasco — A one-of-a-kind little comic Liz drew for me at the show. About the power of dance. link
The Condiment Squad, Keith Pakiz — The release I was most looking forward to at this show. In the works for quite some time, Pakiz was able to complete his food-based epic about a trio of condiment-costumed avengers just in time for Genghis Con. Drawing heavily from the style of Bill Watterson, the art is a joy to look at. Pakiz shows off his skill for visual humor and compositional balance with each page. I recommend picking up this hand-bound book if you ever have a chance, but you can also read the whole thing online for free. link
Spacefighter Z Part One: Final Report of Dolly Five, Jake Kelly — Pulpy sci-fi goodness from one of Cleveland’s most prominent cartoonists. link
The Lake Erie Monster #1, Jake Kelly and John G — Old fashioned horror comics by Cleveland’s finest. One of my other hotly anticipated debuts at the show this year. link
Shiner #1-2, ed. by John G and Kevin Fagan — Before I knew what was going on with comics in this city, there was Shiner. Recommended if you can track them down, they’re a bit rare by now.
“The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run,” Joe Schorgl — Cool mini with nice cartooning about the Cleveland Torso murders, of all things. One of the seedier bits of the city’s history. link
“Quit It,” Liz Valasco — More great comics funnies from Liz V.
Romp #2, Aaron Lange — Brand new smutty smut from Philadelphia’s filthiest. link
The Plot #1, Neil Brideau — A cool new series from Neil Brideau. I wish I had more to say in general here, but I haven’t read most of this haul yet, The Plot included. Several flip-throughs reveal some nice cartooning and very cool character design. Especially looking forward to diving into this one. link
“These Yams are Delicious,” Sam Sharpe — Lovely cartooning and a pretty funny concept. Sam Sharpe is definitely one to watch. link
“Robot Mandalas,” Kevin Fagan — Sweet abstract comics from the Shiner co-editor. link
Nix #1-3, ed. by Ken Eppstein — I know the least about this set of comics, but scanning the pages reveals some interesting graphic styles, particularly in #3. Not sure how the stories will match up to my tastes but I’m grateful for the opportunity to expand them. link
Minis! — A story about a Lake Ness monster in Michigan; Dinosaur Mystery Comics #1-2 by Bernie Crowsheet; Euni the Unicorn #2, by Kris Lachowski; Tiny Yogi #2 by Angela Oster; “The McDougall Sampler 2011″ by George McDougall (whose daughter was dressed up as the killer doll on the cover, if I’m not mistaken).
Sundays vol. 4, ed. by Chuck Forsman, Alex Kim, Joseph Lambert and Sean Ford — Great anthology put together by CCS alums. Features work by favorites Mickey Z, Warren Craghead, Ed Piskor, Joe Lambert, Melissa Mendes, Dane Martin, Julie Delporte and Michael DeForge. Worth it. link
“Stormbringer: A Clevelyn Story,” John G — A prelude to John G’s upcoming graphic novel about an alternate take on this weather-beaten city of ours. Clevelyn prevails.