On the bus ride in to work this morning, one of my regular bus buddies asked me if the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) Mix Symposium was big.  I told him that I wasn’t sure, not being a regular academic symposium attendee.  Upon further thought, I realized that was a bit of a cop out.  I know more or less how many people showed up and in terms of other comic related events I can say that it is a relatively small event.  That said, this little event had A LOT going on. 

This was my second year running the Mix-Store, which is essentially a consignment based merch table for all of the presenters.  While running the table often means that the only panels and workshops I get to take in are the ones I actually present in, it does give me a unique opportunity to meet most of the people involved and to view the action from a seat on the sidelines.  Here are some bullet point thoughts:

Photo Above Yoinked from Facebook, taken by Danielle Smith.  (I believe.)
Top Left to Right: Enrica Jang, Canada Keck, Lora Innes, Colleen Clark.  
Bottom Left to Right: Margaret Syverud, Carol Tyler, Caitlin McGurk, Katie Valeska.
  • Thank Youse Guys!  I would be remiss if I didn’t first thank Kate Boelky, Seth Kumpf and Jack Wilson for all of their help with the Mix-Store this year.   Seth writes and draws The Ragged Rider and Jack is the bookseller at Kafe Kerouac.  You guys should go buy stuff from them.  Kate, is of course my partner in all things and nothing would be possible without her.
  • Lookit Robert go!  About this time last year I was worried about Mix Symposium program manager Robert Loss’s health.  The pressure of putting on a first year academic symposium had left him looking a little like a rung out rag.   What a difference a year makes!  The now veteran program director put on a great show, with minimum angst and looked good doing it!
  • Lookit Canada Go!  Between her efforts with Sunday Comix and the newly minted Sketch ‘N Kvetch women’s artist group, Canada Keck has become one of the most productive comics scene organizers in town.  Without her efforts neither Independents Day nor the Mix Symposium would’ve had the breadth of diversity that they both needed.
  • Mix 2012 vs. 2013:  I’m guessing that the attendance this year was about the same as last year’s symposium.  I’d also say though that the attendees were more engaged this time around.  Last year in between workshops and panels there were a lot of people just kind of merving around the Canzani Center.  This year while the panels were in session the large hallway was empty.
  • Lost In The Supermarket: Robert did a good job getting a range of presenters from both the field and from academia.  Some of the non-academic presenters used to more conventional cons and fairs told me that they felt a little lost in the academic setting of the symposium.  Not shut out or alienated, as much as not sure what to do in an unfamiliar setting.    
Photo Above yoinked from Facebook by Robert Loss.  Left to Right: James Moore, Jeff Stang, Tom Spurgeon, Ken Eppstein, Jenny Robb and Bob Corby,
  • My First Panel:  Late Thursday night I was asked to substitute for Lora Innes on the “Practical Advice” panel/workshop Friday morning.  No problem.  Anything for Lora… She gives out high-fives to people who help her and I love high-fives.  My apologies to workshop attendees, though…  My presentation consisted of thoughts about advice to artists submitting to publishers that I scribbled down a blank piece of typing paper at 11:30pm that night.  Caffeinated to the gills, I shook, rattled and rolled my way through the material in about five minutes.
  • My Second Panel:  I had mostly smoothed out the caffeine jitters by the time my second panel, about the local Columbus Comics Scene, rolled around.  Frankly, this one should have been more intimidating, as I really look up to my fellow panelists Tom Spurgeon, Bob Corby, Jenny Robb and Jeff Stang.  When nervous and wanting to impress people I tend to ramble and swear like a sailor, but I managed to stay coherent through most of my talking points and only dropped one F-Bomb that I recall.
  • Lookit James Go!  I’ll confess that I was a little worried about James Moore running the above panel.  He’s a young dude and, like me, tends to ramble when nervous.  Apparently James wasn’t nervous.  He succinctly aced his moderator duties, making sure all of the points he had hoped to get covered were and making sure that all the panelists were involved.

  • The Panel I Wanted To See:  I don’t know how intentional it was on the part of organizers, but the over arching theme among Mix presentations this year was diversity among comic creators.  James Moore’s panel ran concurrently with How to See the Work of Black Comics in Total Darkness: Constructions of Black Identity in American Comics and Popular Culture with John Jennings, Stacey Robinson and Reynaldo Anderson was the panel I most wanted to see.  Writing comics that are informed by the history of American music has made me keenly aware that there are pitfalls I need to avoid when portraying figures based on the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins et. al. and I think I could really have benefited from their presentation.  There was talk of getting John and Stacey to exhibit some of their “Black Kirby” works here in Columbus, so maybe I can get a second shot.  
  • The Movie I Wanted To See:  Similarly, I was busy manning the Mix-Store for the screening and subsequent discussion of Dr. Jonathan Gayles’ White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic Books.   Hopefully CCAD did as a good a job getting video of panels as last year and I can catch up later this month.

Photo above yoinked from Facebook by Strangethings Moss.
Left to Right: John Jennings, Reynaldo Anderson, Stacey Robinson

The Saddest Email I Received All Weekend:  John emailed me while enroute from Buffalo.  After a couple of weeks of emailing back and forth about the Mix Store, he had managed to forget to pack copies of his book Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art &Culture.   
Photo yoinked from Facebook, taken by Robert Loss.
Left, Seth Kumpf. Right, Me!
  • I Had Lunch on Saturday with Tony Isabella!  I'm a big fan. He was every bit as funny and charming as I hoped he be.  It wasn’t an intentional turn of conversation, but he had some interesting turns of thought on Stan Lee’s recent vilification in the public eye.
  • How Were Sales?  I missed out on most of the academic fun at the symposium due to my duties running the Mix-Store, but it was worth it.  Nearly every one of the presenters had some sales.  Mike Laughead and Terry Eisele, teachers at CCAD and Columbus State Community College respectively, enjoyed a particular homefield advantage, selling a bunch of copies of their books to both friends and students.  All of the Jeff Smith books sold out before he was even finished with his post keynote signing.
  • New Business Plan: I now plan on making all of my money selling Jeff’s books.  



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