Cartoon Crossroads Columbus: is this real life?

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CXC happened last weekend in Columbus, OH, and I got to represent Team Comics Workbook and also myself as a special guest (this has never happened to me before – count me overexcited and also terrified!)

I get in on Thursday night and head to the President’s Reception feeling very wallflowerish as I know literally no one except through Facebook and Instagram. First off I meet Tom Spurgeon (finally!), Jeff Bone and his lovely wife Vijaya, Caitlyn McGurk, and Robin the Inkstud. I nervously nurse my wine and then I am rescued by Sergio Aragonés, who sits next to me with a plate of meatballs and a beer. I’m a vegan but I don’t even care about the meatballs! It’s Sergio Aragonés and I proceed to fannishly monopolize him for the next hour. Sergio! I’ve loved his comics in Mad Magazine since I was eight years old.

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Sergio and I – photo by Caitlin McGurk

Ahhh. Those moments of life where nothing degrades or disappoints. CXC is already off to a GREAT start.

Friday morning I’m giving a Peer-to-Peer talk at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. I’m very nervous, but also ‘over prepared’ – I’m not going to TRUMP this, thank you very much. It’s also at 10 am, so I figure no one’s hardly going to be there. WRONG! It was a full house; I talked about scripting and planning processes for long form fiction in comics. I tried to jazz it up with stories of ayahuasca (not my own of course, I’m totally square, dear reader) and out of body experiences and Amazonian explorers. And I did a reading from the thumbnails of a new graphic novel I’ve been working on this year.

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Presenting on Friday – photo by Juan Fernandez

Once that was out of the way, I was free to enjoy the Billy Ireland Museum. I loved it so much. I copied some stuff in my sketchbook whilst I explored in a blissed out state. Oh and I ran into old pal T. Edward Bak and we had lunch. Day Two: AWESOME.

I skipped the festivities on Friday night so that I could be the sole un-hungover person at CXC on Saturday for a full day of tabling and socializing. I made the right decision. You have to treat comic’s shows like an eleven-hour congressional hearing, i.e.: you need STAMINA.

(Apologies if the election has snuck in to my CXC coverage. Ohio is very much a swing state and my weekend, traffic, eating in bars etc, were interrupted by bizarre looking fashionista Trumpettes and a presidential motorcade – yes, both Trump and Obama had been/were in Columbus that very weekend.)

So, Day Three: Saturday tabling. It went great. I hunkered down with Team Comics Workbook, and got to finally meet some of my Comics Workbook Roller Derby of the Mind compadres, particularly Alyssa Berg, Whit Taylor and Sally Ingraham. At one o’clock I had an author spotlight thing, which was easy and fun, thanks to Jared Gardner. I read from Sky In Stereo, and afterwards would sell all my copies. Sweet!

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The expo – photo by Juan Fernandez

So far I’m enjoying this show so much. The downtown Columbus Metropolitan Library is bright and airy, there’s some good energy about, the locals are so friendly and the organizers are present and visible. And I’ve sold all my comics! This never happens.

But afterwards when I’m alone again, in this new Midwestern city, I’m strolling around downtown Columbus at twilight. It’s Saturday but everything’s closing or closed. I feel a little spooked out and get to thinking about Dorothy Thompson talking about Terre Haute in the 40s or something. She wrote to her man, Sinclair Lewis:

This is a lonely country, it is so goddamned empty. I am turning mystic. Surely there is something in the very air of a city where civilized people have lived, worked, dreamed loved and enjoyed civilized pleasures for hundreds of years…some radioactivity which lingers in the atmosphere. I begin to believe in ghosts, gentle ghosts which keep one company in ancient towns. Here there are none.

Traveling alone spooks me out. I’m not a good traveler at the best of times. I walk; admire statues and fountains and government buildings. I pass a tiny Episcopalian church. It has an 8am service on Sunday morning. Tomorrow!  Maybe I’ll go, I tell myself, just to feel somehow cosmically rooted again. ‘You know what?’ I think, ‘I will definitely go. I’ll set my alarm tonight.

I go back to my hotel room and spruce up for that evening’s drinks reception in honor of Stan Sakai. And I have fun! I forget my lonely existential Midwestern emptiness and that night I roll into bed at 3am having been to a Haunted House in ruralish Ohio with my publisher and a couple of Rhode Island hepcats. The Haunted House has a definite ‘juggalo’ vibe, something I’d heard about but never seen. It was gross and yucky, people in costumes tried to touch me! But the sight of rural folk wielding fake chainsaws made out of leaf blowers and duct tape PLUS the company of good friends has somehow righted me again. I don’t set my alarm after all. I don’t need church. I just need sleep dammit, and I just need ‘my people’ and this weekend Columbus, OH, has been full of them.

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Jeff Smith visiting my table – photo by Jared Gardner

On Sunday I sell all my publisher’s copies of Sky in Stereo, experience a sleep-deprived meltdown and Alyssa Berg revives me with dried mango slices and crystal healing. I get through! I meet Keiler Roberts and Noah Van Sciver, they’re both great! I talk to lots and lots of people. Until its time to go get my plane! Sergio Aragonés stops by my table to say goodbye. Is this real life? Before I go I coerce Tom Spurgeon into a hug. It feels right. My delightful assistant (I have an assistant!) Sara drives me to Chipotle and then to the airport.

I fly home that night in the darkness over Midwestern cities that look like small bejeweled funfairs in pools of rural soupy darkness. America is a strange place. I’m full of that crackling comics energy. Ready to retreat again and draw my next comic.

Thanks Columbus, OH. Thanks to all the volunteers who were so nice and the librarians who were unfazed by all these cartoonists, and to the comics community, including my own Comics Workbook community, for being so rad. Is it not amazing that comics people can just assemble and friendships made at CAKE or SPX years ago, can just pick up again, over printed pages and falafels? Well, it’s sort of magical to me. I get to be part of this. It was a strange and spooky, magical weekend. I wanna come back for more! I do, I do.

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Sacha Mardou is a Brit making comics in St Louis, Missouri. Sky in Stereo is her most recent comic.


For the rest of our complete CXC coverage check out the special “round up” report HERE.

Developing a New Festival Toolkit
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 report

2 responses to “Cartoon Crossroads Columbus: is this real life?”

  1. “Ready to retreat again and draw my next comic.”
    YES

    Sorry to spam you Sacha but awesome report. Again,–UK non-Brexiteer filled with pride at dope a.f British cartoonist!

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