Comics Workbook @ CXC 2016

note: This is a special “round up” report from the Comics Workbook crew of the many facets of the show that inspired and intrigued. We are collecting our thoughts, images, and videos and have already started sharing them on the site and across our social media. This space will serve as the “complete” adventures of the crew at CXC and will be updated frequently. Be sure to check back in! (All photos are by Juan Fernandez and Sally Ingraham unless otherwise noted)


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The CW crew at CXC – Emil Ernst, Sally Ingraham, Juan Fernandez, Caleb Orecchio, Kurt Ankeny, Sacha Mardou, Whit Taylor, Alyssa Berg – photo by Chris Anthony Diaz

Thanks to the incredible generosity and support of Frank Santoro, a team of eight cartoonists (who have all been involved with Comics Workbook for a few years) went to the show to really dig into what it had to offer. Sacha Mardou, Kurt Ankeny, Alyssa Berg, Whit Taylor, Juan Fernandez, Sally Ingraham, Caleb Orecchio, and Emil Friis Ernst were proud and excited to represent Comics Workbook. Our pals John Kelly (Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum), Chris Anthony Diaz (comic-scene photographer extraordinaire), and Phil Dokes (a long-time supporter of CW and the Pittsburgh Comic Salons) also joined our crew throughout the weekend.

Comics Workbook wasn’t at CXC simply to table at the Marketplace – we also hosted the Comics Workbook Sessions, a series of four workshops over the course of Saturday and Sunday that offered festival attendees the opportunity to investigate new techniques for comics making and learn about the working habits of Alyssa Berg and Kurt Ankeny, our special CW workshop leaders. Sacha Mardou lent her thoughts and talents to the “Talk and Teach” panels that CXC offered during the Thursday/Friday programming, and she also had a Spotlight panel on Saturday. Whit Taylor was there as our special guest reporter.

For Sacha Mardou’s personal CXC adventures go HERE!

Whit Taylor presents her official “report card” for CXC HERE!

Chris Diaz shares part 1 of his CXC Portraits series HERE!

Check out Juan Fernandez’s CXC-inspired thoughts on expanding the comics festival toolkit. Leave some comments and join the discussion – HERE!

Kurt Ankeny has his post-CXC thoughts HERE!

Alyssa Berg shares thoughts on her first con HERE!

Caleb Orecchio has a detailed and hilarious tale of his CXC experience HERE!

We asked ourselves 3 questions to help process this rich experience – some of our answers HERE!

Here’s a quick video that Sally cut together while traveling home from the show:

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By the time the CW team arrived on Thursday for Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, there was already an incredible energy pouring out of the comics cathedral that is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. For most of the team it was their first time at the Billy Ireland, and we entered the space with a special mixture of reverence and awe.

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The CW team exploring the Billy Ireland

On a normal day, the Library is an amazing space – original pages from Winsor McCay and Bill Watterson hang in the exhibit hall, and a tour of the archives reveals only a tantalizing taste of the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartooning and comics. During CXC, the place spirals to a whole new dimension, and you are likely to bump into Sergio Aragonés, Seth, Carol Tyler, Garry Trudeau, Ann Telnaes, Charles Burns, Ronald Wimberly, or thee great Lucy Caswell herself (founder of the Library) sharing a look at an original Peanuts strip or getting a coffee.

Two full days of programming took place in this truly extraordinary space, and the Comics Workbook team spread out and absorbed as much as possible.

Ann Telnaes spoke with festival director Tom Spurgeon about editorial cartooning on Thursday afternoon. This was one of many “Talk and Teach” presentations which filled the first two days of CXC. They provided cartoonists and industry leaders with an opportunity to share something that they felt they “did well” – skills and life practices that other makers might find interesting and helpful. Dustin Harbin, T. Edward Bak, Sacha Mardou, and Kriota Willberg also led a “Talk and Teach” panel.

In addition there was a Scholarly Symposium during the first two days of CXC – a whole second track of programming that brought together academics and unique thinkers to dig into the concept of a “comics canon”.

On Thursday evening John Canemaker presented some of Winsor McCay’s work at the Wexner Center for the Arts, riveting and amusing the audience with details of McCay’s working practice and adventures in animation.

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Sacha Mardou was a Comics Workbook Special Guest at CXC this year, so she got to present her own “Talk and Teach” on Friday morning. She shared thoughts on long-form fiction planning and many tantalizing details from a work in progress – to a packed room at 10am!

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Sacha Mardou and her “sold out” workshop

Some of the team went over to Hale Hall to check out SÕL-CON, the Brown and Black Comics Expo which ran alongside CXC this year.

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Whit Taylor documenting the end of a panel at SÕL-CON

The CW crew all made it onto an archive tour at the Billy Ireland at some point on Friday, although only some of us got to share that wild ride with Seth! There are many, many drawers and shelves of treasures – we got to see a few amazing things, but I think everyone on the team immediately started making plans for a return trip. Here’s a look at an original Milton Caniff page…!

In the archives at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum @cartoonlibrary #cxc2016

A video posted by Comics Workbook (@comicsworkbook) on

Friday afternoon there was a State of the Industry panel that featured “all star representatives” for a discussion and Q&A, hosted by Tom Spurgeon. The panelists were Rich Tommaso (cartoonist), Keith Knight (cartoonist) Chip Mosher (ComiXology), Shena Wolf (GoComics.com), and Brendan Burford (King Features Syndicates).

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Keith Knight working on a strip during the panel, joined by Brendon Burford (King Features), Chip Mosher (comiXoligy), and Shena Wolf (GoComics.com)

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The crew – front to back – Phil Dokes, Caleb Orecchio, Sally Ingraham, Emil Ernst, and Kurt Ankeny

Our crew was there to dig in to this “off the record” look at the industry.

Friday night there was a reception at the Billy Ireland, and the promised “surprise” turned out to be an award ceremony. The 2016 CXC Master Cartoonist award for a lifetime of work in comics was an unbreakable tie between Sergio Aragonés and Carol Tyler! The entire crowd was laughing and in tears by the time the ceremony was over – a hearty congratulations to them both.

Garry Trudeau‘s fantastic discussion of his work with Glen Gary Gold on Friday night was capped with another award – he was presented with CXC’s 2016 Masterwork Award for Doonesbury.

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Jenny Robb and Jeff Smith presenting – from the CXC Facebook page

Late night on Friday found the CW team socializing at one of the official after-parties – this one hosted by Katie Skelly. These parties – one a night, Friday-Sunday – were an amazing opportunity to make new friends and catch up with old ones. Even for relative new kids on the scene, like many of the CW crew, the Late Night parties were an incredibly welcoming space where we could chat freely with industry leaders (Caleb and Sally and Juan spent an hour with Brendan Burford of King Features on Friday) or play a game of pinball next to the likes of Charles Burns. John Kelly had joined our ranks by then, and he grabbed this great picture:

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Charles Burns, pinball wizard!

Saturday (CXC Day 3!) the show switched gears and held it’s Marketplace and 3rd day of programming at the beautiful downtown branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The Comics Workbook team was there when the doors opened, so we missed the kerfuffle that surrounded the expo being map- and table-assignment-free (a minor bump in what seemed like a miraculously smoothly run show.) The entire team was soon set up and ready to run full tilt into a fantastic day.

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It was terrific that the Comics Workbook team was so large since we had to be in a number of places at once. Folks took turns tabling, running the Comics Workbook Sessions, buzzing about documenting the event, and leading panels.

Sacha Mardou had a spotlight panel right off the bat, hosted by Jared Gardner. She talked about her process and did a reading from Sky in Stereo.

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John Kelly had a fun panel with Carol Tyler Saturday afternoon.

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(Photo supplied by John Kelly)

This is a video of Carol talking about her early work over dinner with John on Saturday night:

There was so much programming on Saturday that there was no way to get to everything a person might want to! Raina Telgemeier‘s event brought in a crowd of kids, many of whom were eager to explore the Marketplace floor later. We heard from dozens of people that the panel on political cartooning with Lalo Alcaraz, Nate Beeler, Keith Knight, and Ann Telnaes was really good. Keith Knight also presented his “They Shoot Black People, Don’t They?” presentation, which has recently garnered him nationwide attention. There were spotlight panels on Ed Koren, Stan Sakai, and Julia Gfrörer among others, drawing demos by Katie Skelly, Brandon Graham, and Ronald Wimberly, a discussion with Nate Powell about finishing the popular March series, and a Fanta at 40 panel.

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Juan documenting Chris Anthony Diaz documenting the expo floor

Back to tabling – Saturday had a good amount of foot traffic all day and since Sacha had a bit of extra space on her table after she sold out all her books in an incredible rush, we set up a drawing station and had kids stopping by all day to work on giant comics – many of them had probably been inspired by their encounter with Raina in real life.

A bit of video from the day:

LIVE at CXC!!! #comicsworkbook

A video posted by Comics Workbook (@comicsworkbook) on

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Charles Burns stopped by the table to find the comics that Frank had reserved for him!

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Chris Anthony Diaz took a break from snapping pictures to catch up with Sacha and get a unique drawing. He was also seen fraternizing with other cartoonists throughout the weekend, so we can probably soon expect some new editions to The Diaz Archive here on the site!

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Comics Workbook hosted 4 workshops during CXC, and Alyssa Berg was up first on Saturday. She talked about her use of the 4- and 9-panel grids and her adventures with painted comics, and then led an exercise that got the whole room drawing and collaging comics.

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The attendees of the workshop included students from Columbus College of Art and Design, where a new program in comics making is about to start! They were particularly intrigued by the techniques Alyssa shared, and several of them came back for the remaining 3 sessions.

Here’s work by Phil Dokes, made during Alyssa’s workshop:

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Juan Fernandez and Sally Ingraham led a workshop immediately following, and shared a popular Pittsburgh Comic Salon exercise that riffs on the cinematic quality of comics making.

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Juan spending some extra time with a workshop attendee who was so pumped that he asked for homework to do Saturday night in preparation for Sunday’s continuing workshops…!

While this workshop was taking place, late in the day on Saturday, a mysterious burst of clapping rose from the expo floor – turns out another surprise award had been presented – the CXC Emerging Talent Award went to a flabbergasted but very deserving Kevin Czap.

Here’s a video off of the CXC Facebook page of Tom Spurgeon’s speech and the presentation:

We mentioned that the CW team was early to set up on Saturday – but we weren’t by any means first. As if you need more proof of why Kevin Czap a.k.a. “Comics Mom” received this honor:

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“The eager cartoonists that arrives before anyone else to set up damn well deserves it, ya know?” – Juan Fernandez

The Marketplace day ended at 6, and Saturday night our crew again split into a few groups – some caught up with Charles Burns at CCAD for his magnificent talk on his early work and influences.

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Charles Burns live at CCAD – photo by Chris Anthony Diaz

The rest of us (who unsurprisingly hadn’t really eaten anything all day) went on the hunt for dinner.

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In the parking garage as plans were formed, the spirit of Comics Workbook filled us and our shadows got a little pentagram-ish. 🙂

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No longer starving = beaming cartoonists

Most of the team was too beat to hit the Saturday Late Night party hosted by Stan Sakai – although Sacha Mardou made it there, and then to a Haunted House in rural Ohio for a very atypical wild night!

Sunday dawned – CXC Day 4. The team trickled back to the Library despite a few Columbus Marathon-related hangups. The Marketplace floor was a little quieter, but that provided many of us with the opportunity to go visit other cartoonist pals, and get into conversations with those that came to visit us – like Ben Katchor, at one point, and Caitlin McGurk, on the hunt for comics to add to the Billy Ireland collection…!

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Caleb keeping tabs, while Phil Dokes investigates Frank’s signature long boxes

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John Kelly visiting Jim Rugg

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Sacha Mardou, Shena Wolf, and Caitlin McGurk

Kurt Ankeny led the CW team Sunday with a workshop right off the bat. We had a number of returning attendees who had really committed to the full Comics Workbook crash course. Kurt talked about modifying your grid, materials, and tools to fit the story, then led an exercise that was straight out of Ohio’s history of correspondence course schools – spin the wheel, pick a character, spin again, pick a setting, spin again, pick an action – there’s your comic!

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John Kelly hosted a spotlight panel with Sergio Aragones Sunday afternoon – here is one of several videos from the talk that he has shared:

Find the other videos HERE and HERE.

Folks came by the table raving about the conversation between Ben Katchor and Seth, or if they had picked the other Sunday programming track, the conversation between Jeff Smith and Raina Telgemeier. Brandon Graham had a spotlight panel, and Jeff Smith talked about Bone at 25. There certainly never felt like a “winding down” of the show for the CW team – we were busy the whole time and Sunday passed in a blur.

Juan and Sally ran another workshop during the last hour of the expo, and incredibly people showed up to make comics, at the expense of grabbing their last minute purchases from the Marketplace floor! We made 4-panel strips based on haiku poems.

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The workshop folks were so engrossed in making comics that once again, the mysterious clapping rose up to startle us – and this time it was announcing the end of the festival… There was celebration and a few tears, hurried group photos before friends parted ways, then the mad rush to pack up (one working elevator to the parking garage, a couple hundred cartoonists and their livelihoods in boxes and on carts…)

The CW crew made short work of it, and then long drawn out work of the goodbyes and good wishes. A few folks finally hopped into cars to make the trip home, but others delayed their parting for hours by going to hunt for dinner and walking the entire length of High Street on a warm night under the full moon. Yes, it was exactly that picturesque.

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The crew that remained in Columbus by 9:30pm Sunday night certainly qualified as “Dead Dogs”, so we made our way to the official very last event of CXC 2016 – the Late Night Dead Dogs Party hosted by Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins. There we ran into Kevin Czap and got into conversation with Caitlin McGurk, took a moment to personally thank Tom Spurgeon, and chatted with Jeff Smith until the hour was really excessively late and it seemed prudent to walk back to hotel rooms and call it A SHOW WELL LIVED!

Heartfelt, ecstatic thanks to Jeff Smith, Vijaya Iyer, Tom Spurgeon, Lucy Caswell, and Kathleen Glosan for putting on an amazing show that we were excited and humbled to be part of. Also, many thanks to Caitlin McGurk (Billy Ireland), Lauren McCubbin (CCAD), Jared Gardner, Neil Cameron, Frederick L. Aldama (Sol-Con), and the amazing crew of volunteers.

We still have (even more!) official reports and personal thoughts to share, but the CW crew as a whole has never felt more lucky to be part of this community. We look forward to giving back a little of what we were given, and will ride the wave of inspiration and validation that this show gave us until next year. See you once again in Columbus!

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Sally Ingraham

Sally Ingraham

Sally is a cartoonist, educator, and journalist based in Pittsburgh, PA. She makes comics about Pittsburgh and bird watching, and co-writes the "Suzy and Cecil" daily strip (with Gabriella Tito). She facilitates the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency, is a managing editor of the CW Daily News, and runs the CW Roller Derby "of the mind" League. She is focused on documenting the current and historic place of women in the comics industry, is working to build the Women's Comics Library, and is developing a comics curriculum by and for girls.
Sally Ingraham

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