Rochester, NY Scene Report

This week’s Scene Report is brought to you by Steven Arenius of Panoptic Press.

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Rochester is located in Western New York along Lake Ontario, right across from Toronto. Much of the town as we know it today is thanks to Kodak founder George Eastman, an old-school tycoon who hunted elephants with Teddy Roosevelt and left one of the most concise suicide notes of all time: “My work is done, why wait?” Rochester is also home to Xerox, whose tower is the tallest building in our skyline. Rochester is bisected by the Genesee River, which lends its name to the local brewery and like the Nile runs south-to-north. It has been home Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. We have an abandoned subway, brutally frigid and gray winters, and a signature dish called the Garbage Plate that is best left undiscussed.

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Rochester’s newsprint art and comics anthology of choice is Hope Mountain News, curated by Mike Turzanski and Pete Lazarski, which has circulated locally since 2011 and has since been archived in full on their website. Their fifth and latest issue, The Million Dollar Canoe, takes a leap in format and style and is (in their words) “64 pages of weird comics, drippy monsters, and two color mysteries.” Pete also has an expansive collection of comic strips full of ghouls and wizards on his website, Imaginary Monsters. Local musician Dave Chisholm is an accomplished comic artist and author of the graphic novels Instrumental and Let’s Go To Utah as well as Tyranny of the Muse, an ongoing webcomic with Eddie Wright. Clayton Cowles is an illustrator and letterer currently working on a number of Image and Marvel titles. Ant Hill is an original ongoing comic series created by Nigel Carrington. The Rochester Teen Set Outsider (now National Teen Set Outsider) is the longest running zine in town and perhaps at the forefront of the medium’s resurgence here. Local poet, publisher, and H_NGM_N Nate Pritts is a wealth of comics knowledge, insight and enthusiasm. We first met him at the Visual Studies Workshop‘s Pub Fair, a great show that specializes in small press and handmade print.

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Given its size, Rochester is fortunate to have a number of great comic shops. We share a building with Comics Etc., which spotlights local artists and creators with a small exhibition on Free Comic Book Day. The back issues at Wonderland run the deepest and they host a biannual comic show. Dan from Comic Book Heaven has been very supportive in getting our first book on his shelves. All Heroes is home to a holy grail of 50-cent comics running over 20 longboxes deep, where a great deal of time has gone unaccounted for indeed. NeedleDrop Records carries zines and local print as well.

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The scene is alive and well elsewhere in Western New York as well. Over in Buffalo, the Itinerant Printer Chris Fritton runs the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair with help from the Western New York Book Arts Center. We met Stephen Floyd from One Percent Press there, who along with JP Coovert has been releasing comics for over ten years. Hex Records is a Syracuse-based hardcore label whose Translate zine features comics in addition to reviews, tour diaries, and interviews. The oldest annual convention in the country takes place in nearby Ithaca and is run by their Comic Book Club. We were guests at Ithacon 40 along with Camilo Nascimento and Hunter Schindo of Arhanta Comics, whose atmospheric comics are layered with sound and immersively framed by responsive web design. Queen City Comics and Comics For Collectors are the shops to check out in Buffalo and Ithaca, respectively.

Juan Fernández

Juan José Fernández is a Pittsburgh comics community organizer, most recently named as one of “Pittsburgh’s Creative Forces: 12 People to Meet in 2017” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and one of seven 2016 Fuerza awardees by Café Con Leche for providing Pittsburgh Latinx leadership. He co-organizes the annual Pittsburgh Zine Fair, leads the Pittsburgh Comics Salon, and provides educational outreach for the Comics Workbook and the ToonSeum. He currently works at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

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