Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 6, 2014

So I Took Another Comics-Related Job

Hi, I wanted to say a few things about the announcement two weeks ago that I'll be Festival Director at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. CXC starts in 2016 with a two-day launch event scheduled for October 2-3 2015.

image* I'm very excited, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone that wrote in or otherwise congratulated me on the opportunity. I hope I got back to you individually.

* a double thank-you to everyone that expressed an interest to attend and/or exhibit. We want you there, and look forward to working with you as best we can to make this happen.

* even though in one sense the last thing comics needs is yet another comics show, I hope that there will be room for at least one more. If I didn't think there was, I wouldn't be doing this. I really admire a lot of things about several of the existing shows, and feel like we have a dozen or so that are working, vital entities. When people have asked me, "How will this show be different?" I do have some answers to that -- answers that will make themselves known as the show reveals itself in the months and years ahead -- but I also think that, at least initially, if we can within shouting distance of the amazing accomplishments of the best shows I won't care that much about making a strong break with what came before.

* further, I realize that comics shows are supremely difficult to pull off in a variety of ways. I might fail. I believe that the last and most difficult task is encouraging and growing an audience that will attend an Expo and is there to buy from those exhibiting. The most amazing and largely untold story of conventions and festivals over the last stratospheric decade for such events is the story of the fans that support them. I believe in the Midwest as a great place for comics, and Columbus as a potentially Best Place For Comics. I look forward to developing a show that works for as many folks on all sides of every table.

* I should be in Columbus early in 2015, and look forward to seeing many of you when you visit. I hope to be a host to anyone in comics that wants to enjoy what Columbus has to offer comics-makers in-between CXCs, particularly one of the five nicest places for comics in the history of the world: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

* I can't announce the basic structure of what we have planned for the full version which starts in 2016 until CXC does so as a group in early 2015, but it will be four days and it will be every year. Our ambition is for a city-wide festival, with multiple venues, in the manner of some of the best European shows. We're very encouraged by the institutional support we've seen so far, and we'll talk about our partners in CXC's next round of releases.

* CXC sort of but does not really "replace" the amazing Cartoon Art Festival that was run by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum every three years, the most recent being 2013. That show -- a great, great show and for years and years comics' most wonderful near-secret event -- was a product of a certain era, both in comics and in the development of Billy Ireland as an institution. We live in a different time, where sponsors from the strip and editorial cartoon worlds are slightly more difficult to come by and the love for comics has continued with hardcore fans but also spread to a much wider group of people. So while we'll be involved with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and their great comics people from the start -- they'll host a big chunk of every show and participate in all sorts of ways -- CXC is the festival that rises to take the old festival's place; we're not a new name on the old festival. That one was coming to an end no matter what we did. I hope we'll have every chance to do some of the things that that festival did, particularly in terms of its overall programming excellence, its eclectic guest list and the friendliness of the encounters between professionals and attendees.

* okay, now about CR.

* I'm keeping CR. The position I'm taking with CXC isn't at this point a salaried one. I realize that holding two comics jobs may not be ideal for any publication and holding this one may generate specific challenges in that conventions are a coverage area for all the comics magazines, but I'm working that out as best I can. While I'm not 100 percent sure what the shape of that will be, I suspect that after this year I won't be writing giant reports about shows -- I'll likely be farming that out entirely. I'm also hoping to have an ombudsman in place by 2016.

* because of the secrecy involved in my taking this position, I haven't written any reports on anything after Comic-Con International. I thought it was unfair to not have a qualifier up top as to my new gig. I've worked on all five show reports, though, and hope to run them starting a week from Monday, one a day, for a week: CCI, SPX, CAB, ICAF, CALA. All of those shows were super-fascinating in their way, and I want to have my say.

* I don't want to give up The Comics Reporter. I don't feel I've done near a good enough job with CR to be satisfied with winding it down. I still love doing it every day. The main reason I'm taking the Columbus job is because I hope it will allow me to give back, to do some good. I hope to improve CR so that it more effectively serves the community and industry in much that same spirit. I have another helpful idea or two for comics, unrelated to either magazine or festival, that I hope to institute down the line.

* it's not going to be easy to continue CR.

* CR, completely independent of my taking the gig in Columbus, has been experiencing trouble for quite some time. I'll be announcing several changes in the way I do CR, changes that are long overdue and may help me to continue doing it and make for a better publication/source in the next few weeks. The model we started in 2004 and still use today doesn't really work anymore. I hope you'll bear with me and I hope you'll be open to me pitching a few things at you at an appropriate time. Watch this space.

* one thing I hope the next 20 years of my life will be about -- if I'm given 20, which would be amazing -- is making for a better industry and art form with as much significant impact as I can muster. I'm a comics person. I'm here; I'm not going anywhere, not if I can help it. I think a lot of you feel the same way. Further, I don't think that those of us in the non-creative positions in comics have done nearly enough to support and aid this tremendous flowering of expressive talent over the last two decades. I hope that with the festival and with CR I can be a part of building on this creative energy so that comics stays the best art form for years to come.

* I'm looking forward to 2015 and the years beyond, both here on-line and in Columbus. Thank you again for the part you played in me having these opportunities. I hope I can make good.

posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink

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