FallCon: The SPX of the Midwest

The Twin Cities are a great place to be if you’ra a cartoonist or if you love comics… Minneapolis is the second most literate city in the country so, needless to say, we have a huge base of comic fans. We have more than our share of fantastic comic book stores. We also have what are certainly two of the best comic book conventions in the country for cartoonists, FallCon and it’s little sister MicroCon. FallCon was last weekend.

FallCon is always packed with cartoonists, both professional and amateur. Much of this is due to their incredibly generous (and very uncommon) policy of not charging creators anything for table space! This offer is extended to any comics creators regardless of experience, renown or talent (space is huge but it is obviously limited, so you want to let them know early if you’ll be attending future conventions). As a result, there are small-press cartoonists all over the place… FallCon has got to be the best convention for small-press cartoonists in the midwest (with MicroCon in the Spring at a close second).

FallCon is a huge convention, and growing every year (next year will be its 20th anniversary). It is also getting better every year… this year was easily the most fun FallCon I’ve attended yet. It has been held for a number of years in the vast Education Building on the fun, retro-quirky Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Next year it will be moving to an even larger building on the Fairgrounds.

This year the International Cartoonist Conspiracy decided to do something different for FallCon. First of all, it was determined that any conspiracy worth a damn should have a funny hat. Since the Cartoonist Conspiracy is worth considerably more than a damn, we donned our new formal-wear 100% wool fezzes.



Here I am proudly modeling my Conspiracy attire on Saturday before the convention… little did I suspect it would be 87 degrees outside! Yes, we had some sweaty wool fezzes this weekend. Let’s take a look at some of them…



The other big part of our FallCon initiative was to set up a Cartoonist Conspiracy lounge rather than a traditional table space. We easily had the most comfortable digs at the convention. The two couches were generously lent to us by Big Time Attic and Bud Burgy. Ryan Dow (pictured in the middle below) also lent us a nice drawing table which we made jam comics on all weekend. Ryan is flanked by Daniel Olson on the left and Matthew Kriske on the right, and the three of them (along with Vas Littlecrow of the Cartoonist Conspiracy Rice, MN local, who, alas, I didn’t get a photo of) made the main group of Conspiracy volunteers manning the lounge and welcoming new members into our fold.

Ryan is responsible for Introspective Comics, and also has a mysterious alter-ego that was also seen at the con this weekend. I went to school with Dan, and he is doing a fun, frequently updated webcomic at bewilderedkid.com. Matthew Kriske needs a website so I can link to him! Here is the comic he did for the recent City Pages comix issue the Conspiracy organized. Vas Littlecrow is a one-woman publishing empire… you can start digging into her comics here… she also runs the very reasonably priced Rice Print Shop, which we have gone through to publish a number of our projects, and I can not recommend highly enough.



Here’s another shot of the Lounge with the Conspiracy reading rack library visible (which Big Time Attic also brought to the convention… thanks again, guys)… the reading rack features numerous comics by anyone in our membership that wants to donate copies to it (if you want to have yours included, you can mail them to Big Time Attic 1618 Central Ave. NE Minneapolis, MN 55413). You can also see Conspirator Mike Sgier on the far right.



Here’s the Minneapolis Conspriacy Events Czar Danno (aka Dank aka Staplegenius) Danno is incredibly prolific and had many exciting new issues of his hilarious Manly Tales of Cowardice available, as well as cheap originals… I bought a Manly Tales cover to hang on my wall (pictured on top of the stack on the right). Danno recently got a rave review for his contribution to the Muscles and Fights anthology on Newsarama.

Danno is currently very busy getting us ready for our upcoming 24 Hour Comic Day event later this month (as a part of the international event 24 Hour Comics Day, which we have participated in since it’s outset 4 years ago).

In addition to the event for the last three years, we have also published the 24 Hour comics we make the day after the event, the first year as an almost 200 page book, and the two subsequent years as a box set of mini-comics. This year we’re planning on breaking the tradition of doing it the next day, and after talking to the friendly folks from MCAD Comic Heads who are putting together another Minneapolis 24 Hour comic event this year for 24 Hour Comic Day, it sounds likely that we will be collaborating with them to do an enormous box set collecting the comics from both events!



Next we have Mike Toft of Brain Food. Mike and Danno have been with the Conspiracy since the first meeting (now almost five years ago!) Mike had a free FallCon giveaway issue of his long running comic book Brain Food that I’m looking forward to reading.



Pictured above are Bud Burgy and Damian Sheridan. Bud and his publishing partner Amado (pictured below) were premiering the release of the brand new, even more enormous second volume of their Muscles and Fights anthology, Musclier and Fightier. The first volume was a blast, I can’t wait to read the second (full disclosure: I contributed to both volumes… so did many of the other people in this FallCon post). The third volume is planned to come out early next year… if you are interested in contributing to it you’ll want to do so before January 15th… details are on the website. Bud was nice enough to consolidate his table space with Amado to accomodate Damian, who was nice enough to put up with a ruthless aquisition of his planned space by the Conspiracy to build the lounge. Thanks much to both of you guys for making the lounge possible!



Here’s the other half of the Cream City Comics/Muscles and Fights publishing empire, Amado Rodriguez, on the left, and Jon Sloan, cartoonist and master of martial arts on the right. Amado and Bud are taking Muscles and Fights to a convention in the UK this week.



Here is (L to R) Zander Cannon, Donn Ha (of the Chicago cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy) and Gene Ha at the Big Time Attic table… Zander is talking to 13-year-old cartoonist Lewis Tuck, who had a cool little mini debut at the con this weekend called CRANEON (which includes a pinup by Sam Hiti!). Zander was the only other fella besides me smart enough to wear a tie with his wool fez in 85 degree weather! Zander is the brilliant cartoonist behind The Replacement God, Smax the Barbarian (in collaboration with author extrordinaire Alan Moore), Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards (in collaboration with Jim Ottaviani and Big Time Attic) and many other things. He has a new series of Top 10 comics coming out in collaboration with Gene Ha in the near future… Zander is taking over the writing on this run (which was previously by Alan Moore). I read a preview of Zander’s wonderfully detailed layout/scripts for the first number of issues, and they are going to be great.



Here’s Kevin Cannon, also of Big Time Attic, the man responsible for the (almost completed) Armitage Shanks graphic novel Far Arden, which I have mentioned before numerous times, and you can read online. Kevin was nice enough to give me an awesome sketch of heroic Shanks in fisticuffs with a fish. Watch for Far Arden to be nominated for awards all over the place next year after it sees print. Kevin, unlike his pseudo-brother Zander, was the only man with a wool fez smart enough not to wear it in 87 degree heat! Kevin also did a photographic report on FallCon on the Big Time Attic blog, which you can read here.



Here’s another picture of Donn… Donn used to live in Minneapolis, but now he is in Chicago… I forgot to ask Donn how things were going with the Chicago cell of the Cartoonist Conspiracy. In addition to cartooning talents, Donn is an amazing Flash developer… check out this hilarious game he developed a while ago, Five Minutes to Kill Yourself.



Next we have Brett VonSchlosser and Tim Sievert. Brett and Tim had a number of beautifully screen-printed items at their table, and Tim had amazing stuffed dolls of his character The Canary Kid (which you can see on the Big Time Attic blog). Tim and Brett have recently been collaborating on a fight comic called Champions of Eternity. Tim has a book coming out soon from Top Shelf called That Salty Air.



Tom Kaczynski makes some gorgeous mini-comics. He is also a regular contributor to the wonderful Fantagraphics MOME anthology… I bought one of everything on his table, and if you ever see him at a con, you should do yourself a favor and do the same. If you’re going to SPX this weekend, you’ll have a chance.



Here’s Sarah Morean, the founding member of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Conspiracy Cell… she recently joined us in Minneapolis, so Sioux Falls is gonna have to get along without her. Sarah is very prolific cartoonist and a wonderful writer. She had some of my favorite contributions to the recent Alley Cat anthology we put together to benefit the family of Minneapolis cartoonist and Conspirator Eric Lappegard who died in July (The MNCBA thoughtfully dedicated FallCon to Eric this year).

Sarah is also a thoughtful comics reviewer as the Mini-Comics Editor for the excellent blog The Daily Cross Hatch. Naturally, I hope to shamelessly hassle her into reviewing my webcomic Soapy the Chicken there some day (which has been on hiatus but will be resuming next week on an irregular schedule). Here’s her FallCon review for the Cross Hatch. I bought everything Sarah had too…



Sitting next to Tom and Sarah was Will Dinski… which was appropriate, as the three of them make some of the most beautifully printed hand-made comics in the Twin Cities. I got most of the stuff on Will’s table too, although I stupidly passed on his gorgeous new handmade hardcover for budgetary reasons… I’m sure I will live to regret this decision.



Next we have Sam Hiti and the previously mentioned Lewis Tuck. Sam has the most amazing stack of sketches for sale that you are likely to see anywhere for a mere ten to forty dollars… Sam printed a book of his sketches recently called Ghoulash, and from how many sketches he shows up with at every con, I think he could probably make a sketchbook a month if he was inclined to do so. Sam’s best known for his deservedly critically acclaimed Tiempos Finales, as well as for starting the Fisticuffs blog. I eagerly await his upcoming WWI graphic novel, Death Day.



Pictured here are
Bob Lipski and Brian Bastian. Bob is probably the most insanely prolific cartoonist I know. There aren’t many cartoonists out there who can write, draw, publish and distribute a comic book every month and still work a day job, and keep it up for over 60 issues, as Bob has with his charming comic Uptown Girl… in fact, I imagine Bob’s probably the only one who has done this. After he publishes his monthlies, he collects them in huge volumes, of which there are now four… you can purchase them online here. On top of that, Bob regularly collaborates with Brian on the comic book Tommy Chicago.



Here is the previously mentioned Mike Sgier again with a plate of msg visiting the lounge. Mike has a couple of posts with his sketches from this year’s FallCon on his site, here and here.



One of the coolest things about FallCon is the huge glass cases on the left side of the building that they fill with an amazing selection of artwork… I meant to take more photos of this stuff… they literally cover one whole side of the building… it’s gotta be 1000 feet of glass display cases, all full of amazing orignal artwork and other obscurities. They went all out this year and had some fantastic art for viewing. Pictured above is a whole case filled with rare underground comics from the sixties and seventies. As they do every year, they had a case full of the wonderful Joel Thingvall Gallery of Wonder Woman Art, which I’ve mentioned before. There was also a large collection of trading card sized renditions of Doctor Doom.



Here’s another case… I don’t know what the specific theme of this case was, if there was one… note the Kurtzman Little Annie Fanny in the center.



They didn’t limit it to comic art either… here is a case displaying cheesecake art by George Petty.



FallCon also features a huge charity auction every year with funds going to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota. They go around to all of the artists’ tables asking for donations, and they get a whole lot of nice stuff that ends up usually going for very affordable prices. This year the Conspiracy donated a jam poster comic strip we drew during the con along with two of the limited edition Lutefisk Sushi Volume B boxes of mini-comics we made last year.



Here is a somewhat readable copy of the jam poster we donated.



Here is the obligatory photo of superheroes… a whole goddamn Justice League of them. The Batmobile was off to the left…



Here is a photo of my comic book scores from the weekend… I got some fun reading to do. In addition to all the great comics I bought from artists, FallCon has a lot of comics dealers as well. I barely had time to dig through their wares, but I scored a beat up but intact Walt Kelly Animal Comics comic I’m gonna have to scan for my blog and a coverless issue of Gabby Hayes for a buck each! Plus one of the comics issues of National Lampoon. All in all, a really great weekend. Hope to see you there next year!

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