So MIX 2011 has come and gone, and I can say without hyperbole that it was the greatest comics-related weekend of my life. I/we/Minnesota/comics are forever in debt to SARAH MOREAN for making this fantastic show happen for two amazing years. THANK YOU, SARAH!!! Thanks to all her staff of volunteers as well. You are all wonderful, wonderful people and put smiles on the faces of all the exhibitors and attending public alike. THANK YOU ONE MORE TIME! And now…a blow-by-blow of my fabulous weekend…
MIX began, in my mind, hours before the opening parties when the local NPR station (MPR!) had an early afternoon hour on the present and future of comics featuring Scott McCloud. Best of all, that hour of programming opened with the announcement that is was going to be discussing comics because of–you guessed it—MIX! Public radio loves its comics!
Then MIX reeeeeeeeally began at 6pm with the WOMEN OF MIX exhibit at MCAD. I arrived at about 6:45. After taking in SARAH GLIDDEN’s breath-taking pages from “HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL IN 60 DAYS OR LESS” I ran into old friends DANIEL J OLSON and KEVIN CANNON. After chatting with them for a few minutes I attempted to get back to the art but immediately ran into CHRIS MONROE. Chris and I had met last year at BOOK FEST, so we had that acquaintanceship (and Facebook) on our side. Little did I know by the end of the weekend Chris and I would end up becoming bestest of friends. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Eventually people started clearing out of MCAD (the show closed at 8pm) and moving across town to the opening night DRINK AND DRAW/CLOUDY COLLECTIVE EXHIBIT at PINK HOBO (aka PUNY ENTERTAINMENT). Chris was unaware of the event, but I twisted her arm (FREE BOOZE!) and convinced her to go. Doing my part to save the planet, I carpooled over dirty socialist/future L RON HUBBARD/amazing cartoonist MAXEEM KONRARDY and his friend/fellow cartoonist/MCAD alum ANNA BRATTON (who it was nice to finally meet. Love her and BRITT SABO’s “Francis Sharp” comic). Speaking of dirty socialists, on route we drove by OCCUPY MN and I swear to god PHISH was playing. Anyway…
After arriving at PINK HOBO, Chris and I hooked back up and enjoyed a Grain Belt and the Cloudy Collective show. The show was spectacular, but the 2 stand-out pieces to me at had to be the ones by ED EMBERLEY and GRAHAM ANNABLE (its total bias, though). Chris and I then ventured into the back where the DRINK AND DRAW was going-on. And was it EVER going-on! There were several large tables set-up, each covered in white paper, and all the tables were packed to capacity. Eventually though 2 spots opened up, and as luck would have it they were at the same table as my friends NICK MUDGE and NICK STRAIGHT. Also at that table was SCOTT SEEKINS…
If you’re not from MN you probably don’t know Mr Seekins, and I’m not going to get into it here, but all you need to know is he’s a Minneapolis fixture and he only does art that involves himself incorporated into it. So Chris and I sat down by Scott Seekings and both began drawing Scott Seekins as Scott Seekins was drawing Scott Seekins. Very meta.
After some drawing and a couple beers I looked at the over-flowing mass of cartoonists and decided to do some mobile socializing. But first…I’d need another beer. As luck would have it, set-up next to the booze station was Conspirator/podcaster/online teacher/webcartoonist ROB STENZINGER, and the mobile chatting began. Rob had brought with him MARK RUDOLPH (of the gone but not forgotten ART & STORY podcast) and SARAH TURNER (frequent guest of the aforementioned podcast), and it was great to finally meet them as people and not just the voices in my head. Mark quizzed me on hotdish (whattya mean its not called hotdish everywhere?! MADNESS!), and a weekend-long running gag was born.
Speaking of podcasters, I also finally met MIKE DAWSON shortly thereafter and we discussed the challenges of doing interview-heavy shows. Nice guy, that Mike Dawson.
From there I just made the rounds talking to old friends and the MNtoonists I usually only get to see at conventions and openings. But the night was getting late and we had already exceeded the 11pm closing time (the crowd had thinned out, but it was still VERY crowded). Knowing I had to be up early the next day I headed out. A great opening ceremony. Take THAT, Hong Kong Olympics!
While the con didn’t open to the public until 10am, I had volunteered for early/morning last minute set-up. Sarah cracked the whip and we said “How High” to get everything running smooth. After a few errands I ended up being a greeter/usher helping the checking-in creators find their spot. It was fast-paced and very fun and I’m glad I did it. It was a nice, quick way to meet many fellow cartoonists and put faces to names. It was also great watching the place fill-up–over 200 creators filled three big rooms. Amazing!
At 9:45 I turned in my gun and badge (still don’t know why we were issued those) and settled into my table which I was sharing with my friends and collaborators BUD BURGY and DAN MURPHY. Dan was tabling on his own for the first time. All he had were three minis in his ever-growing ELLE CIRKA saga, but they were easily some of the best things anyone could have purchased at the show.
We were also surrounded on both sides by friends like BOB LIPSKI, LUPI McGINTY, STEVE STWALLEY and AARON POLIWODA. JORDAN SHIVELEY and BRETT WARNOCK of TOP SHELFwere across the way. It was a great spot in the chilly “Papa Bear” room (And yes, the other two rooms were “Mama Bear” and “Baby Bear”. Bet you can figure out why). The crowd trickled in immediately, and by 11:30 or so it was a full-blown frenzy. I was behind the table more or less all day. Sales were good enough for me to make a couple or rounds purchasing (aside from a last-minute spending binge on Sunday, all my profits went into others books. I only *lost* money on food and booze, but the food truck grub was AMAZING and booze is booze, so I wouldn’t actually call it losing).
I was honored to be asked to be a part of the SALON SALOON panel and was looking forward to it all day. When it finally started at 3:30 I was not disappointed.
ANDY STURDEVANT puts on a hell of show with SALON SALOON, and even in the truncated MIX form it was still a great time. Fellow guests CORINNE MUCHA, LENA CHANDHOK, and JOHN PORCELLINO were all really entertaining. As I’ve mentioned in the pre-MIX posts, John P was one of the main reasons I got into mini-comics to begin with, so to find myself onstage with him singing “OH, YOKO” at the end of SALON SALOON…well, it was just magically surreal, lets say that. Lena and Corinne were also super cool people (and great cartoonists) who I’m really glad I got to meet and get to know in such a fun setting. Luckily, Andy let me record the whole thing and it’ll be available as a part of the LUTEFISK SUSHI PODCAST this Thursday.
Salon Saloon ran a little long (fine by me!) so the con was more or less over by the time I got out. Luckily while I was paneling ATHENA CURRIER and her booth-beard JASON ROBEY were hatching dinner plans! Given the ‘ok’ to invite ‘whoever’ over to Jason’s for a home-cooked meal I wrangled Chris Monroe to forgo a nap in favor of a potentially awkward meal. But awkward it wasn’t, not in any way, no sir! The one to describe the whole scene was DELICIOUS (also: boozy)!!! Jason is a master fucking chef and the company was fantastic! So thanks Jason, Athena, Chris, Bud, Murphy, RYAN DOW, BRITT HAMMERBERG, DAN OLSON, and TED ANDERSON for a great time. (On a side note: Athena did the most heart-felt book signing of the weekend on her new ACTION ATHENA collection. It seriously melts my blackened, ice-cold heart. Thanks, Athena!!!)
The official Saturday after-party was at HONEY, a place where vampires and clubbers go for orgies. But on this night the nerds took over! The dinner crew (plus MIKE TOFT) stuck together for a while, but as the official MIX cocktail kicked-in, the socializing spread out. An old friend, and currently dormant cartoonist, MATT MUNN was there and it was cool to get to see him again (he finally got a new computer. Here’s hoping the return of his “ZED RECKONING” webcomic is not too far behind). Also CATHY JOHNSON was there! Cathy was part of the Conspiracy back when she was 17 or so. One day Cathy left to go off to college. I could have sworn this was like a year and a half ago, but NOPE! Cathy is a full-grown college graduate and all-around awesome adult now, and it was great to get to catch up (feeling like an old, old man however, not so great). The aforementioned Mark Rudolph and I also had some more fun. He’s seriously a great guy.
All good things must end, however, and with the 10pm end of the party came the vampires and models and shitty, shitty dance music with which they would soon cover HONEY with their jizzum and blood and VD. Smartly, Chris suggested we bolt for NYE’S POLONAISE ROOM, so that’s what we (along with BUD and STEVE STWALLEY) did. As Bud bought the first round I nabbed the biggest table in the Polka bar which was perfect since we were soon joined by KEVIN CANNON, SARAH MOREAN, BRITT HAMMERBERG, JORDAN SHIVELEY, BRETT WARNOCK, TIM SIEVERT, and several others.
Drunken mayhem was had by all–Sarah and I dueted a tune in the piano karaoke bar, Tim and I had a magical polka bonding moment, Chris and I had tons of laughs, and we all went horse shouting out our conversations. Despite the fact it was Daylight Savings night and we *technically* could have stayed out drinking until 3am (since the clocks turn back at 2am–the hour MN bars close), people started scattering around 12 or so. Only the drunkity-drunks (myself included) stayed until about 1:30–the last 45 minutes of which was spent nursing glasses of water and making deals with deities so we wouldn’t be *too* hungover the next day.
That extra hour of sleep was a saving grace. Sunday morning wasn’t nearly as horrific as I feared, in fact I barely had a headache at all (I also ate like nine aspirins before passing out). It was pointed out in the morning that Twitter was abuzz with talk of hangovers and mix2011 hash-tags. Totally not surprised.
Sunday was bitter-sweet, though. Knowing this whole magical weekend was coming to an end was sad, but being in the moment of it was heaven. I made several more sales, got a bunch more books, and got to meet the several more people who had eluded me previously like SARAH GLIDDEN (who says she might move to Mpls. I hope this weekend helped sway her decision!):
Also, JULIA WERTZ. Julia claims her signature in my FART PARTY collection is the “worst she’s ever done” so I won’t post it here, but its a pretty hilarious and I’m honored to be in possession of the “worst” thing she’s ever done (“I saw your panel, I KNOW your name is Danno, so why did I sign it…Wait! Why am I drawing myself as a hunchback?!”). Thanks, Julia!
The day drew to a close. Goodbyes started to be said all around to both new friends and old. And before we knew it MIX 2011 was over. There was a closing party four hours after MIX ended, but once I went home I was DONE. I had gotten maybe eight hours of sleep total from Friday night until 5pm Sunday so i was not surprised to find myself dozing off around 8:30. As much as I would have liked to taken part in the grand finale, I don’t think I could have physically taken it. As I type this I’m still recovering. But it was ll totally worth it!
So, was MIX 2011 the best show ever? Yes. Deal with it, every other indie show. You might have age and experience and the what-not on your sides, but you don’t have SARAH MOREAN, and Sarah Morean knows how to throw a fucking party!
You’re the best, Sarah! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
(Photos by me, Sarah Morean, Amaya McBatman, Puny Entertainment, and Christian Erickson. All photos (c) their respective photographer.)