Batman comics on shop shelves

Assembling the Comics Creators Panel from Write to Publish 2020

I have to admit that working for the Events & Outreach department at Ooligan to help plan the Write to Publish conference was not my first choice coming into the PSU Book Publishing Program. While I had wanted to work on a project team for an in-progress title, I was quickly swayed by the idea of reaching out to people and creating a discussion panel for the event, and then working on questions to guide and propel that conversation.

I spent the Fall term of 2019 pitching a slew of local creators, ranging from big names to small cartoonists to publicists of comic companies and anyone else inside the industry. Some had worked at PSU and others were total longshots. In trying to create the panel, one of the more important aspects was creating a balance—trying to find a blend of authors, illustrators, professionals, etc. As the theme was “The Many Faces of Publishing,” we locked down four comics creators to form our panel: Erika Schnatz, a production designer at Image Comics; MK Reed, a local comics creator; Terry Blas, a local comics creator known for his “You Say Latino” comic on Vox; and David Chelsea, an illustrator and comics educator.

The conversation, guided by Anastacia Ferry’s questions, focused on Portland’s comics scene and the future of comics, especially in the digital realm. Erika Schnatz noted that “the scary and cool thing about webcomics is the immediate feedback you get,” as your audience is always present and just one screen away. On the other hand, Terry Blas stated, “[w]ebcomics represented the ability to put my own work out there and prove to an editor or company that I can meet a deadline,” according to Denise Morales Soto’s live tweets, showing how the internet can be a ruthless proving ground for comics.

When the conversation moved over to Portland and its unique comics scene, MK Reed said, “Portland is so book-y that it spills over and so there’s a lot of comics here as a result of that.” The others agreed that Portland was a great place to be, with David having started his career here, Erika working at Image, and Terry attending PNCA for his degree here.

To conclude, the panelists discussed the future of comics. David noted the death of the inker in the computer age where anyone can do inks with a digital stroke, and Terry ruminated on how crowdfunding allows marginalized groups to be seen and represented and ultimately funded and published via platforms like Kickstarter. Probably the most fulfilling aspect of the event for me was being able to meet all the wonderful and articulate individuals who came through for this panel. While they were very knowledgeable, they were also kind and networked within themselves. Forming it may have been stressful, but the payoff was creating an environment to discuss something we all care about.

Planning the Write to Publish 2020 conference was not something I had seen myself enjoying as much as I did, and while I’m moving on to other facets of the press now, I will definitely be attending the conference the next time it’s held.