Portland Comics: Where Should I Start?

Comics can be scary. There, I said it. Especially when you’re first starting out and don’t know what to read first. Portland has become a hotbed of comic artists and publishers over the past several years, and there are so many different artists, publishers, and formats to try out or to keep up with that if you don’t know who’s who or what’s what, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

At Ooligan’s annual Write to Publish conference this past February, several comic artists were part of different panels. Each of them creates different types of comics, from Emi Lenox’s daily autobiographical strips to Chris Roberson’s supernatural zombie series to Jamie S. Rich’s romance novel in comic form (I now want to read all three of these). Like I said, being new to comics can be scary, but it can also be incredibly exciting—the huge amount of diversity means there’s almost certainly something for everyone to read. Here are three other comics created by different Portland artists I would recommend to anyone who’s interested in getting a taste of that variety.

  • DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary by Erika Moen—DAR was one of the first comics I ever read, back in 2010. It chronicles the true life, adventures, and circumstances of a then twenty-something Erika Moen and features heartbreak, romance, true love, art, and a whole bunch of confusion about life. My favorite thing about DAR is how honest and upfront she is about sex and sexual identity and about how fun, exciting, and confusing those things can be. It’s ridiculously hilarious, and the art’s really fluid and clean. (Be warned though: some strips are NSFW.)

  • Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol—I picked this up at the library one day because the cover had a blurb from Neil Gaiman on it. I was not disappointed in my choice. Anya’s Ghost (First Second Books, 2011) tells the story of Anya, a snarky first-generation immigrant teenager, who’s unhappy with everything: her overly Russian mother, her weight, her lack of friends, her lack of a love life. One day she falls down a well that happens to contain the skeleton of a dead girl—and its ghost. When Anya gets out of the well, the ghost escapes as well and becomes her best friend, one who’s willing to do anything to make Anya popular and happy. This ghost story is equal parts relatable, unnerving, and downright scary. Vera Brosgol is an excellent storyteller, both as a writer and illustrator, and does a fantastic job depicting a grumpy, self-centered teenager whom you nevertheless end up rooting for.
  • Atlas by Lon Nowak, Jack Ciolli, and Liz Lundblade—These three artists were publicizing their forthcoming post-apocalyptic superhero webcomic at Rose City Comic-Con last fall. Since then they’ve published the introduction and the first chapter, and they’re hard at work on the second. The story so far tells of a worldwide radioactive catastrophe that gives people born after the event superhuman abilities. In the first chapter we’re introduced to several of these individuals, who are now in their teens, and to Silverline, the organization responsible for managing and controlling these extraordinary humans. It’s still in its early days, but I’m excited to see how the story will develop and to learn more about the diverse group of super-teenagers introduced so far.

Obviously, there are many, many other comics and Portland comic artists who do fantastic work. Go explore! Have fun! And if anyone has their own recommendations they want to throw my way, please do.