[Abby’s Road] Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Con

It’s true. I go to shows like it’s my job and buy more music than most women in their late-thirties. Though not a gambler, I’d be willing to put money on it. I’ve been told more than once by the grad students in my department that they’re surprised at my age. My favorite exclamation to date is an MFA’s muffled “HOLY SHIT” followed by a dropped coffee cup after explaining my 36th birthday celebration (to someone) within his earshot. Although being mistaken as much younger than I am is flattering, sometimes talking about my hobbies – passions that are misconstrued as “only for the young folk” – leads some to believe that I am not only much younger than I am but also not a professional. This can result in being taken not-so-seriously, which is terribly frustrating.

Despite my fringe-dweller persona (and my obvious flair for the dramatic), I can hold my own in a conference room, complete an astronomical number of simultaneous tasks in my office in a timely fashion while having Stone Roses and Sigur Rós badges adorning my messenger bag (amazing!). Recently, to make matters even more interesting, I’ve fallen into the abyss that is the World of Comics and Graphic Novels and (wait for it) mentioned it to a few of my colleagues. I should probably just run away and join a traveling circus.

I blame the goofballs that are my sister and my boyfriend.

My little sister always read comics. As a child she had Spiderman and Smurf(y) bed sheets. While in art school she created an installation consisting of a gigantic wood frame découpaged with detached X-Men pages (I think there might have been twinkle lights involved as well) and, in a studio class, crafted a stupendous chair inspired by Tim Burton that was so tall and other-worldly it could barely fit in my parent’s dining room. Today, a successful career woman and artist in her early thirties, she has drawn strips for city papers, illustrated children’s books, album covers and apparel for some amazing musicians. Am I a proud big sister? You bet I am.

My boyfriend, a lovely amalgam of electrical engineer and music nerd with an insane ear for seamless mixing, spent his childhood reading comics (and books) in the treetops of Bavaria. He’s passed along his passion to his nieces and nephews and by some trickle-down/osmosis-like phenomenon I have been swept up in the storm as well. It was just this year then, as the planets aligned perfectly amid a final cajoling from a colleague that we went to our first Comic Con. Oh. My. Goodness.

I have never seen such hardcore fans, anywhere. The bespectacled Jarvis Cocker wannabes at DC’s Mousetrap have nothing on these people. In the first 5 minutes I saw a Dr. Peter Venkman, a Ms. Marvel and a Ramona Flowers. It was quite intense and, as much as it was entertaining and intriguing, after two hours and upon seeing my 3rd Ms. Marvel, things got monotonous and I had enough for one day. While exiting I caught wind of the Small Press Expo that was happening a few weeks later. We hit it. This was something totally different.

As you might expect, the SPX was a hipster’s wet dream; a tattoo-filled, ironic beard bonanza. The artists rocked, one in particular was binding self-screened words and illustrations with a needle and thread before my eyes as he talked about his hometown and his band. I never fully realized the overlap comics have with the music industry until the SPX. My sister introduced me to gems like Local and a collection I vehemently recommend to all: side b: the music lover’s comic anthology – it will warm then break your heart into a million pieces and tape it all up again, I promise. Anyway…the aforementioned comics and anthology are largely music-centric, yes, but the SPX was full of actual people – writers and artists I could talk to about what it is they are creating as opposed to just reading their product. Many of these artists embrace music not only as a hobby but as the inspiration and vehicle for all they put into print – a glorious recipe. They write about their experiences with music (a la side b), but also tragedy, loss, love, drug abuse, happiness, growing older (evolving?) and how music co-mingles with those events. Magnificent. Comics are more than super powers and capes, my super friends. Check them.

Happy weekend.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

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