Now in its fifth year, Short Run will host more than 200 artists at Seattle Center, including cartoonist and toy designer Jim Woodring, animator and Frank Zappa collaborator Bruce Bickford, and many others.
This Halloween, the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival will present its fifth annual curated showcase of indie comics and self-published, small-press, handmade books from the Northwest and beyond at Seattle Center — and, like every other year, attendance is expected to be bigger than ever.
“I’ve been going to comic-book conventions off and on since the late ’60s and the ones that start off small and get big change in character,” said Jim Woodring, the well-known Pacific Northwest cartoonist and a featured exhibitor at this year’s festival. “This one has just gotten bigger and hasn’t changed at all.”
“It’s become a hugely popular event and the vibe there is so sweet and mutually supportive,” he said, in contrast to the mercenary environment of competing cartoonists he grew up in.
Short Run Comix & Arts Festival
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, Seattle; free (shortrun.org).
“It’s something new to me. It’s kind of utopian, it’s like a big love fest. I think it’s great.”
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The festival originated when its founders, having taken many trips to alternative comic festivals elsewhere, noticed the lack of programming in Seattle for their small but passionate self-publishing and small-press community.
“We were like, ‘Why are we traveling for this? This should be in Seattle,’ ” said Kelly Froh, a co-founder and director of the festival.
The comic-book industry has seen a massive surge in popularity as superhero films from Marvel and DC have dominated movie screens, and events like Comic-Con in San Diego (and Seattle’s own Emerald City Comicon) have become enormous, multiday conventions. But, Froh said, when it comes to small-press books put together by hand, “that kind of work gets dwarfed at these bigger conventions.”
Woodring says that Short Run has been a tremendous boon to the indie arts scene in Seattle, providing a unique place for artists like him to meet with peers and show off and enjoy one another’s work.
“It’s exciting to set foot in that room because there’s a lot of good energy,” he said. “People are there for love and enthusiasm’s sake, and it shows.”
Woodring is probably best known for his Frank series — about an anthropomorphic creature living in a surreal world — and will debut the latest installment, “Frank in the 3rd Dimension,” at the festival. The famed but reclusive animator Bruce Bickford, who collaborated on films with Frank Zappa, will also be in attendance to present a segment from his film “Cas’l.”
Eroyn Franklin, another co-founder and director of Short Run, says the curation process is one of the most vital steps in planning each year’s festival. “It’s highbrow, it’s lowbrow,” she said. “If you go there, you will find something that excites your aesthetics.”
At this “glorious frenzy of printed matter,” as she calls it, more than 200 artists will display their work, eager to discuss it with both fans and peers. Beyond simply browsing and buying material that is rarely found in bookstores, meeting the artists is part of the experience.
“Is anyone getting rich?” Froh asked. “Not really.” But, she added, the festival has engendered a community for artists whose work, at times, can feel like a grueling compulsion rather than a creative outlet. “When you have this community of people around you,” she said, “it takes the edge off of that — you don’t feel alone.”
Franklin and Froh are proud that Short Run has become a hub for local comics culture.
“It’s a celebration of the comics community here,” Froh said. “It’s for us.”