In 2009, I started on what I thought would be a quick, fun educational project: Creating 10 small comic books about Oregon’s history. My friends, myself, and the majority of Portland didn’t grow up in the state, so researching and writing these comics was a way to help build understanding of our surroundings in a relevant, accessible medium.
The project grew bigger (and took longer!) than I ever thought it would! Local arts and culture nonprofit the Dill Pickle Club joined on as a collaborator and over the past two years we’ve raised $2,500, hired nine local artists, and published the ten comics over the course of two years. Between all the people who pitched in to create the comics, we had nearly 150 collaborators.
The box set of comics were finally released this March 4th at Powell’s! Woohoo! Lots of people said nice things about the project in newspapers and the release was standing-room-only. The next morning, artist Nicole Georges, historian Eliza Canty-Jones, and I were on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think out Loud program talking about the comics. Check it out!
Videographer Adam Willumsen made a pretty little video about the release and here’s also a short video I made about the project back in 2010:
WHAT ARE THE COMICS ABOUT?
Here’s the list of comics and the artist who illustrated each:
Life and Death of the X-Ray Cafe — John Isaacson
Dead Freeways — Don Barkhouse
Portland’s Black Panthers — Khris Soden
The Streets of Chinatown — Harry Lau
Voices of Celilo Falls — T. Edward Bak
The Vanport Flood — Nicole Georges
The Lives of Loggers — BT Livermore
Votes for Women — Suzette Smith
Oregon Bikes — Shawn Granton
THIS WOULD BE GREAT FOR KIDS!
You’re right! In the spring of 2011, Dill Pickle Club founder Marc Moscato and I led a two-week history comics workshop at da Vinci Arts Middle School here in Portland. The thirty students worked in small groups to write and draw their own comics about Portland’s history, then distributed some of their finished books to people in the communities they wrote about. The project was a big success and we’re looking forward to doing more history comics work in schools.
Here’s the cover of one junior high comic, The Life and Death of the Cotton Club, detailing the story of a famous jazz club on North Williams Avenue.
HOW ARE THE COMICS PRINTED?
They’re printed in batches of 400 at a time by Eberhardt Press, a small printing house in SE Portland. Charles spends a night running each edition off on his offset printing press, then we hand-fold and staple all the copies and deliver them to local stores. Here’s Charles printing the very first issue, the comic about Lone Fir Cemetery:
WHERE CAN I BUY THESE WONDERFUL COMICS?
Most Dill Pickle Club publications, including the comics, are available at these Portland stores: Ampersand, Crafty Wonderland, Floating World Comics, In Other Words, Land, Portland Art Museum, Powells, Publication Studio, Tender Loving Empire and The Waypost. You can also buy them online or borrow them for free from the excellent Multnomah County Library.
WHAT OTHER COMICS DO YOU DRAW?
I’ve published several news-y comics in print and online. Check out those works here!