Seattle has always been recognized for its independent artists. From indie movies to music publishing, Seattle has a history of celebrating the up-and-coming creatives. And one area that we are seeing a renewed interest is in cartooning and comic book production. “Short Run” means limited pressing.
The festival focuses on small press, self-published, and handmade books of all kinds. The majority are comics, specifically mini-comics, but also more long-form comic works, plus zines, art books,etc… They differ from a comic con in that many of the exhibitors are working on their comics and books on a much smaller scale, and many do it just for the love of it. One of the more established platforms for Seattle cartoonists is the Short Run Comix Festival. The first Short Run was held in 2011 at The Vera Project, conceived of by Martine Workman, Eroyn Franklin, Jenny Gialenes, and Kelly Froh. They wanted to celebrate the local, alternative comics scene with a festival just for them. The festival was originally modeled after the best parts of other smaller fests they’d traveled to, such as the Stumptown Comics Festival in Portland, the Olympia Comics Festival, and The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in Brooklyn.
That first year the team invited comic artists they knew from Portland, Bellingham, Olympia, and Seattle, and ended up packing 63 artists into the space. 800 people attended the event, which was incredible for an unknown event in its fi rst year. In 2019, the event welcomed about 280 artists and 4,200 attendees. They’re excited to announce that they will finally be putting on the 10th-anniversary festival on Nov. 5, 2022 at the venue of the past 5 festivals, Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center. They’re excited but also planning very cautiously because they are still very much in a pandemic, and they want to execute the festival with added safety procedures, and up the level of comfort for everyone. They’ll welcome almost 300 artists from all over the PNW and the world. They’ll have hands-on activities and experiences like zine-making, screen printing, and animation tent with Seattle Experimental Animation Team (SEAT), youth groups making comics & zines The Northwest School and foundry10, plus workshops, readings, and parties before and after the festival. Keep up with them at shortrun.org and on social media. The festival is kept affordable for participating artists, as the Short Run team will fund-raise and apply for local, state, and federal grants to assure that they can keep the table prices as low as possible, usually ($35/$65) for artists with only a few titles. They also have an annual grant for self-publishers who agree to finish and premiere their new comic at the festival, and (2) $200 travel grants made possible by longtime supporter and world traveler, Katie Kelso. Team Short Run communicates with all the accepted exhibitors and attempts to work with them to get them here and give them the best experience.
Short Run always designates a small group of “Special Guests” but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are
“big names”, instead, they’ve highlighted early-career artists, international artists, and even local artists that they haven’t seen in a while. Because not everyone will check out the work of all 280 artists beforehand, viewing the work of the Special Guests will give you an idea of the kind of work you might expect to see. Saying that, there’s a huge range of styles that you will fi nd there, so it’s best to just attend and be surprised.
In previous years they’ve welcomed the late artist & animator Bruce Bickford (Prometheus’ Garden), Jim
Woodring (Frank, Congress of the Animals), Mimi Pond (Over Easy), Carol Tyler (Soldier’s Heart), the French illustrator team Kerascoët, and really, too many incredible artists to name. This year the Special Guests are Claudia Chinyere Akole (Australia), Anna Haifi sch (Germany), Natalia Novia (Argentina), Gareth Brookes (UK), Lale Theystvind, Shary Flenniken, and Megan Kelso.
As for the Short Run team themselves, one arm of Short Run is the micro-press. Where they’ve produced 13 anthologies, almost all risoprinted (similar to a mimeograph) or screen printed, assembled, and bound by hand, in small, limited edition batches. They feature unique artist team pairings, selections from special guests, or stories based on a prompt or theme. They sell these at smaller events, at the festival merchandise table, and in some local bookstores such as Elliott Bay Book Company and Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in the Georgetown area of Seattle. 90% of the organizing
team are working artists who make books of their own. They believe this is the real strength behind the festival, they are artists, so they know what kind of experience they’d like to have presenting the work to the public in a festival setting.
The great thing about comics, as a medium, offers storytellers the opportunity to create a beautiful dance of words and images that has the potential to be incredibly transforming, moving, personal, dynamic, freaky, and radical. Still, making comics is not easy, it’s laborious, solitary, and frustrating. There is no guaranteed reward (monetary or attention-wise) at the end of the process. You can literally work on a book for 10 years
and have one day of attention for it online. You really have to do the work for yourself, you have to love it.
Short Run Comix co-founder, Kelly Froh, is a comic artist herself, her books include “Walking Up Hill”, “Senior Time”, “The Downed Deer” and many other mini-comics, zines, collaborations and anthologies. She has performed her comic stories at the Hugo House’s acclaimed literary series, Lit Crawl,
Pecha Kucha, On the Boards, APRIL, and Bumbershoot. Check out her work!