Jeff Smith and Cartoon Crossroads Columbus
The creator of Bone has made a new kind of comics festival that draws on Columbus’ and Ohio State’s tremendous artistic and cultural resources.
Cartoonist Jeff Smith, creator of Bone and former contributor to The Lantern, had a hunch a few years ago that Columbus could be the perfect place for a different kind of comics festival. His instinct was a good one. Here, as Cartoon Crossroads Columbus gears up for its third iteration, Sept. 28–Oct. 1, Smith talks about drawing outside the lines of a conventional hotel ballroom setting.
All of the city’s art institutions — the university, Columbus College of Art & Design, Thurber House, Wexner Center — were bringing in high-caliber cartoonists from all over the world. People like Gary Panter, Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and Lucy Caswell, the original curator, used to put on a festival every three years.
She wanted to retire, and we had an idea: Why don’t we get all these great art institutions to do it all on the same weekend and get the big cartoonists here?
We developed a four-day festival, with two days on campus and two days downtown.
Our example was the one in Lucca, Italy, where they set up a bunch of tents selling comics, and all around town there’ll be an exhibit here and somewhere else a lecture. You might stop with your friends and get something to eat and talk about what you saw.
The first year, about 2,000 people attended, but they were scratching their heads a little. People are used to comic-cons in hotel ballrooms. We figured it was close to 10,000 the second year.
Will the city come out and buy comic books this year? Not Spider-Man superhero fare, but stories from the authors’ own experiences. They have their own characters and voices. Columbus has not let me down yet.