Go Graphic this Weekend

18th annual Olympia Comics Festival

By Christian Carvajal on May 31, 2018

Every year since 2001, the Olympia Comics Festival has played host to renowned graphic authors and artists alongside homegrown beginners. Casey Bruce and Frank Hussey, owners and operators of Oly comics shop Danger Room, pride themselves on running the oldest alternative-comics event of its kind in the Northwest. 

"It really started as one of those ‘Someone needs to do this, so I guess it's us' (events), at least in our neck of the woods," notes Hussey. "Luckily, at this point there's now several of those events, and I know in at least one case we directly inspired another event like this. It feels like it's a worthwhile thing that needs to be done."

"We're just people who love comics," he adds. Of creator-owned comics, he said, "These days, they can get quite a bit of respect. They're interviewed and reviewed in The New Yorker and things like that, and their books are carried in public libraries. But when we started this 18 years ago that was not the case, and there were not events that were highlighting that material."

In past years, the festival welcomed such acclaimed creators as Laura and Mike Allred (Madman), Peter Bagge (Hate), Ivan Brunetti (Schizo) and Joe Sacco (Footnotes in Gaza). This year, the guests of honor are Farel Dalrymple and Shannon Wheeler. "The Wrenchies was (Wheeler's) real breakout book," said Hussey. "He really knows how to take you on an emotional journey that feels genuine." Hussey compares Dalrymple's style to Boy Commandos and the "Newsboy Legion" of "kid-gang" characters drawn by Jack Kirby in the immediate postwar period. Dalrymple also drew Omega the Unknown, written by bestselling author Jonathan Lethem. A selection from that series appeared in Best American Comics 2010.

"Shannon's been around a while," continues Hussey, "and made his name with Too Much Coffee Man ... He's really made a big splash this year with the Sh*t My President Says book ... All of them are real Trump tweets." Wheeler won Eisner Awards for both Too Much Coffee Man and I Thought You Would Be Funnier, a collection of cartoons rejected by The New Yorker.

Olympia Comics Festival is "about promoting what we love most about comics: the art of comics," said Hussey. "There will be people there who've been doing it for decades, and people that this is their first mini-comic ... including lots of locals." Oly cartoonist Chelsea Baker, for example, once worked at Danger Room and now draws a much-loved daily comic. The main event will be preceded by OCF Preview Night at Olympia Timberland Library and followed by signings with Dalrymple and Wheeler. Preview Night, also free, will feature a live-drawing demonstration, question-and-answer session and book signing with Dalrymple and Wheeler.

OLYMPIA COMICS FESTIVAL CARTOONISTS' EXPO, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, June 2, Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, free, olycomicsfest.tumblr.com

OCF PREVIEW NIGHT, 7 p.m., Friday, June 1, Timberland Library, 313 8th Ave. SE, Olympia, free, olycomicsfest.tumblr.com

DANGER ROOM, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 1-6 p.m., Sunday, 201 4th Ave. W., Olympia, 360.705.3050, dangerroomoly.com