Everyone knows that the Pacific Northwest is a comics hub, but not everyone knows exactly why. Last Friday afternoon at Emerald City Comic Con, Popverse Staff Writer Graeme McMillan moderated a panel full of local cartooning luminaries about why exactly the Pacific Northwest has been good for them as creators. The panel consisted of comics creators Abigail Starlin, Ron Chan, Cat Farris, Chan Chau, Abigail Starling, Valentine Barker, and Steve Lieber.
What stood out the most about the panel was the importance of proximity to all the things that are important for a comics artist to have a career—publishers, other artists, studios, and even the ports.
A central example of how proximity to community has impacted cartoonists is that more than half of the panel is involved in the comics studio Helioscope (founded in 2002), with Valentine Barker saying that he had never considered himself a cartoonist and was actually pulled into comics work through the studio. Steve Lieber, who manages Helioscope, joked, “It’s the same way vampires work.”
About the less communal aspects of what draws Chan Chau points out that the weather is a plus, especially compared to the harsh winters of the Midwest. “The climate is more temperate, its better for my bones, so I can work more.” But they also add that there’s a financial aspect to the situation too. “It’s easier and cheaper to get your books from overseas when you’re next to a coast as opposed to in the middle of the country…there’s a lot more conventions here too.”
While a lot of variables are brought up about why the Pacific Northwest, there might be something about it that just isn’t as tangible but may be a little more cultural. Sometimes, it’s just a vibe, as Ron Chan says, “It feels more okay to be weird in the Northwest.”