Danno Klonowski on the Rain Taxi Book Fest

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Minneapolis is a great place for comics. Have I said that enough?

Last weekend, two of our best festivals fell on the same date.  For one day only you could attend either the Rain Taxi Book Festival or FallCon.  Pretty good for the people of Minneapolis.  Pretty tough for cartoonists wanting to exhibit at both shows.

The exodus from FallCon this year was substantial — at least ten indie cartoonists went to the Book Festival instead of FallCon.  By all accounts, this year’s FallCon was the best yet.  It’s still a great show, but decidedly more mainstream, which is why more cartoonists are spending money for space at Book Fest instead of enjoying the free tables and wonderful hospitality at FallCon.

No hard feelings, FallCon.  Sometimes a cartoonist just needs to get out and try new things.  Experiment a little.  Test a new market.  And they did.  So how was it?

Danno Klonowski, Minneapolis cartoonist and prominent International Cartoonist Conspiracy member, was kind enough to write us a little something about his experience exhibiting for the first time at the Rain Taxi Book Festival.  Full particulars after the cut.

– SM

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Comicopolis and Minneapolis

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comicopolis-front

Like Timmy Williams, I’m from South Dakota. It’s the kind of state where, if a comics event gets billed anywhere within driving distance, you’re obliged to show up because it might be the last one you’ll ever see. Right now, the biggest thing SD has going for it is Chris Browne (Hagar the Horrible). When Mr. Browne RSVPs for an event in Sioux Falls, you show up. When a high school has its own comic book convention, you go and buy every bad manga-inspired mini. When Scott McCloud makes a 50 state tour, you thank the lord.

This was my upbringing. So when I moved to the comparatively exciting metropolis of Minneapolis two years ago, I did so with the understanding that my new community of cartoonists might supply me with a wider range of slightly less pathetic comics-centric events to attend.  I was thrilled.

Yes, I knew my schedule would fill up a bit more than usual, but lately I can’t get a break from it all.  When one comics show closes (Big Funny), another one opens (Comicopolis), and while a big anthology project is taking off (Lutefisk Sushi), another one is winding down (The City Pages Comix Issue). These cartoonists are keeping me on my feet, and really, I’m tired of it. I don’t know how New York copes.  When do those people see their families?

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Guest Strip: Daniel Olson

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dotzDaniel Olson is a mustachioed and sideburns-laden indie comics creator based in St. Paul, MN. He is responsible for publishing the anthology Super Fantastica Comix.

Along with his wife/collaborator AJ Niehaus, he creates the series Super Maxi-Pad Girl, which was named Best Indie Surprise for 2008 by Ain’t It Cool News.

This summer he teamed with writer/artist Bill Prendergast and artists Ken Avidor, Lupi Miguinti, and Danno Klonowski on a comics exposé about U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. You can find out more about it at biasedliberalmedia dot com.

Daniel’s work is also featured in Big Funny. Big Funny is an oversized newspaper tribute to the beleaguered and dying newspaper comic. Big Funny is co-produced by Altered Esthetics, Big Time Attic, and The International Cartoonist Conspiracy.

Currently, he is methodically working on his first graphic novel, Shenanigans. The first chapter can be read at his website/blog/thingy: bewilderedkid dot com.

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Zinefest: the only good party I ever threw

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Toby Jones and Madeline Queripel

Toby Jones and Madeline Queripel

Two years ago, I began coordinating the Twin Cities Zinefest.  It’s a small, two-day DIY craft, culture and self-publishing festival in Minneapolis that offers affordable table space to exhibitors and often includes an art show, concert, workshops, documentaries and an open mic zine reading.

Throughout its history, the Twin Cities Zinefest has often been run by well-intentioned, creative coordinators with busy lives.  It’s a model that is about as independent as its cause, since the coordinator has about as much free reign as any exhibitor making a zine.  There’s no board, or committee, and hardly any volunteers.  So it’s pretty common that after a couple years running the fest, whoever’s in charge just burns out or moves on to persue their own personal projects.

When I took over Zinefest in 2008, I didn’t have much guidance from the previous event coordinators.  I mostly consulted with friends, visited other conventions, and tried to pick apart the attitude and events that make a good convention.

For better or worse, you can blame dumb luck for what happens at most cons, but there’s still a lot to be said for a maintaining and executing a well-oiled plan with core values when you’re organizing any public event.  A con can change enormously depending on the strengths of its location and place on the calendar, but I’ve developed some general, useful ideas about conventions that other DIY, book and comic festival coordinators might want to hear.

As far as I know, there is no convention for convention planners, so we’re all pretty much going on old steam or starting from scratch, which is why I think “how to create a better convention” is a conversation that’s long over-due and well worth having, so I’m starting it now.

I’m sharing with you some of my ideas about what makes a good show, in hopes that other small press events consider my arguments, re-think old standards, and usher in a more exciting age of print-loving festivals.

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Guest Strip: Brian Bastian and Danno Klonowski

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ralphtzBrian Basitan is the writer and creator of the comic series Tommy Chicago, which was drawn by Bob Lipski before the hat was recently passed to Danno Klonowski.  The Bastian/Klonowski team has collaborated on two issues so far.  Bastian expects to publish a 36-page Tommy Chicago collection later this year.  Previously, he made indie films with his brother Dan Voltz, wrote several issues of Lipski’s Uptown Girl, and created stories for Danno’s Manly Tales of Cowardice.

Danno Klonowski AKA Danno AKA Staple Genius AKA Dank! writes and draws the series Manly Tales of Cowardice, which is up of 5.2 regular issues and several specials to date. Danno is currently finishing up a comic series about Minnesota State Congressperson Michele Bachmann called False Witness which is a collaborative effort between Bill Prendergast (writing, pencils), Lupi Miguinti (inks) and Dan Olson (inks). The first issue of this series is expected to release early this summer, with a preview running in the City Pages next month.  Danno is also working with Steven Stwalley to finish up a Kirby-esque one-shot called Phenomenal Tangents for the semi-defunct Mini-Comics Dump Truck project.  You can also see his work in the Super Fantastica Comix and Good Minnesotan comic anthologies.  Danno is an International Cartoonist Conspiracy member in good standing, and although he became a vegetarian, his paternal grandfather was an actual butcher.

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