Q&A: The Comics Reporter's Thomas Spurgeon
Much like reporting on music brought a certain level of fame for journalists like Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus and the late Lester Bangs, comics have a way of bringing prominence to its press people. Newly minted as a Columbusonian, Tom Spurgeon is one of the more renowned reporters in the field, with more than two decades of experience and accolades including three Eisner Awards for his independent news site, the Comics Reporter.
What brings you to Columbus?
I am in Columbus to serve as director for Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC), which is a comics festival that will start in two years, with a smaller sneak preview this year.
Can you tell me a little moreabout CXC?Will it be different in format from the comic conventions that readers may be more familiar with?
It’s a lot more like a literary festival. There’s very much a difference between a comics convention, which is about the characters, the pageantry and the movies that are working in the same genres, and a comics festival, which is a little more about the reading of the books and the authors.
Our hope is that CXC eventually becomes a city-wide festival. That institutions from the Thurber House to the library to the Columbus Museum of Art to galleries in the Short North, find a way to participate in the comics culture.
What does CXC have in store for local comic creators?
We have a development track, helping the next generation of cartoonists get to the point where they can be successful in doing the comics they want to do, and that does involve a lot of local people.
Also, we want to kind of show off Columbus as a potential comics-making jewel to the rest of the world. We’d love for people to come here and stay here and see this as their cartooning home. Here’s a way to look at it: Most comic conventions, like the one in San Diego, the day after the event everybody packs their bag and goes home. Most of what’s great about comics in Columbus stays here. The Billy Ireland is open the next day, the next week. Jeff Smith is always going to be here making “Bone” and “RASL” and “Tuki.” There’ll be another round of comics in the paper. It’s more of a comics town than anyone realizes and I think it could be the best place for comics ... maybe in the world.
In your capacity as a reporter you’ve seen many art scenes — comics and otherwise—come and go.Can you compare and contrast Columbus to some of those othercities?
It has a lot of talented people. A lot of people who are really genuine about wanting to make things, and that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you have a lot of people who just want to be around when something happens. People are creating stuff. There’s product.
I think what it just doesn’t have yet is enough comics-specific things to do yet. I hope that CXC can be one more focal point for that. I think when people have comics things to do, you get a comics community out of it, sooner or later.
To wrap up on a non-comics note, what have been some of the pleasant surprises about moving to town?
I kind of like that I get a sense of a public life here. My Midwestern experience is that a lot of people get atomized in their worlds. They want to stay at home. They work, eat and live kind of like a robot. But Columbus really has an appreciation for those other things that really make a community. There are things to do. There are things to support. Clubs to join. I get the sense that people have a lot of stuff going on and it’s not just that robotic existence.
Photo by Meghan Ralston
Hometown: Muncie, Indiana
Current neighborhood: North Linden
Day job: Festival director, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus
Currently listening to: Old Ted Hawkins albums
Favorite movie: "Local Hero"
Favorite TV show: "The Andy Griffith Show" (until Don Knotts left)
Favorite restaurant: Cafe Bohemia, 1970s Chicago
Favorite comic: "Love and Rockets"
Best way to spend $10: "Tip a favorite comics-maker online whose work you read for free! Everyone appreciates being reminded that the work they do is meaningful!"
What would a comic book based on your life be called: "'Spider-Man,' but don't tell anyone."