Stumptown & Seattle SUPER Summary

Sun 5/2/2010

As I sit down to write this blog entry I am sick (sore throat, runny nose, headache), still a bit jet-lagged, and kind of stressed out from all the catch-up I've been trying to do since I got back to Vermont. So I apologize in advance if this account seems at all grumpy. I had an amazing time in the Pacific Northwest, so don't believe me if I tell you otherwise!

At the very start of the trip, Max and I traveled together from White River Junction down to Boston, where we stayed at Maris and Joe's place (they had already left for Portland that morning with Liz). We ate dinner with Liz's boyfriend Justin and then we all watched Jurassic Park, which I don't think I had seen since it came out in theaters. Dino DNA!

Maris and Joe have a pretty awesome movie collection, so after Justin went home, Max and I stayed up until 3am watching Back to the Future parts 1 and 2. Maris and Joe also have the world's second fattest cat, which they named Biggs Darklighter. Max and I had a lot of fun playing with Biggs the next morning, before we left to catch our flight to Portland.

We arrived at about 8:30pm on Friday night, just a few minutes before Claire's flight up from Oakland. We all jumped in a cab and headed straight over to a pre-show party at Guapo Comics which was already underway. We missed the slideshow presentation and Maisie Kukoc Awards but I still got to see a ton of west coast comics friends, including Craig Thompson!

The Stumptown Comics Fest was, as usual, an awesome show. There were SO MANY amazing, talented people there, it was mind-boggling. This photographer, Joshin Yamada, took a photo of EVERYONE who was tabling at the show, which you can see in this Flickr set. (That's where I got that great photo above, of Max, me and Greg).

I did a TON of trading and got so many great comics, it was nuts. The ones I was MOST excited about, were:

It was especially great reading Greg's book, which is over 300 pages! It was the hit of the show, if you ask me. Other moments that made the show totally worth it for me, were: 1) Some very encouraging comments about my work from Diana Schutz and 2) getting to RE-meet my old Weezer friend Alison Riebel, who I hadn't seen since the night in 1996, when she took this photo of me. (Her boyfriend Tim Miller draws the comic Jelly and Toast!)

Now, it goes without saying that Portland is a great town for comics... but believe me when I say, it might even be a BETTER town for PINBALL.

After the show on Saturday, a bunch of us went and got dinner and then met up with even more friends at Ground Kontrol for some serious pinball action. Then on Sunday night, we had Grizzo with us, so we went to Slabtown, which is in his neighborhood. There were some loud bands playing in the front room, so we all hung out in the back, playing pinball and air hockey. After a few games of pinball, this guy with a pretty gigantic beard walked up to me and asked "Hey man, are you going to be around next week?" I told him that I would actually be back in Vermont next week, and he said that was too bad, because he is on Beard Team USA and I could have helped them compete at NATIONALS (!!?!)

We talked for a bit, and it turned out that this guy was actually Slam Tilt from the infamous Crazy Flipper Fingers Pinball Gang (!!!!?!?!??!?!) I told him that I had been hanging out and playing pinball with Drew (AKA Multiball) a few weeks prior, and suddenly it was like we were old friends. Man... if I lived in Portland, I would HAVE to join that gang.

Anyway, it was Max's first trip to the west coast, so we hung out in Portland for one more day so that Max could see some more of the city. While he walked around downtown, I spent a few hours in the IPRC, photocopying the rest of the issues of Multiball Magazine that Jon and I didn't have. We now have a complete run, except for issues #10 and #21. Please let us know if you have either of those issues!

On my last night in Portland, I dragged everyone to this bar I had found, where there was an Episode I Pinball machine. This was it. Finally, my chance to live the dream. I was going to walk into this bar and shatter whatever high score was on the machine. All my training had lead up to this moment. Who knows? Maybe I would even get a perfect "JEDI SPIRIT" game...

But NO. Not even close. This machine seemed to have been set up by the devil himself. Skill shot? Disabled. Extra ball at 20 milion points? Disabled. Replay? Disabled. Extra ball after building up C3PO? Disabled. End of game match? Disabled. Tilt? EXTRA SENSITIVE. That, coupled with broken jet bumpers, made it almost impossible to get anything done on the machine. And to make matters worse, the center gate had an added piece of rubber, which effectively hammered the ball straight down the middle after every center shot (which 75% of the required shots in the game ARE). I'm not sure if I had been training on a "soft" machine, or if this one was extra hard, but either way I was devastated. I'm sure my friends were also totally sick of hanging out in pinball bars at this point too...

On Tuesday, I went up to Seattle. Claire and I hung out with Liz and their high school friend Dana (all three are from Santa Fe!) I took Liz and Claire to Archie McPhee's where they bought a mystery bag full of the craziest novelty items EVER, and later we were joined by Kaz, his girlfriend Jessica, and Dana's boyfriend Jon.

Um... the next night we all went and played pinball at Shorty's.

ANYWAY, a big part of this trip too was Claire getting to meet my parents, and my sister Courtney, so we also spent a few days out in the suburbs hanging with them. Everyone got along quite well, if you ask me. Claire took some photos so you can check those out if you want to see some of the stuff we did together. It was really great getting to see her after such a long stretch. Luckily our next wait won't be as long!

I stayed one more night with Liz and Justin in Boston on my way back to the east coast, and then I finally made it back to White River Junction last night. Phew! I've got tons more to blog about, but it'll have to wait for another post - this one's long enough!

Thanks to everyone who swung by my table at Stumptown, and thanks too to Maris & Joe, Greg, my parents and Liz & Justin, for giving me places to crash on this trip. I am so lucky to have such great friends!

9 comments on this entry

i'll bet the game was built to be that way, since its in a bar. they know that 99 percent of the people who play it will be drunk so they won't care if the game seems rigged.

Hey, Dan writing to say hello again. Transitions is a great book. Loved it. So much in fact we voted you the 2010 Betty Award winner. It's an award we give to a small press publisher that is an example to others. We are mailing it to your Vermont address. The announcement can be found in our weekly podcast. Look for the show link called "Betty Winner". You can get it at
You are an inspiration to artists like me. Keep going!

Dan Burke May06

More likely that Ep. 1 machine was just lousily maintained, and the operator doesn't care or know about the settings and malfunctions. Alec, leave a comment on that machine on the ppm site, and maybe the operator/owner of the bar will see it and do something! Maybe?!

Anyway, nice comics.

Ryan May06

Zack - Jon and I actually downloaded the operators manual for the Episode I machine, so I know that our machine (in VT) has the factory settings. So the one in PDX was set up to give out as little free stuff as possible.

Ryan - I did enter the information into the Portland Pinball Map. It's such a great site, it would be amazing if you guys made a nation wide version! Thanks for all your hard work on it so far!

Dan - Thanks for the mention on your blog and the Betty Award! I'm so glad you enjoyed Transition

Alec May06

Did I miss something? Did you trim the beard?

Stefan May08

Naw, Claire showed me how to French braid it, which pulls the bulk of the beard into my face, and then it ends in two long braids which I can pin under my chin, so it almost looks like a normal beard. Pretty cool, huh?

Alec May08

Alec, It'll be expanding pretty soon to beyond Portland.

Hey, check out this Portland-themed pinball machine I drew for the Portland Funbook a couple years ago:

Ryan May08

Ryan - NICE! I can't wait to see how you guys expand the map.

Your PDX playfield is pretty awesome. It reminds me of the one my friend Nate Beaty (who also used to live in PDX) drew of White River Junction, VT:

Alec May08

Just wanted to say nice work & congrats on the "Betty" award from Dan & George. I myself am a past Betty winner, & it's great to finally have company. Keep up the great work

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