Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC), a nonprofit arts organization in Columbus, Ohio, marked the conclusion of its third annual festival, held September 28 to October 1, with a brief report on attendance, awards and forthcoming show events.
"Attendance for CXC surged in most categories in 2017," said Executive Director Tom Spurgeon. "Our biggest gains were in programming, where we met attendance goals in 80 percent of our panels, up from just under half in 2016.
"Our Chris Ware keynote interview moderated by Caitlin McGurk in support of Ware's new book Monograph and the preview screening of My Friend Dahmer with artist Derf in attendance answering questions filled our venue — with tremendous demand for the screening leading to hundreds of people on the waitlist. We were also Standing Room Only for our Cartooning in the Time of Trump panel on Saturday with Ann Telnaes, Signe Wilkinson and Nate Beeler, and our new Kids programming bloc on Sunday exceeded expectations."
"Our Expo overall gained significantly attendance-wise on Saturday and held on Sunday last year to this one, and it was a buying crowd," continued Spurgeon. "Our tracked half-dozen model exhibitors marked out at about 20 percent gains over last year; some veterans of the convention scene had best-ever days."
The 2018 festival featured three awards.
CXC's Master Cartoonist Award was given out on Friday to Kyle Baker. Joining Baker onstage during a break in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum's 40th anniversary reception was Howard Cruse, awarded the CXC Transformative Work Award for his groundbreaking, autobiographically-informed 1995 graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby. On Saturday, on the Expo Floor, the CXC Emerging Talent Award was given to Kat Fajardo. The Emerging Talent winner receives a $7500 cash prize provided by Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer.
Kyle Baker is one of the most facile drawing and writing talents to every work in cartooning. his early work Why I Hate Saturn was named to The Comics Journal's Top 100 list of 20th Century Comics. Baker's graphic novels and serialized independent work such as Saturn, The Cowboy Wally Show, You Are Here, King David, and The Bakers have made him a leading light in art comics. He has also enjoyed a parallel career as a mainstream craftsman working at the highest level, creating memorable runs and contributing to the mythos of characters such as Captain America, The Shadow, Hawkman, Plastic Man and Deadpool.
"Baker's ability to effortlessly slip between serious and silly with equal facility makes him a unique talent in the history of comics, one who work deserves far greater scrutiny and study," says critic Robert Clough.
Howard Cruse is an underground comix legend known for his groundbreaking work on series such as Barefootz and Wendel. Stuck Rubber Baby is his first and only major graphic novel. Its sobering yet hopeful take on a gay man's struggle with personal identity against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement made it one of the most honored books of the 1990s. It further served as a clarion call that any artist at any stage in their career could complete a major work and that the underground generation in particular had many stories left to tell. Stuck Rubber Baby remains current with today's creators as a key autobiographically informed work and as a testament to Cruse's herculean efforts to see the book to completion.
Kat Fajardo is a Brooklyn-based cartoonist who received an education in comics and cartoon-making at SVA, where she worked with teachers and working cartoonists including most memorably for her Jessica Abel. Fajardo has split her recent professional time between expression and editorial advocacy related to lifting up her Latinx heritage while at the same time finding professional illustration and commercial kids comics work. Fajardo is a former CBLDF volunteer who has since worked with the Fund, and is described by her peers as both "giving" and "relentless." She received a rousing ovation from the comics-makers in attendance. Ms. Fajardo was a special guest at this year's show of CXC sister show SOL-CON, working with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
All three artists received an award crafted by Columbus artist Nichole Vitchner, with an assist by Tom Gaadt.
CXC has also announced firm dates for its 2018 show and a pair of tentative dates for intitial steps in the pre-show process.
CXC 2018 will be held September 27-30 of that year, with a launch program and affiliated events possible in the days leading up to show itself.
The 2018 festival is set to continue the basic format of the 2016 and 2017 CXCs. This means an array of events up on OSU campus Thursday the 27th and Friday the 28th, and then a curated comics Expo featuring 100 tables in the downtown branch of CML with satellite events on the weekend days, the 29th and 30th.
The announcement of the first six guests for CXC 2018 is currently planned for December 1 and exhibitor applications should open February 1st, 2018.