This year’s Everybody Reads selection, Mira Jacob’s Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations, is Multnomah County Library’s first graphic literature pick in its 20 year history. If you have not already, you can pick up a free copy from any Multnomah County Library branch.
If you are new to the graphic literature genre, you may not know that Portland is somewhat of a hub for comic and graphic literature creation and community. We have numerous comic and graphic lit book stores as well as comics publishers, writers, artists, and even university classes.
To celebrate this incredible community ahead of Mira Jacob’s Everybody Reads author lecture on March 10, we’ve rounded up a just a small selection of local comic book stores (many with a large graphic literature selection), creators, publishers, and spaces in Oregon. If Good Talk is your first foray in to this genre, here are ways to learn more!
Comic & Graphic Literature Book Stores:
Founded in 2016, owner Katie Proctor designed this SE Portland space to be explicitly inclusive for queer folk, families, and women: “We really want to be a space that feels welcoming to new readers.” Check out their Book Fair for Grownups on February 12!
Located in North Portland and founded by Michael Ring, a former Dark Horse Comics employee, in 2005, Bridge City Comics offers a wide selection of comics from both large and small publishers. They even have a Portland-based creators section by the front door! In 2008, Ring told The Oregonian a focus of the store is graphic literature, which generates 40–50% of monthly sales.
Lauded by Portland Monthly as “one of Portland’s best curated selections of graphic novels,” NE Portland-based Cosmic Monkey Comics began offering online orders, curbside pickup, and delivery to protect the safety of customers. You can also shop in person with a face mask to peruse their large selection (over 50,000 comics!), including a kids section marked by a Sesame Street lamppost!
A NW Portland favorite since 2006, Floating World Comics is both a bookstore and indie publisher. They’re also home to Gravy Toys, featuring toys and art by local designer Bwana Spoons, and participate in Downtown First Thursday each month. Travel Portland celebrates how they provide “a home for underdog authors and little-known artists, as well as big-name titles from local publishers.”
Self-described as the oldest comic book store in Portland, Excalibur Comics on SE Hawthorne has been family-owned for over 40 years. It’s been recommended as a must-visit store for comic book nerds by The Oregonian.
Comic & Graphic Literature Creators:
Brian Michael Bendis is an award-winning comics creator, New York Times best-seller, PSU comics professor, and incredibly successful comics writer for the last twenty years. Bendis created the Spider-Man character Miles Morales and won a Peabody Award for his work on Netflix’s Jessica Jones, among many other notable and award-winning creations. Bendis collaborated with another Portland-based writer on our list, David F. Walker, to create DC Comics’ Naomi. The Oregonian interviewed them both on their comic being adapted for TV.
Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke
This married couple were the winners of the 2016 Oregon Book Award for The Zoo Box, which they co-wrote. Cohn is a Montessori preschool teacher and metalsmith, and Steinke is a teacher and cartoonist.
Well-known as the force behind Carol Danvers’ reinvention as Captain Marvel, Portland-based Kelly Sue Deconnick also wrote Bitch Planet (Volume 2 was an Oregon Book Award finalist in 2018) and many other brilliant comics. She’s also the co-founder of production company Milkfed, which she created with Hawkeye writer (and husband!) Matt Fraction.
This writer, illustrator, podcaster & professor wrote Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, which won both the 2018 Oregon Book Award Winner for Graphic Literature and the 2018 Readers Choice Award. When speaking to Literary Arts this August on the impact of winning the award, Georges said “Winning the Oregon Book Award was such a huge honor and achievement for me as an Oregonian and as a graphic novelist. That night was one of the best of my life thus far!”
An award-winning cartoonist, illustrator, and educator in Portland, we are extremely fortunate to count Jonathan Hill as a member of our Board of Directors and the Chair of our Youth Advisory Council. Check out his interview this fall on his work with the council! His most recent book, Odessa, was published in 2020 by Oni Press. It’s worth a read!
This cartoonist and journalist won the first Oregon Book Award in Graphic Literature given out in 2012 for his book Footnotes in Gaza, which also received an Eisner Award and the Ridenhour Book Prize. He also wrote Palestine, Journalism, Safe Area Goražde (also an Eisner winner), and other books including, most recently, Paying the Land. His works have been translated into fourteen languages and his comics reporting has appeared in Details, The New York Times Magazine, Time, and Harpers. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Paul Tobin is a New York Times best-selling author. His writing includes Bandette, drawn by Colleen Coover (Portland illustrator and his wife!), which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award for Graphic Literature in 2016, and awarded an Eisner Award in 2013 and 2016.
David F. Walker is an award-winning comic book writer, author, filmmaker, journalist, and professor at PSU. While he’s written many award-winning comics, it’s worth learning more in particular about DC Comics’ Naomi, co-written with another on this list, Brian Michael Bendis. Read their interview about the comic series being translated to TV in The Oregonian.
Comic & Graphic Literature Publishers:
Founded in 1986, Dark Horse Comics has become the third-largest comics publisher in the United States. They gained notoriety with movie-based comics series such as Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, and The Umbrella Academy (created by Gerard Way), among others. In late 2021, after their 35-year anniversary, the company was sold to Swedish video game conglomerate the Embracer Group.
One of the world’s largest comic book publishers known for Saga and The Walking Dead, Image Comics moved to Portland in 2016, further solidifying Portland as one of three major hubs for comics in the US, according to Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Earlier in January 2022, employees at Image Comics voted to certify their union, a first for a comic book publisher in the United States.
Oni Press is known for titles like Scott Pilgrim and Rick and Morty. After Oni merged with Lion Forge Comics in 2019, Publishers Weekly wrote “both Lion Forge, whose corporate mission is focused on ‘Comics for Everyone,’ and Oni Press are noted for publishing comics and graphic novels aimed at women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, in an effort to appeal to a new generation of fans.” In 2020, they worked with DC Comics to form the Comic Book United Fund to support comic book stores affected by the pandemic.
Other Notable Comic & Graphic Literature Events, Opportunities, and Spaces:
The IPRC is a Portland nonprofit dedicated to providing people access to tools and resources for creating independently published media and artwork. They maintain a library of over 9,000 comics, chapbooks, novels, catalogs, zines, artists’ books, and more self-published and independently produced materials. These items are available to the public for circulation and for reference use!
Portland State University Comics Studies Certificate
Taught by professionals in the industry, PSU’s Comics Studies Certificate prepares participants to work in the field of comics and cartoon art as writers, artists, and scholars by teaching both theory and hands-on practice. From Tuesday, February 15–Monday, February 28, check out their exhibit, Changing the Narrative of Student Homelessness through Comics.
PSU’s Millar Library Dark Horse Comics Collection
Also at PSU is the Dark Horse collection, made possible by alumni Neil Hankerson (Executive Dark Horse VP). The collection has copies of all materials produced by Dark Horse, resulting in “a unique research and browsing collection of comic books, graphic novels, collected editions, related books, statues, figures, and other materials.” There’s both a research collection and a browsing collection available for reading or checkout.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this incredible comics and graphic literature community we have in the PNW—and that you’ll join us for An Evening with Mira Jacob on March 10 at 7:30 p.m.! Tickets start at $18, and college students and educators can use promo code COLLEGE for a $10 ticket. Don’t forget to grab a free copy of the book at any Multnomah County Library branch while supplies last!
Everybody Reads is presented in partnership with the Multnomah County Library and the Library Foundation.