Thursday morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of the unexpected passing of Tom Spurgeon, the longtime comics journalist, dedicated mind behind the Comics Reporter news site, and co-founder and executive director of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an uniquely high-caliber arts festival that Anne and I attended both in 2015 and in 2017. I never had the pleasure of chatting with him in person and kick myself now for being too sheepish to try. Spurgeon was only 50, a year older than Anne and far, far, far too young.
Last Saturday my wife Anne and I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an enlightening expo in the heart of Ohio for hardcore fans of comic books, graphic novels, the Graphic Storytelling Medium, and whatever other labels my fellow fans slap on their favorite hobby. You’d think Anne and I had our fill of cons after all the shows we’ve been doing this year. We can honestly say we’ve officially reached burnout, but CXC isn’t your ordinary average “comic con”. CXC has no Hollywood actors. No celebrities. No cosplay. No photo-op booths. No gaming. No eBay toy dealers. No Funco Pops. No comic shops selling Marvel Ultimate trades by the pound as horse feed. No lengthy list of famous guest cancellations due to filming or showrunner malfeasance. And no sugar gliders.
What does that leave, you may ask before you close your browser tab in disappointment? Comics. CXC puts the “comic” back in “comic con” and then runs the “con” part through an intense filtration process to produce the purest possible form of the original sense of the phrase. CXC is the perfect show for the comics fan who’s disappointed by the increasingly mixed bag that the average Artists Alley has become at many large-scale shows. CXC is a bountiful bazaar for the collector who wants to buy something besides prints or self-published novels. CXC is a happy haven for readers who know there’s more to comics than Marvel and DC. CXC is a knowledgeable nexus for the artistic literati above my station, sneering at any comics retailer who thinks stocking some Image Comics by former Marvel writers is all the “diversity” they can handle.
This weekend ushered in the inaugural Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an intentionally different comics show from what we’re used to seeing here in Indianapolis. As conceived and executed by Bone creator Jeff Smith, Comics Reporter journalist Tom Spurgeon, and no doubt a sturdy support network of other talents, CXC promised no actors or celebrities, no mainstream publishers, no costume contest, no cosplay, no gaming, no super-sized convention center, no inedible convention center food, no back-issue longboxes, no action figures, and no bobbleheads. CXC was an aesthetically purified form of literary/art show about comics, featuring a lot of people who make comics better, from within the local community as well as from distant parts.
As a longtime comics fan who needs more than super-heroes in his reading list, I found their guest list intriguing and populated with the kind of principled names we’re likely never to see at a Wizard World show. I deeply regret we had a limited time frame to spend there, but my wife, who only recognized one name on the entire guest list, was happy to tag along and let me immerse myself for a few hours, even though it meant a three-hour drive each way through an unsightly rainy day. We met several creators, we attended one Q&A, I came away with a potentially fascinating reading pile, and we had just enough time left over for some bonus comics sightseeing a few miles up the road.