I was a little surprised when I first heard that Portland, OR had become a sort of west coast haven for comics folks. It makes sense in retrospect, but -- and I mean no disrespect here -- it's not the type of city you'd rattle off along with New York and Chicago. Over the past couple of years, I've been seeing Ithaca, NY as another somewhat surprising hub of comicdom.
I first visited Ithaca in 2009. The Comic Book Club of Ithaca was a welcome surprise and helped kick off a fantastic vacation there. Add in a great local comic shop and you've got plenty to keep a comics fan busy and happy. (Thanks again, Alec! I'm still looking forward to getting back up there sometime!) It was something of a side note for me at the time, but I found out Roger Stern has lived there for years. (Do you really need me to list Stern's credits?)
Towards the tail end of last year, I learned that Steve Ellis was moving to Ithaca. He's been there for a little while now and, at least when I talked with him a month or so back, he and his wife were still quite happy about it. (Steve has a cool book coming out tomorrow, by the way.)
Earlier today, I found out that Ethan Young (who does the Tails webcomic) moved out to Ithaca about a month ago.
Now, Young moved there for his wife's job. Ellis moved there largely for the overall lifestyle which would be a good place to raise his child. I've come to understand there's a few other comic creators that live out there as well.
It's a decidedly liberal town. Young has already noted that his "Spot the Prius" game is no fun any more because they're so prevalent. There's a thriving GLBT community, with an ePodunk Gay Index score of 231. (Trust me when I say that number means something.) In addition to Ithacon (hosted by the CBCI), there's also the Ithaca Festival, the Circus Eccentrithaca and one of the largest annual used book sales in the country. With both Ithaca College and Cornell University in town, there's no shortage of an educated work-force both needed and generated.
In short, Ithaca seems like a small-scale Portland in a lot of ways. Not identical, of course, but I seem a lot of cultural similarities. And it makes me wonder if A) there's something about that that progressive culture -- being a little more green, a little more accepting of others, a little more focused on the arts, etc. -- that attracts creative folks like those who work on comics, and B) Ithaca is getting large enough now to start attracting significant enough numbers of those people to develop a note-worthy comics sub-community.
Keep your eye on this city. I think you'll be hearing more about it in the coming years.
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