Seattle’s Underground Comics Scene Thrives Despite Changes: A Panel Discussion


Key Takeaways:

– Seattle is renowned for its flourishing underground comic scene, with roots dating back to the late 1980s.
– This year’s panel at the Emerald City Comic Con delved into the history of Seattle’s comics scene.
– Moving Fantagraphics’ headquarters from Los Angeles to Seattle turned a new page in the city’s comics history.
– The Seattle comics scene enjoys strong community support and hosts regular events.
– The Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery and Short Run Comix & Arts Festival continue to be key in nurturing Seattle’s comic community.


A lively discussion unfolded at the Emerald City Comic Con this year, shedding light on the intriguing history of Seattle’s underground comics scene. The panel comprised prominent local artists, cartoonists, and members of the comics community.

Panelists and Curveballs

Moderated by author, journalist, and University of Washington professor Rob Salkowitz, the panel included Megan Kelso, a Seattle-based artist, Kelly Froh, co-creator of the Short Run Comix Festival, and Eric Reynolds, co-publisher at Fantagraphics in Georgetown. Sadly, Roberta Gregory and Marc Palm had to cancel their appearances due to COVID. However, a unique touch was Gregory’s recorded video message where she shared her comic journey in Seattle.

Seattle: A Comic Hub

Professor Salkowitz led the discussion back to the 70s and 80s when Seattle was already a hub for American comics. The arrival of Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, who chose to move Fantagraphics’ headquarters from Los Angeles to Seattle, sparked a boom in the Seattle comics scene. As Gregory pointed out, a lot of this growth is attributed to the influential Fantagraphics.

The Role of Fantagraphics

Having published cult titles like Acme Novelty Library, Hip Hop Family Tree, and Love and Rockets, Fantagraphics has undoubtedly been a cornerstone for independent American comics since 1976. The publishing company also takes pride in localizing European comics for the American audience and their eclectic collections of classic newspaper strips.

Fostering Community through Comics

The comics scene in Seattle was further upholstered with the advent of community events such as Woodring and Bob Rini’s “Friends of the Nib” and the monthly Dune comics jam. Despite facing challenges including the COVID lockdowns, the Dune comics jam still maintains an online presence with hopes of rekindling their physical location.

Seattle’s Zine Scene

The panelists also touched upon the impact of self-published zines in Seattle. In the black-and-white landscape of the early ‘90s zines, examples like Dawn Anderson’s Seattle music fanzine Backlash stand out. Megan Kelso recalls how her first comic was self-published and the role of the Xeric Foundation in supporting her work.

Evolution and Adoption

Over the years, technology and socio-economic changes led to shifts within the community. However, despite these changes, Seattle’s underground comics niche embodied resilience and adaptation. Eric Reynolds shared how the increased stakes in Seattle’s culture didn’t notably change the comics scene, but the city’s evolving landscape impacted them all.

Present Day Comics Scene in Seattle

Currently, the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery remains a vital hub for the comic community, along with new and upcoming artists having access to resources like ‘zine exchanges and free printing at Paper Press Punch. These, coupled with annual events like The Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, ensure that support systems are in place for the community’s growth and evolution.

As Kelso sums it up, while Seattle’s comics community doesn’t look the same today, it remains a fiercely dedicated community. To stay relevant and thrive, the community needs to continue engaging and creating more fans. The panel ended with a shared sense of hope and determination, signaling that despite the challenges, Seattle’s underground comics scene is here to stay.

Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Browne is the CEO and Founder of Livy.AI

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