Founded in 2013, Autoptic is a comics and independent print festival held August 18–19 at the Aria Event Center in downtown Minneapolis and at Moon Palace Books, an independent bookseller in the city.
Organized by the Autoptic Foundation—a volunteer organization focused on promoting independent creator owned artwork—Autoptic 2018 attracted about 1,300 fans according to Autoptic board member Robert James Algeo, who also runs the indie comic house In Absentia Press. Autoptic featured about 125 exhibitors who were chosen this year by an outside panel of jurors. The show emphasizes comics but also features a wide variety of zines and small press print materials.
Programming included a public conversation between special guest artist cartoonist Craig Thompson (Blankets, and Habibi) with RainTaxi Review of Books editor Eric Lorberer. Thompson spoke mostly about Carnet de Voyage, his beloved 2004 travel diary (recently reissued by Drawn Quarterly) and about his experiences on the original book tour for his pioneering 2003 graphic novel Blankets. Other special guests included cartoonist Gabrielle Bell (Everything is Flammable, and Cecil and Jordan in New York), John Porcellino (From Lone Mountain), and E. Eero Johnson (Esu and the Outliers). Later programming events included the Supernatural Comics Hour, a panel discussion on fantasy comics moderated by Tim Sievert (The Clandestinauts) that included creators Zander Cannon, Madeline McGrane, and Leda Zawacki.
Autoptic was held at the Aria Center, a dramatic gothic architectural space with exposed walls and soaring ceilings. Although numerous exhibitors came from out of town, the show’s nucleus is a focus on local artists and boutique publishers, among them Eisner-nominated Minnesota artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (What is Left), who designed the ghostly logo and fanciful poster. Exhibitors also included Consortium Distribution, which showcased their comics distribution clients, among them Koyama Press and Toon Books.
Near the entrance to the show, Nick Drnaso, another special guest artist, signed copies of Beverly and his recent Man Booker-nominated graphic novel Sabrina (the first graphic novel to be nominated for a Man Book prize) both published by Drawn Quarterly. His neighbor at the Fantagraphics table was Chuck Forsman, author of The End of the Fucking World, an acclaimed and disturbing graphic novel about disaffected teenagers that was adapted into a recent Netflix TV series. A first-time visitor to Autoptic, Forsman called it a “nice, low-key” show. He noted that Autoptic’s free admission helped draw a crowd interested in indie comics and small presses.
Autoptic describes itself as an “arts festival that celebrates independent print culture,” and the show not only features graphic authors and their publishers but ancillary businesses such as hand-crafted printing. Table after table was filled with lushly produced letterpress chapbooks and posters heavily influenced by fantasy psychedelia.