Sarah Oleksyk stood looking at her original art at the Ivy release party on February’s First Thursday. “I chose art mostly from the last chapter,” she explained. “I was just getting on my feet with the first few.” Despite her modesty, it was the art and story in the first part of her original graphic novel that got her noticed, and now she was at Floating World Comics to celebrate the hardcover release from Oni Press. The event was well attended, with visitors including Jamie S. Rich (Spell Checkers), Barry Deutsch (Hereville), and Zack Soto (Study Group 12).
“Sarah deserves every bit of praise she’s gotten,” said Paul Guinan (Boilerplate, Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention). “There are not too many artists who combine her subject matter, technical skill, and format. She’s as good as it gets in her genre.” Guinan, who with wife Anina Bennett has just turned in the manuscript for Reade, listed Oleksyk with Dylan Meconis, Colleen Coover, and Erika Moen as “top female indie cartoonists.”
Ivy‘s editor Charlie Chu was taking pictures of the event. When congratulated for the release, Chu demurred. “It’s the easiest book I ever edited,” he said. “By the time I saw it at Stumptown [last year’s Fest], it was fully formed.” He admitted to giving some feedback to Oleksyk, but “only little things,” and was excited to see how her new project Renaissance (with author Fred van Lente) would turn out.
The author’s studiomates from Tranquility Base were in attendance to support their colleague. “I’m stoked for Sarah,” Joe Keatinge responded. “She did the work!” Jon Siruno agreed: “I liked her mini[comic]s, but this is yeaahhh.” The surprise for the evening came from Tranquility Base’s Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, who baked a cake decorated with the comic’s protagonist. Oleksyk was speechless, but was able to pose with the cake for pictures.
Later, the guest of honor reflected on her journey to that moment. “My friends have been coming by and showing me how awesome they are,” she said. At art school, she had hoped to find kindred spirits, but was frustrated by the lack of support for comics. It wasn’t until she moved to Portland that she found what she was looking for. “I feel like I’ve made a place for myself here,” she mused.
Ivy is available at bookstores and comic shops, and Oleksyk is planning a reading tour for the book and will be appearing at conventions around the country.