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For years, Portland has been a significant hub for American comics, cartoons, and animation. A new project aims to establish a permanent art museum in the city dedicated to celebrating the medium and its history.

The Northwest Museum of Cartoon Arts (NW MOCA) is a non-profit that plans to build a creative space to support the Pacific Northwest’s cartoon art scene, both through bringing up a new generation of artists and by displaying the illustrated history of comics in the region. The scope of art ranges from mainstream graphic novels, such as superhero comics, to political cartoons, zines, and animation.

NW MOCA’s mission statement is to “create a vibrant, living space that is accessible to all and celebrates the diversity, history, influence, and joy of all aspects of cartoon art.”

Board members include the University of Washington’s Dr. José Alaniz and Dr. Charles Johnson; Portland-based writer/cartoonist Mark Russell; travel writer Jen Anderson; and Dr. Rachel R. Miller, managing editor at The Comics Journal.

GeekWire caught up with Dr. Mike Rosen, the president of NW MOCA’s board, to discuss the project’s goals, ambitions, and timeline, as well as Portland’s extensive history as a big town for American comics.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

GeekWire: How long have you been working on this project?

Dr. Mike Rosen. (Photo courtesy of Mike Rosen / NW MOCA)
Mike Rosen: I started in October ’21. The origin of the project was that, about five years ago, the Oregon Historical Society had an exhibit on the Portland comics scene. Two of the people who had helped curate the exhibit were Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan. A lot of their work [Boilerplate, Heartbreakers] has appeared through Dark Horse.

[Bennett] had a reminiscence pop up on her Facebook page about the exhibit, and somebody said, “Hey, we really need a permanent museum for comics in the Pacific Northwest.”

I just jumped on it. Within two months, we were non-profit. We’ve built a really solid, diverse board, and we’re really chugging away.

On our board, we also have Charles Johnson, who’s the professor emeritus at the University of Washington. He’s a cartoonist, a National Book Award winner and the second black man in history to win a National Book Award. We have José Alaniz, a professor at UW who writes about comics a lot.

We’ve got four comic book store owners on the board, all in the Portland area. Katie Pryde of Books with Pictures just won the Eisner [Spirit of Comics Retailer Award].

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