Get Damaged: A Report from Permanent Damage 5

Permanent Damage curators Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely ('as' show mascot Charlie Damage). Photo by Lesley Ishino.

Like a lot of things in L.A., the Permanent Damage Comix Show embodies the old improv mentality of ‘yes, and...’ Is the venue, Permanent Records Roadhouse, a record store? Yes, and it’s a kick-ass bar with a stage and patio. Is Permanent Damage an indie comics convention? Yes, and it’s a punk show. Will I be able to see a ton of cool comics I wouldn’t normally see at a shop? Yes, and the artists will be right there in front of you, happy to chat about their work or whatever else is on your mind. Just, you know, don’t say something that would force Permanent Damage to make a rule. They’re not big on those. They want the artists to have a good time. They want you to have a good time. That’s about it when it comes to structure. If the artists are happy, the fans are happy. That’s the guiding principle show founder Keenan Marshall Keller abides by. Permanent Damage is a free-for-all for comics weirdos to get their freak on.

Keller (The Humans, Scumbag For Hire), with support from Tom Neely (The Humans, Henry & Glenn Forever), has curated six Permanent Damage shows so far, five in L.A. and one at the Silver Sprocket retail store in San Francisco. Like it did with everything, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works after the first event in February 2020, but things are back on track now, allowing Keller’s vision of “a no-stress comics event filled with great artists” to flourish once more.

“It’s loose. It’s easy. Heavily curated and provided for cheap!” Keller says of Permanent Damage versus other comics shows. “[It’s] always filled with great cartoonists from around the world. Always with new and inventive live comic readings. Always with a diverse group of eclectic bands killing it. You kinda gotta be a prick not to enjoy it.”

TOP: Permanent Damage 5 show poster by Miles MacDiarmid. BOTTOM: MacDiarmid (left) with fellow Freak Comics collective member Cristian Castelo (right).

“The show is about artists who don’t play it safe, using their voices the way they want to,” says Keller. “As an extension of the artists involved, Permanent Damage is transgressive, subversive and raw!”

The show features top tier cartoonists and comic auteurs alongside standout newcomers, with no table fees charged.

At the most recent event, the lineup of artists included big indie creators like Steve Lafler, Katie Skelly, Simon Hanselmann and Johnny Ryan. Andrew MacLean, Seo Kim, Matt Crabe, Killer Acid, Clusterfux Comix, Freak Comics and Jim E. Brown (all the way from the UK) made up a portion of other notable talents in attendance. And, headlining the musical lineup, L.A. favorites 100 Flowers (formerly The Urinals).

Tables are set up inside the bar and spill out onto the back patio where they line the side of the building and lead down a gentle slope with even more comics for sale. The space is on the smaller side, which acts as a natural regulator of how many artists can be featured. Things sometimes get crowded and you may have to wait your turn to talk to a creator or buy some merch, but not for long. If you want to engage an artist for more than the time it takes to buy a book, Permanent Damage definitely provides the opportunity to do so.

TOP: A view from inside the bar, at artist Chris Anderson's table. BOTTOM: A view from the outside. On the left, Steve Lafler checks out Shaheen Beardsley's Oboy Comics, while on the right (from foreground to background), Harry Nordlinger, Jaime Hernandez and Katie Skelly mind their tables. Photo by Ben Austin-Docampo.

The show is designed with the artists in mind. An environment where creators feel at ease. It goes back to the guiding principle: if the artists are happy, the fans are happy. Fans thrive off of the energy radiating from the artists. “We’re seeing lots of return faces,” says Keller. “It’s great.”

This wellspring of comics culture is unusual for L.A. While many working cartoonists make their home in the region—boasting a well-known, nigh on mythological history with Los Bros Hernandez at the center—comics in today’s L.A. aren’t immune to the difficulties that plague other art and cultural communities. It’s a big damn place, and the vastness of it means cartoonists are spread out, creating a formidable barrier to community building. It was this challenge that inspired Keller to create Permanent Damage in the first place, and has him thinking about other events he can foment to “bring local weirdo artists together for hangs. Lower key things not open to the general public but to strengthen ties between some artists in town who are like-minded or share the same goals with their art.”

Attendees pursuing comics. Photo by Ben Austin-Docampo.

This August, Permanent Damage is taking the show on the road once more, with its most ambitious iteration to date over a two-day stretch in Portland, Oregon.

First, get ready for Cartoon Damage at the Clinton Street Theater (August 25) featuring a wide range of animated shorts by Amy Lockhart & Devin Flynn, Adrian Dexter & Pernille Kjaer, Skinner & Trevor Borrens, Lale Westvind, Nicole Stafford, Molly Wright, Matthew Thurber, Lord Spew, Christina Fidler, Mara Ramirez and Pat Kain. The show will also feature a second program of classic weirdo and rarely-seen animated classics, curated by Harry Nordlinger, Tom Neely and Keller.

The following day is the show proper, hosted by Floating World Comics at the Lloyd Center Mall, featuring over 50 creators, and a live comics reading.

Flyer for the upcoming Permanent Damage Portland, to be held at the Lloyd Center Mall on August 26.

Don’t miss your chance to support this unique array of talent and artistry, ever-fleeting in all its phantasmagoric glory. In other words, get it while it’s hot.