Once again I made the long trek (OK, less than 2 hours really) to Bethesda to check out this year’s Small Press Expo convention in Bethesda, Maryland. With Jog keeping me company (and chipping in for gas money), we perused the aisles, attended panels, spent gobs of money and generally had a really pleasant time.
This year’s SPX seemed to have a more relaxed, laid-back vibe than previously, though that may have just been my own general sense of well-being. The con seemed more comfortable in it’s new location, the sprawling, fancy-shmancy Marriott Bethesda North Hotel, than it did last year. More than ever, I enjoyed having all the exhibitor crammed in one room, and though the place was packed, especially in the late afternoon, I never felt like I was constantly bumping into people or smacking them with my book bag, as I often do at MoCCA and NYCC.
There was no “book of the show” this year, which is a bit surprising, considering SPX is known for having that “one big book that everyone’s talking about.” (You might remember last year’s being Brian Chippendale’s Ninja.) There were a lot of interesting books out that craved attention nevertheless, like D&Q’s second Moomin volume.
This year also seemed to be a high watermark for their programming schedule. Kim Deitch, for example, gave a very entertaining talk about his recent work, including Alias the Cat, that included a slide show and singing. Singing! (He also expressed his love for Studio Ghibli films apparently, though I missed that part)
The best thing about this auditorium where half the panels were held were the little bottles of water and hard candies that were spread out in between the seats. I m now going to request that at every convention panel I attend.
Powr Masters author C.F. (aka Christopher Forgues) was also in attendance at the show and gave a funny, rambling talk about his work, goaded by publisher and bon vivant Dan Nadel. That’s Forgues on the left, Nadel on the right.
The auditorium that these talks were taking place in was really, really dark, especially up front, so I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures. It won’t be the last time I do so, I’m sure.
AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer says hi.
I ducked out of the Deitch panel halfway through to catch a little bit of the panel on “Comic Stripping Today.” From the left that’s Ted Rall, Keith Knight, Nicholas Gurewitch, Bill Griffith and moderator Josh Fruhlinger. A lot of interesting thing were said about the current state of comic strips and how the Internet will affect the art form, but I can’t remember most of it anymore.
The Partyka table had a lot of very nice minis for sale.
The PictureBox table also had some awesome books available, including New Engineering by Yuichi Yokoyama, a book I’ve been longing to purchase ever since its release was hinted at. That blue square thing is a King Terry book by the way.
PictureBox co-publisher and Comics Comics critic supurb Tim Hodler.
As I mentioned, the show was well-attended, and most tables seemed to be busy. I managed to meet/say hi to a number of industry folks/bloggers, including Douglas Wolk, Sean Collins, Calvin Reid, Gina Gagliano (who seems to know every single person involved in comics) and more.
One of the highlights for me was the “State of Comics Criticism” panel, attended by, from left, Douglas Wolk, Dan Nadel, Gary Groth, Tim Hodler and moderator Bill Kartalopoulos. It was an enlighting, yet surprisingly civil affair. Not that I expected fisticuffs to fly — I mean I had hoped, but nevertheless kept my expectations low — but everyone remained polite and mre or less in concensus about the probllems facing an engaged, intelligent discussion of comics today. I attempted to tape the coversation to use for next week’s Everyone’s a Critic column, but, owing to my apparant ineptness with modern technolog (as these pictures readily show) the blasted thing never got recorded. Oh well, I’ll try to sum it up anyway.
So, yeah, really good show. Lots of great comics to pick through and I’ll share with you the highlights of my stash tomorrow. Until then dear friends.