Even though I usually only attend the show for one day, I can generally get a good feel for the vibe at the annual Small Press Expo — what the big books are, what everyone’s talking about, etc.
Not so this year. For whatever reason, the day moved forward like a blur. I got to the show, bought some books, attended some panels and suddenly it was time to go home. Wot happen?
Oh well, at least I managed to take a few pictures.
There was a decent-sized crowd by the time we (Joe “Jog” McCulloch once again accompanying me on the journey from Central Pa to bucolic Maryland) arrived, and we got there more or less when the doors opened. There was also free coffee by the entrance, which was a nice gesture on (I assume) the Marriott’s part. Unfortunately, that disappeared within the hour. Shame.
Inside the main room everyone seemed to be doing a brisk business, and that impression continued throughout the day. Oh sure, there were the occasional forelorn tables where cartoonists or friends of cartoonists gazed at you with puppy-dog eyes and silently pleaded with you to plunk down a few dollars and purchase their clever Peanuts satire (Jay Hosler told me his young son was literally pulling people to come over to his booth). But overall, exchanges of cash for comics seemed to be the norm. Certainly the hall was crowded at any rate.
Manga had a bit more presence at this year’s show, mainly due to the delightful appearance of Deb Aoki, who manned the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth.
It was great to see Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds at the show once more and meet his lovely wife, Rhea Patton, and his adorable daughter, Clementine. Eric’s a great guy to talk to, full of interesting thoughts about the comic industry and such, and it was nice to see him just enjoying the show with his family.
There were actually a lot of babies and kids at this year’s SPX. I mean a lot. And I don’t mean the kids of the various exhibitors and guest artists, hanging behind the tables sullenly. No, I mean wandering the aisles and being dragged or carried by their parents. I’m not making a judgement call on it, it’s actually nice to see families attending comic events like this, even if there aren’t exactly a lot of family friendly comics at the show for kids to peruse (Monster Men Bureiko Lulluby anyone?). Honestly, all I could think of was how after 10 minutes my kids would be whining to go back home.
Whenever I bump into friends at SPX, people invariably ask if I found anything cool or what I thought the “book of the show” was. This year I was kind of flummoxed for an answer. If there was a book of the show, it may have been Kramer’s Ergot 7, which is funny, considering it wasn’t even available for sale. But people seemed really curious about the book and kept stopping by Alvin Buenaventura, where he had a unbound copy behind his table (seen below. That’s Sean Collins and Jog gandering at the book), which he would pull out and let you gaze at, but only if you asked nicely.
The book looks absolutely beautiful, by the way. I’ve never felt better about pre-ordering a book before than I have with this one.
There was even a panel devoted to the upcoming, $125 anthology. From left to right that’s Kevin Huizenga, Alvin Buenaventura, Jesse McManus James McShane and moderator Bill Kartalopoulos. Not pictured: Matthew Thurber, CF, Frank Santoro and Ben Katchor.
It was definitely a fascinating discussion, especially if you’re a guy who’s interested in process, like I am. CF talked about creating a collage-type work for the book. Huizenga said he had a whopping 18 Photoshop layers on his page to achieve the right color balance. McManus talked about the anxiety he faced down in attempting to create a strip for the anthology, and Thurber related — in a hilarious deadpan — the plot of his story, which involved a a reunited INXS, Brian Eno, undead parrots and 3-D screensavers. Seriously, how is a story like that not worth $125?
Does anyone know who won the Owly guitar? Just curious.
Jay Hosler and John Kerschbaum. Jay designed this year’s swellacious SPX badges, while Kerschbaum was on hand to promote his new book, Petey and Pussy.
Another panel I attended was the Bryan lee O’Malley Q&A, moderated by Jog (that’s O’Malley on the left, McCulloch on the right). It was a good discussion, with lengthy forays into O’Malley’s history and influences, especially where manga is concerned. O’Malley even pulled out a few of his favorite titles from his bag, including an untranslated title (I think called “Venus”) involving spaceships shaped like women and a lead character with a ten-foot high hairdo. Viz needs to get on translating that one tout suite.
Jim Ottavani points the way to good comics.
People I didn’t get to meet: I seemed to keep missing Joost Swarte for some reason, and that was a real bummer. And while Ben Katchor was at the Kramer’s panel, I wished I had the gauche nerve to pull him aside for a second and ask him to sign my copy of Jew of New York. I’m too polite, that’s my problem.
From left to right, that’s Jog, Tim Hodler, Gary Groth and Rob Clough, all eager to reveal their secrets during the Critics Roundtable panel. Not pictured: moderator Bill Kartalopoulos. I recorded the panel and hope to have a transcript up for a future Everyone’s A Critic column sometime soon.
AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer takes time out from admiring his signage to pose for the camera. I certainly hope everyone who was there took my advice and picked up a copy of Mesmo Delivery.
Jim Rugg was also hanging out at the AdHouse table, with a new Aphrodisia mini-comic.
Alex Robinson ponders the grandeur of comics while Chris Staros sells em at the Top Shelf booth.
Dan Nadel of Picturebox had some of the best books at the show, and their table was packed beyond belief whenever I walked by. Perhaps it was although it might have been the back issues of Elektra Assassin and The ‘Nam that Frank Santoro had brought along in some longboxes. Viva comics!
Overall, if I was a little dazed and confused, it still was a really good show, where much money was spent and good times were had by all.
Tomorrow: What I bought.