This year’s Small Press Expo was another love-in. Glen Weldon wrote all about it for the NPR blog
In theory, SPX seems a lot like many of the other comic-cons that have been popping up across the country over the last few years. There’s the vast exhibit floor, there’s a packed schedule of panels and spotlights featuring interviews of, and discussions between, various comics creators. People mill about, lugging bags loaded down with stuff they’ve bought, or find an empty patch of carpeted hallway on which to plop themselves and rest while perusing their purchases. If you close your eyes, its sounds a lot like any other con: the low, steady murmur of voices punctuated by the occasional exclamation of delight or surprise from someone who’s stumbling across an old friend — or a new passion. But the moment you open your eyes, you’re reminded that SPX isn’t like most other cons.
He also linked to the NPR Illustration tumblr which has lots of comics and illos and stuff. Check it out.
My own SPX notes:
This was sort of a Fantagraphics reunion tour. I don’t think there had ever been such a large gathering of the core crew, and they spent a lot of time hanging out and reminiscing about days of yore and people little remembered in song or tweet. Good times.
As opposed to last year’s Ignatz awards, which were swept my women, this year only 7 of the nine awards were won by women. Sam Bosma and Nah van Sciver managed to sneak in there, and I kept joking that this was a very encouraging sign for male cartoonists. It didn’t escape notice that Daniel Cowes was beaten by a teenaged girl (Tillie Walden won Outstanding artist for The End of Summer, beating Clowes for Patience.) On the patio afterwards I joked that he’d been beaten by Enid Coleslaw, and he laughed.
But clearly, this festival crowd wants to honor their own. There was a lot more talk this time from different generations of cartoonists over what people expect, and several people mentioned that they feel today’s very new cartoonists seem to think fame and fortune await from doing a few mini comics. While that’s accurate, it’s also a little harsh in that I don’t think anyone has marked a clear on ramp for “career in comics.” Is it a book from Fantagraphics? From First Second? Drawing Adventure Time comics? Working on the Adventure Time cartoon? It’s all of the above, but making a living is elusive.
I did hear people complaining about page rates, contracts and print runs. What does it all mean? We need to do better, like they say. You can fret about marketing, but a more pressing problem in comics, from where I sit, is fair pay and better contracts for all involved.
Other than the generation gap, this was a typical SPX, filled with love and hugs and proms and dancing and comics. I roomed with Johanna Draper Carlson, Brigid Alverson and Deb Aoki and there was barely any space left in the room from the huge piles of comics they bought. (I am on a diet as far as material things go, so brought home only a small tote.) Fretting aside, so many good books from D&Q, Koyama, Self Made Hero, Fanta, Uncivilized, New York Review of Books and every other publisher.
SPX is a love-in. Every Eisner winner thank the community, and Nate Powell’s keynote spoke at length about the importance of finding a place to belong. Naturally, at the after party I heard some people scoffing at the idea of community, just as the idea of “team comics” was rejected at one of the first SPXs. You can say it’s sappy, but a lot of young people come to SPX to learn about life and love and comics, and the order is varied. It’s safe to say that there is a community though, and those who don’t want to be part of it don’t have to be!
I’m told there was a Snapchat geofilter for SPX, but I must have been too old to use it. =(
The other big news is that the Marriott seriously upgraded the patio with comfy lounge sofas, high tables and barstools. It was like South Beach! The hanging out got even more settled and comfy.
I took some bad photos, so those will serve as my article.
Before the show kicked off, everyone gave the new chairs a test run. I got Jim Woodring to talk about his early days in animation, working with Gil Kane and he and Gilbert Hernandez talked about meeting Jack Kirby and whether Alex Toth made any great stories. (Zorro passed, I think.) Kane was very ambitious about trying to make is mark with his own stories, it was recalled, and he wanted to match what Eisner was doing. (He actually published his own graphic novel in the 70s, Blackmark, and it was knowing Kane that helped inspire a young Gary Groth to pursue his own dreams of comics publishing. Anyway, this was s good as it gets, con wise.
As the show kicked off I went to see Keith Knight’s “They Shoot Black People Don’t They?” slideshow which was funny and sad and we need to stop this, somehow.
As I walked the floor I decided I would try to just take pictures of booths as I walked by so I get some good file photos of all these cartoonists. I started with these two ladies, and of course, lost their names. Pipe up in the comments!
OKay I do remember Rosemary Valero-O’Connell who is a rising star who dresses in the same color as her t-shirts. She illustrating Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, a GN written by Mariko Tamaki which is coming out from First Second in a year or so.
I watched Cyril Pedrosa draw for a while. WOW! His book Equinoxes from NBM is a stunner.
And Dan Mazur. He had a GN about a weird crime in Maine I meant to pick up but I never swung back. Next time!
This is Kenzie, who draws Friend Quest, a comic that she’s making to help her overcome a traumatic event she underwent in hopes of helping other overcome similar experiences. Check out the website for more.
Aimee de Jongh is from the Netherlands and The Return of the Honey Buzzard is her first graphic novel and it’s an extraordinary feat for a first timer. Like so many, she had a good time at the show:
This is the first time I get emotional because a comic convention is over… #SPX was truly amazing and I will definitely be back sometime!
— Aimee de Jongh (@aimeedejongh) September 18, 2016
Jessica Campbell’s new book is hilarious, here she is with her publisher, the great Annie Koyama.
Kevin Czap and friend.
This is the fellow from New York Review of Books Comics, which has turned out to be a DYNAMITE LINE OF BOOKS! That new Pushwagner book is amazing! There was some talk of him coming to the show but it was only talk…but Glen Baxter did show up! I missed him by moi
The hilarious Gemma Correll.
Leslie Stein and Jennifer Hayden.
Here’s the “Knights of the Fantagraphics Roundtable” panel. Incredible.
After the Ignatzes there was a party for Fantagraphics’ 40th complete with a cake. And Gary Groth with a knife! LOOK OUT WARREN! Just kidding. The cake was delicious when dipped in….
…buckets of molten chocolate. There was no chocolate fountain this year, instead there were vats of chocolate. I never heard why the fountain was lost, but no one really cared.
After the Ignatzes a fire alarm went off and the WHOLE PROM and party had to evacuate. It was right as the news of the bombing in Chelsea was getting through so it was all a little weird. I stood with the great Carol Tyler and Clowes and Woodring and listened as more stories were told, some of them a bit…shocking!
Uncivilized has launched a line of kids book, Odod, with Musnet which looks French as heck but it’s drawn by an American! Sacre bleu!
I had the immense privilege of interviewing Trina Robbins on her spotlight panel, and was reminded again what an amazing person she is. She’s done so much to add to this artform as a creator and historian.
While we didn’t talk about out Friends of Lulu days, I did bring up some of the idiotic things we heard about why women couldn’t read comics, and Meagan Healy captured one!
— Meagan Healy (@MeaganHealy) September 18, 2016
What were Chip Mosher and Chuck Forsman laughing about? We may never know.
Robyn Chapman made these insanely great hats, for the 00s Von Dutch nostalgia boom.
Jonesy’s artist Caitlin Rose Boyle. In case you haven’t figured it out, my idea of taking pictures in an orderly fashion went out the window after 10 minutes.
SPX is not a juried show, and that is part of its magic. Sometimes things do show up that are different from the main spirit of the show though. There were also quite a few of those “double decker” art displays encroaching. I hard another show runner saying that he was going to clamp down on those at his own show.
Here are those sofas I was talking about but at the end of the show. No Joe Sacco and Jaime Hernandez talking about Milt Gross here.
After the magic.
THIS WS NOT PART OF SPX, but Monday night was a very very elegant party for Kodansha’s 50th year of doing business in the US, held at the main NY Public Library! Several folks stayed over from SPX to attend.
Anne Ishii, truly the best dressed woman in comics, and TCAF’s Chris Butcher.
And I’m out! It was a grand time, now to survive NYCC, enjoy CAB and start doing it all over again in 2017!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.