I had never been to an SPX before. Generally speaking, as a guy that lives in the deep south (or as deep as Atlanta gets), my convention schedule gets a little limited. I make the yearly sojourn along with my partner (and co-editor here at The Beat) Hannah to SDCC, and I tend to find at least a couple of free days to head up to Charlotte for HeroesCon. But that only fills up my June and July, and for much of the rest of the year, I twiddle my thumbs, starving for another show. In my off-hours, I live, breathe, eat and s**t comics, and I’m always wanting to get my hands on the next something that can stimulate my brain before bedtime or after work, or after dinner, or on those thankfully longer weekend nights.
SPX was kind of a holy grail for me. Taking place in Bethesda, it’s too long of a drive to justify a weekend jaunt, and pulling together another con flight just a few months after shelling out for travel and accommodations in San Diego just never quite made financial sense. Going to the rather anemic comics content a few weeks before at our local Dragon Con each year, seemed to especially add insult to injury – especially with something that good within arms reach that would scratch that itch.
Well, as it would have it, the stars finally aligned and thanks to a work trip that put me right in that area the day before and the day of, your favorite Entertainment Editor was finally able to walk the floor of SPX. Due to other commitments, I didn’t pop in until around 12:30 on Saturday, and expected a robust crowd…but I was rather taken aback by just how crowded that show floor actually was. Going through some of the aisles of cartoonists, you’d think you were at SDCC. I was constantly trying to avoid bumping into people with my man-bag, and was doing a number of two step dances around folks chatting it up with their colleagues, friends and creators they admire. Keep in mind, I don’t see that as a pejorative.
So I went as Press for The Beat, completely bewildered by the flurry of great talent surrounding me, and I had no idea what exactly I was going to cover there. You see, Phillippe had teed things off perfectly with his pre-SPX interview series, and Heidi knew all the right people to talk to and the panels to attend to get the best coverage possible. With that, I was trying to figure out just where I could fit in. And it suddenly hit me, I’ll just do what I do best, which is spend money and then brag about my new treasures.
I won’t share the total amount I spent, because holy cow…I definitely blew past my set budgetary limits, by quite a bit. But now I have this pile of exciting comics-based adventures to get through that should last me quite some time. Let me show you:
My number one goal of the entire show was get my hands on copies of the three books above, Zegas by Michel Fiffe, I Am Not Okay With This by Charles Forsman, and Night Business by Benjamin Marra. All three are by creators that I’ve followed with great interest, thanks to our mutual shared love of 80’s comics and trash culture. While each of these works were available in self-published single issue form at one point or another, thanks to fine folks at Fantagraphics, they’re now in handsome collected editions – out in a few months. They’ll be the first three books I dig into, and quickly. I’ve already started on Zegas as of last night. That these three are excellent gentleman to know certainly does nothing to hurt my enthusiasm either.
Also in terms of Fantagraphics pick-ups, I nabbed Cartoon Clouds by Joseph Remnant (perhaps best known for his work with Harvey Pekar on Cleveland) and the first issue of their upcoming NOW anthology. I got a chance to spend a little time with Remnant, just shooting the breeze about movies mostly, really nice guy and this certainly looks to be one of the talked about releases of the end of the year, the work inside just looks dynamite. Many thanks to the wonderful Jacq Cohen for hooking me up with this stuff and being all-around awesome.
From there, traipsed along and found myself at the Koyama press booth, and picked up two of their big upcoming offerings in Connor Willumsen’s Anti-Gone and GG’s I’m Not Here. I picked up both thanks to a very enthusiastic and informative Koyama employee whose name I never caught. But he sold on the concepts of both pretty instantly, the latter especially seemed right up my alley in that sort of Lynch-y weird way. Though I’ll probably read it and realize it’s nothing like that at all.
Next, I purchased Expansion, the latest sci-fi excursion from Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward through AdHouse. Their collaboration in the pages of Island, “Ancestor”, was one of the points of that ongoing anthology that I’d call a highpoint. And frankly, I was sold on the cover alone. Look at that head!
NoBrow was next on my list, as they were situated not far afield from Koyama, and there I picked up 101 Movies To Watch Before You Die by Ricardo Cavolo and Sp4rx by Wren McDonald. The Cavolo work is literally an essay work, with Cavolo sharing his thoughts on what he considers the must-see treasures of cinema’s rich history, along with his artistic interpretations of their various subject matter. Sp4rx isn’t new by any stretch, having come out last year, but I loved his Cyber Realm and I could do with more of that kind of cyberpunk thing in my life (so sayeth the huge Blade Runner fan).
This next set of books all came from either my own curiosity (The Liz Enright edited Zinetendo, which sees a number of cartoonists give their own spin to a rich era of gaming, and Julian’s Lytle’s collection of his ANTS webcomic) or recommendations from pals (Craig Fischer swearing by Sam Sharpe and Peach Goodrich’s Viewotron, which was excerpted in a recent Best American Comics, and Christian Hoffer cluing me into the existence of Jon – a fan comic by Gale Galligan paying tribute to the work of Jim Davis.
A few other assorted odds and ends are below, a full run of Zack Soto’s fantasy adventure series The Secret Voice, which I’ve had on my radar for a while, a copy of Melissa Mendes’ slice of adolescent life in LOU that she was so wonderfully generous to give to me as a gift (it’ll be my first work of hers I’ve read, certainly not the last), Horror Tapes by Robert Young which was another “this cover is really eye-catching” purchase, and Colin Panetta’s Logjam, his wry take on a new X-Man.
As the show was winding up on Sunday, Fiffe sent me over to the Hidden Fortress booth where I picked up the first issue of their wrestling anthology Screwjob (I don’t actually like wrestling) as well as a copy of their horror version of the same format Monster (I like monsters a lot more), as well as Major Bummer, which looks like my kind of ass-kicking sort of thing.
Lastly, I finally got my hands on Jim Rugg’s black and white explosion sampler-zine BW. I’ve wanted this thing for a bit now ever since I had been made aware of its existence. It’s every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be visually, and I can’t wait to see how all these little excerpts from obscure quarter-bin finds hold together as their own reading experience. All I know is Hannah got dizzy from just looking at the cover!
Oh, and I got a full-run of the DC 1987 oddity Slash Maraud over at Frank Santoro’s table that was full of great old comics. And Fiffe drew me a fictional Del Close on my blank cover of Wasteland! Look at that subtle color work!
And that was where all my money went at SPX, along with reupping my subscription to Frontier right there on the floor. Let me know what you think I should read first. To be honest, I don’t even know what to read next! What a world!
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.