Some quick and dirty thoughts about this year’s SPX via photos. And also podcasts! Brigid Alverson, Deb Aoki, Johanna Draper Carlson and I, telling it like it is, eating fancy bread and reading comics.
When I arrived at the opening night exhibitor reception on Friday night, there was a karaoke party going on in memory of SPX cartoonist Ed Siemienkowicz, who died of cancer at age 40. It was his dream to have a karaoke party and I have a suspicion it may become part of the tradition.
As I walked in, cartoonist Collin Byrd was singing “Alexander Hamilton.” He was singing it solo, but he was not alone, as everyone in the room was singing along, right there with him and Alexander Hamilton and the guiding spirit of Lin-Manuel Miranda. This was going to be a different SPX, I suspected right then and there. The indie comics world that SPX came from has traditionally been – like indie rock – a bastion of white male shoegazing. Woman came storming in a decade ago. The last few years saw the LGBTQIA community embraced with joy. And this time, creators of color were speaking out, getting the spotlight and telling their own stories for a change. That this came at a time of rising hatred and the revelation of attitudes naively thought vanquished was not lost on anyone.
I almost shot the whole show with a Hipstamtic filter. But I didn’t, so you’re welcome. Saturday was packed as usual. However, the hotel parking lot has been halved in size due to construction of a much bigger parking structure. Only hotel guests could park in the remaining spots, and every time I passed by the parking lot gate I saw someone being rebuffed by the attendant. I’m not sure if the lack of parking affected attendance – certainly at its Saturday peak the show seemed to be as robust as usual.
These two men proudly wearing Mets caps are either courageous or massive masochists. Probably the latter.
Katie Fricas and Sabin Cauldron do SPX Gothic. Both were on the “Shock Humor, Farce, and Satire” panel along with Aaron Lange and Tommi Musturi, which I moderated. This was a tough panel, because talking about humor is always a little weird, and shock humor, farce, and satire are very hard to define. YOU kind of know it when you see it.
“The Architecture of the Page” panel, otoh, with Chris Kindred, Iasmin Omar Ata, Sloane Leong and Tillie Walden, moderated by JA Micheline, was like the dream panel. There was a HUGE line to get in and I don’t think everyone made it.
The panelists all spoke about how layouts affect their work; Ata gave a shout out to Tezuka, which was cool, while showing their expressionist pages for Mis(h)adra. Kindred brought some pages to show and this Tite Kubo (I think) page got everyone talking. I wish this panel had had more slides, because just hearing these five people talk about panels is my AMSR. It was really great to hear four contemporary cartoonists talking about craft – and yes Frank Santoro’s six panel grid was referenced every six minutes. Everyne agreed you had to know the rules before you broke them, otherwise known as the anticipatory tension of the panel grid.
It goes without saying that Walden was the “It Cartoonist” of the show with big lines.
Call us veterans, call us survivors, call us old, call us Tom Spurgeon, The Beat and Michael Cavna of the Washington Post.
I wrote all about the Ignatz Award here. I was typing as people spoke and it was very sloppy, not helped by keyboard issues, but I’ve cleaned it up a bit. The spirit of Team Comics, which gets dragged on Twitter a lot by every side, and falls out of favor most of the time, was in full effect. Hardly a presenter or winner didn’t make note of the supportive, welcoming atmosphere of the show, past or present. You just can’t help yourself.
I don’t think anyone ever questioned whether Ben Passmore, above, would win Outstanding Story for “Your Black Friend,” one of the most powerful comics of the year or any year. It was a call to action, because, frankly, inaction can mean death. It should be the simplest decision, he said, to call out the reemergence of open racism and Nazism. Later on he tweeted:
Thx to @SPXcomics and everyone that voted for Your blk Friend, honored to receive an Ignatz n b recognized by my community.
— Ben Passmore SPX J1 (@DAYGLOAYHOLE) September 17, 2017
When Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota won for the collection of their long running Johnny Wander webcomic, I thought it was a small upset over Jillian Tamaki’s Boundless, but this year’s SPX attendees were really into webcomics, really into online, really into work that reflects, for lack of a better word, the community of comics. This is a very different world than the one where people line up to hear what events Marvel or DC are rolling out, or even what’s happening at Image or Black Mask. There’s a give and take and participation in this community that I think baffles Marvel and DC creators to some extent. And it’s also part of the flat, warm ocean that gives rise to the Category 5 hurricanes of social media battles. This is an idea I’m just coming around to, so I’ll have to address it more fully in a longer post, but we’re seeing the fruits of the participatory world and this world calls for evolving rules.
Also worth noting: two of the winning comics were part of Zainab Akhtar’s Short Box project. Pluggity plug. I just got the new Short Box, setting asice some time to read it.
Hirsh also called out “not seeing a lot of people who look like me” at previous SPXes and in comics in general. In the past, I’d like to think that SPX has done a better job than other shows at reflecting ethnic and racial diversity, but this year there were more POC faces behind tables than I ever remember. And the contemporary #drawingwhileblack hashtag on Twitter to spotlight black artists is a showcase for an amazing pool of talent that needs to be seen, heard and read more than ever. As Xunise said, “we have so many stories to tell.”
The next day there was another big line for the Eleanor Davis/Jillian Tamaki panel. These two have come out of a commercial background to make some of the most personal, beautiful and mutli-layered comics of the decade. it was one of the marquee events of the show.
The room ended up being packed, but not full. So if you get in the end of a line that snakes all the way down the hall and around the corner, you should get in!
Davis and Tamaki did short readings of their comics. Tamaki’s was smart, witty, ironic. Laughs were free and easy among the sharp needles such as the above. Davis read an excerpt of her biking comic, a bit about the border patrol, her reading slow and devastating. Not a sound was made as she read, people hardly breathed. Masterful.
PS: Read the whole Tamaki comic here:
Jim Rugg was the moderator. This is your gowing, triumphal Team Comics.
Jess Fink winning Best Series was also a win for the webcomics community.
Elsewhere, a dog ate a french fry and it was utter magic.
I love Sex Fantasy, it’s one of the best books of the year, easily.
NEWS???? Carla Speed McNeill was showing off concept art for NEW PROJECTS that are available. Publishers, get in on this, quick!
I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the parties or the Slumber Party or anything. So many onesies! It was a busy, exhausting show. Being surrounded by so much strong work is exhausting. But SPX was inspiring and profitable, as always. In the above photos everyone is smiling. The smiles are genuine, relaxed. People wear their pyjamas where they feel safe and supported. Bringing people together to unite in an unselfish sharing that transcends labels and bigotry, Camp Comics works.
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.