SPX kicked off last night with the traditional exhibitor’s reception/karaoke party. For its gala 25th edition, SPX has let out the stops with a guest list that covers the zenith of indie comics publishing – Chris Ware, Jaime Hernandez, Eddie Campbell – the zenith of kids publishing – Raina Telgemeier – and the spectacular blossoming of contemporary cartooning – Eleanor Davis (with special guest newborn baby!) Emily Carroll, Keith Knight, Lucy Knisley, Rosemary Valerio-O’Connell,  Ebony Flowers, Carta Monir …kinda almost everyone.

It was just kind of thrilling to stand at the reception or bar area and see all the talent gathered here.

Oh but speaking of the bar, the BIG story for The Beat, as always, is changes in the layout of the North Bethesda Marriott! Literally as we were leaving last year, workers were painting over the cheerful golden woodwork of the lobby with paint in a gloomy industrial dark grey matte paint. Yuck.

Yes, it’s a remodel. And as the bartenders had told me last year, the area where the Starbucks and the bar once stood have been replaced by M Club, a members only lounge for people with a lot of Marriott Points. IMG_0429_2.jpg

Out on the patio a section has even been reserved for the M Club only members!!!


The net effect of this – and the removal of doors that open both ways – is to cut off access to the outside patio for folks. I’m a big proponent of outside space, and  the end of this flow of fresh air is sad, but definitely by design.

The Starbucks has been replaced by a generic coffee kiosk, and the bar and restaurant have been combined into one area that had a tone of seating, including many nooks and crannies.

There’s a new feed and cocktail menu as well…and some higher prices, all to be expected.

While I miss my outside time, none of the changes affected the traditional Friday night hugathon as new people kept arriving and greeting comrades in the lobby. The karaoke party was a blast, and I have to say, there are some SERIOUS pipes in the indie comics crowd, as well as many folks with the kind of natural performing charisma that you wouldn’t always expect from cartooning types.   It is possible that I helped wind down the evening with “Ace of Spades” and that Johanna Draper Carlson made her first ever time ever karaoke debut with “One Night in Bangkok.”

Despite the controversies, people are here to buy comics and talk about comics, as always.