One of the biggest indie comics events of the year, Small Press Expo (aka SPX), will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.
It’s a must-attend show for me, and this year will be no different. Well, it will be a little different, as my 11-year-old daughter will be coming along for what will be her first-ever comics convention. She will have copies of her own comic, Indefinable, for sale, so if you see us wandering the aisles, say hello.
Traversing the aisles of SPX with a pre-teen might prove to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m going to try to cram as much age-appropriate comics fun in the weekend as possible. Here’s some things I’m looking forward to/hoping to buy.
Five comics I’m planning on buying:
1. Wild Man: Island of Memory by T. Edward Bak. I’m a big fan of Bak’s Service Industry and really enjoyed the story he was serializing in Mome, about explorer and scientist Georg Steller. Wild Man: Island of Memory collects and reworks that material, the first part of what will be a projected four-volume series. Based on what I’ve read so far, I feel expect that this will be one of the more talked-about books at SPX this year.
2. Frontier #2 by Hellen Jo. Jo has been relatively quiet comics-wise since she released Jim and Jan a few years back. Now, via Ryan Sands’ relatively new publishing venture, Youth in Decline, she’s got what’s sure to be a swell mini collecting various paintings, pencils and other artwork.
3. Monster. It just wouldn’t be SPX if Hidden Fortress Press didn’t have a new volume of this usually reliable anthology. This year looks to be especially good, with 200 pages of comics by such noteworthy names as Marc Bell, Mat Brinkman, Jordan Crane, Michael DeForge, Edie Fake and Leif Goldberg. That’s a pretty killer list of talent – when was the last time we saw a new Brinkman comic, anyway?
4. Gold Pollen and Other Stories by Seiichi Hayashi. It’s nice to see more and more classic manga from people that aren’t Osamu Tezuka coming to Western shores. This is a collection of short stories from the author of Red Colored Elegy, a book I was a bit flummoxed by initially but that has slowly won me over more in ensuing years. The Picturebox site still labels it as “coming soon,” but it’s listed as a debut book on the SPX site. Basically, if it’s there, I’m buying a copy.
5. Love Stories by Mat Tait. New Zealand will be duly represented at the show by Tait, who will have this collection of stories available for sale. I’ve heard good things about Tait’s work and am excited to delve into it.
Five tables/cartoonists to stop by and give more money to:
1. Warren Craghead. He’s one of the most interesting and unique people working in comics today, and I don’t own nearly enough of his comics.
2. Julia Gfrorer. Gfrorer’s comics make me uncomfortable in the very best way. Due to the explicit nature of these books I might have to grab one while my daughter is on line for Jeff Smith’s autograph or something, but I’ll figure a way.
3. Nobrow. I spent quite a bit of money at this British publisher’s table last year and imagine I’ll do so again this time around. If nothing else I have to get a copy of Luke Pearson’s Hilda and the Troll, as my daughter was a fan of his last Hilda book.
4. Oily Comics. Chuck Forsman always some intriguing and delightful minicomics worth plunking down a few dollars for.
5. Studygroup. I really enjoyed the first issue of this Zack Soto/Milo George-edited magazine and need to pick up Issue 2, along with whatever else Soto and company might have for sale at their table.
Five panels I hope to check out
1. Jeff Smith Q&A (noon to 1 p.m. Saturday). Smith’s appearance at SPX is one of the big reasons my daughter is coming along, as she’s a pretty huge Bone fan, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t let her attend this sure-to-be in-depth interview with Isaac Cates
2. Raina Telgemeier and Gene Yang in Conversation (3 to 4 p.m. Saturday). I have to attend this panel, because I’m the one moderating it! Hopefully it will be a thoughtful, lively discussion about the cartoonists’ careers and the challenges of writing for a “young adult” audience. If you happen to be free during this hour, c’mon down and watch me do my best impression of The Chris Farley Show.
3. CCS and SAW Present: A Comics Workshop (4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday). Hosted by Alec Longstreth and Josh Bayer, this hour-long group cartooning activity should prove to be a lot of fun for young and old alike.
4. Gary Panter Q&A (4 to 5 p.m. Saturday) I don’t think I’ll actually have time to get to this panel but any opportunity you might have to hear Panter talk about his work is a golden one.
5. Paying Tribute: Traditions of Style (4 to 5 p.m. Sunday) My buddy Joe McCulloch (who is also the official guest curator for the Library of Congress at the show — be sure to show him your wares folks!) will be moderating this discussion on influence and tradition with Ed Piskor, Jim Rugg, Tom Scioli, Seth, and R. Sikoryak. Should be a lively discussion.
But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Are you going to SPX? What are you looking forward to the most? Let me know in the comments.