This weekend, it's the Small Press Expo

The annual Small Press Expo, better known as SPX, will arrive at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Saturday and Sunday. This particular SPX promises to be excellent -- mayhap the bestest SPX evar -- so allow me to run through some of the goings-on if you happen to be in that area this weekend.

Six creators you should embarrass yourself in front of:

1. Chris Ware. Ware almost never, ever, ever attends comic conventions. Certainly he's never gone to SPX before, so the chance to see one of the most legendary I can't afford it, but I'll definitely look longingly at the $75 Building Stories portfolio he'll be selling at the show.

2. Dan Clowes. See above. Clowes has been riding high with a number of noteworthy graphic novels and re-releases lately, and he'll also be talking about his contributions to Fantagraphics upcoming Barnaby collection during the show, a hotly anticipated reprint project to be sure.

3. Gilbert Hernandez. Beto is one of the finest and most prolific cartoonists living today and is always worth one's attention and time. I'd listen to anything he had to say about comics or art in general for hours.

4. Jaime Hernandez. If it was a question before (and it wasn't), the success of "The Love Bunglers" has proven that Jaime is a master of the art form and a exemplary storyteller. Hopefully he'll talk about how "Bunglers" came together and where he hopes to go from here.

5. Francoise Mouly. As co-editor of Raw, founder of Toon Books and art editor at The New Yorker, Mouly has done more to get comics out into the mainstream than just about anyone else at SPX. Give her all your respect and love.

6. Adrian Tomine. Tomine will be on hand with copies of his new book, New York Drawings, which collects various illustrations and comics he's done for The New Yorker and other magazines.

You can check out a signing schedule for the above special guests here.

Six booths you should stop at:

Yes, Fantagraphics, D&Q, Top Shelf, Picturebox and NBM will be on hand with tons of great books to check out, but be sure to spend some time perusing these publishers' wares as well:

1. Nobrow. I'm not sure of the exact set up, but it does look like this British publisher will have a table at the show, which is great news, as they publish lovely, lovely comics. Be sure to check out Vol. 7 of their Nobrow anthology. It's a beaut.

2. Self-Made Hero. I believe this other British publisher, which has made in-roads in stores thanks to their partnership with Abrams, will also be at the show. Be sure to check out Glyn Dillon's new graphic novel The Nao of Brown.

3. Fanfare/Ponent Mon. This publisher of fine manga and eurocomics is always worth a stop. Get your Jiro Taniguchi fix here.

4. Sparkplug Comics. Dylan Williams has sadly passed on, but Tom Neely, Katie Skelly and company are keeping his publishing venture alive and will have a number of books at the show, including the latest issue of Elijah Brubaker's Reich.

5. Oily Comics. Charles Forsman has made quite the mini-comics empire for himself. If nothing else, you'll want to check out his amazing series, End of the Fucking World.

6. Picture This Press. I know next to nothing about this publisher, but a quick perusal of their website suggests an interest in re-acquainting readers with obscure, turn of the century cartoonists, something I'm all in favor of.

You can also check out Rob Clough's list of suggestions here.

Six books you should at least leaf through:

1. SP7 by various (Retrofit). Dan Nadel will probably scowl at me, but I'm honestly curious to see how this Garo tribute anthology came off, especially considering it features contributions from folks like Tom Hart and Ryan Cecil Smith.

2. Lose #4 by Michael DeForge. Koyama Press will have a lot of great new books at the show, but this is the comic I'm most looking forward to seeing.

3. Pope Hats #3 by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse). That last issue of Pope Hats? One of the best comics of 2011, hands down. I'm looking forward to seeing what Rilly does as a follow-up.

4. The Understanding Monster – Book One by Theo Ellsworth (Small Acres). I just got a copy of this in the mail today, and it looks amazing.

5. Pompeii by Frank Santoro (Picturebox). A new Santoro comic is always cause for celebration.

6. Negron by Johnny Negron (Picturebox). I tried to spread things out among publishers evenly here, but damn if I'm not eager to get my hands on the first book from the "master of voluptuousness" as the pr so aptly puts it.

Six panels you should go to:

It's a pretty stellar programming line-up this year, and you should definitely attend any Q&As with the above mentioned special guests. But I'd also try to get into the following if time permitted:

1. Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby and the American Clear Line School, noon Saturday. Barnaby is one of those comics that captivates those who have seen it, but few have actually seen much of it. I'm eager to hear about the project and get some background on Johnson and his work.

2. Mark Newgarden Presents: Cartoonists and Comics On Camera, Reel One: 1916-1945, 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Newgarden shows early animated cartoons and footage of famous cartoonists at the drawing board. Tell me how that's not completely awesome.

3. Screening: Cartoon College, 5:30 p.m. Saturday. I've wanted to see this documentary on the Center for Cartoon Studies since I first heard about it.

4. Disney and the Making of Postwar Manga: The Case of New Treasure Island, 1 p.m. Sunday. Joe McCulloch and manga scholar Ryan Holmberg talk about Tezuka, Disney and how they shaped Japanese comics. I hope someone records this for the ages.

5. Comics on Assignment, 2 p.m. Sunday. You are coming to my panel right? I'll be so disappointed if I don't see you there. I'll be talking about the perils of freelancing with Sarah Becan, Ed Piskor, Lauren Weinstein, Susie Cagle and Jennie Haemi Choung.

6. Life After Alternative Comics, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Hernandez brothers, Tomine and Clowes talk about the changes they've seen in the industry since they first started making comics. I can't imagine any way this panel will not be fascinating.

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