Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SPX 2012

On Saturday September 15, my wife and I attended SPX, the Small Press Expo, in Bethesda, Maryland.

We had been there twice before, in 2007 and in 2010, but neither of those experiences could compare with this year's show. We spent almost all of the day on Saturday wandering the show's crowded aisles, and never before have I seen a room so full of wonderful and smiling people so enthusiastic about comics. It was absolutely remarkable, and it was easily the most fun I have ever had at any show. No other SPX, no other MoCCA, no other SPACE, no other BCGF had this unique atmosphere of excitement, passion, friendliness, and creativity.

As always, I took quite a few photos and picked up stacks of incredible comics and graphic novels, so here is a look.

The weather was just beautiful on Saturday. Sunny, warm, dry and slightly breezy. A beautiful late summer day. On our way in to the Marriott Hotel in Bethesda, where the show was being held, we ran across this. It seems that Moby Dick will forever haunt my footsteps.

The show is always very easy to find, as my wife can attest.

In our prior trips to the show, there was always a short line to get in, but nothing like this! The line was huge! Amazingly, the staff handled the heavy influx of attendees very smoothly and efficiently and we waited for maybe 5 minutes before we were paying for our day passes.

This year, SPX greatly expanded the amount of room where the show was held, but the show planners also only modestly increased the number of tables for exhibitors. This was a brilliant move, since it made the aisles pleasantly wide and roomy and allowed for all attendees to walk around the entire room relatively comfortably. Even so, the crowds were just astounding. This was a very well-attended show!

My first stop was to see Pat Aulisio. I'm not sure who that is standing next to him, and I apologize for the omission. Also, that book looks mighty familiar...

On the left, with his head down but that god-slaughtering beard still showing, is the mighty Josh Bayer and on the right in the plaid shirt is Ian Harker.

Josh's head was down because he was working on this drawing inside the copy of Suspect Device #2 that I had just purchased from him.

The venerable Kim Thompson holding court over at the Fantagraphics spread.

Also at Fantagraphics, Lilli Carre signing her newest collection Heads or Tails.

Next to her, Noah van Sciver signing my copy of The Hypo.

Thomas Herpich signing copies of his new comic White Clay at the AdHouse Books table.

And Chris Pitzer (in the green plaid) holding court over the AdHouse Books tables.

John Porcellino had a finely curated spread of amazing comics at his Spit and a Half table, and debuted a brand new issue of his King-Cat Comics, which is always cause for celebration.

Mark Burrier sharing some of his work with a fan.

This SPX really seemed to be packing the star power, with appearances by Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Los Bros Hernandez, Adrian Tomine and many more. Here, at the Drawn & Quarterly tables, Adrian Tomine signs books.

Secret Acres debuted the beautiful new graphic novel The Understanding Monster, Book One by Theo Ellsworth. Theo was actually there and talked to us for a bit. He was genuinely kind and humble, but as he mentioned, his holographic face kept glitching up so this was the only suitable photo I was able to take of him while he was drawing in our book.

One of the great joys of big shows like this is stumbling across something fantastic that you had never seen before. Andy Kettler's big beautiful Neon Super Gladiator was one of those.

I was told that this is the first time the legendary Annie Koyama and Koyama Press had attended SPX, and here she is doing a very brisk business at her table. Annie really knows her comics.

In between, while making a quick run to the car to drop off some loot, we ran into the radiant and brilliantly gifted Marnie Galloway who was waiting to attend a panel. Watch for her collected In the Sounds and Seas coming later this year, the recipient of a Xeric Award!

Scott C. managing the crowd and selling scads of his Great Showdowns mini-prints.

It is always a pleasure to see Dr. Jay Hosler, professor of biology and comic artist, and he was showing even more pages of his long-gestating comic saga The Age of Elytra.

The Picturebox table brought an unexpected double dose of goodness in the persons of Sammy Harkham, signing copies of his new collection Everything Together and the elusive and mysterious Jonny Negron signing his debut book Negron. It's hard to tell from this photo but the bill of Sammy's hat was enormous.

And here is the drawing Jonny did for me in my copy of Negron.

Mari Naomi was at SPACE this year, just a few tables down from me, but somehow I ended up missing out on her graphic novel Kiss & Tell. Thankfully, I remedied that situation at SPX. Again, I apologize, I am not certain who that is next to Mari.

ANOTHER unexpected delight! On the left is Jimmy Giegerich (his tumblr is here) and on the right is Andrea Kalfas (her tumblr is here) who had a table at SPX.

These are the artists behind the two images based on Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun that I included in this lengthy post. First, Jimmy's take on Severian and the Undine...

And Andrea's vision of Severian confronting the Undine at the sandbar...

They were incredibly nice, and we chatted about The Book of the New Sun for a bit. It was great to meet them, and I picked up some lethal Vampire Killer prints.

And finally, one of the greatest highlights of a show absolutely packed with them, was seeing the Nobrow table. Nobrow is a UK-based publisher of art books, comics, graphic novels, zines, prints and much more. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time they have had a presence at any American show, and they are making some real inroads into the US market. Many of their titles are now available from both Amazon and Diamond with the promise of many more to come. Their design and production values are topnotch, and every single book is a treasure to behold. To the left is whoever was more or less in charge of the table, and he was quite nice to talk to, while on the right is Luke Pearson who was drawing in copies of his books Hildafolk and Hilda and the Midnight Giant.

Another look at Luke, this time drawing a surprisingly elaborate and deeply appreciated scene in our copy of Hilda and the Midnight Giant.

I saw this at a gas station on the drive home from Maryland to Ohio and was smitten.

Alright, the rest of these are photos of my haul. Easily the most books I have ever purchased at any show anywhere. But such wonderful books they are! From Nobrow, Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson and Adventures of a Japanese Businessman by Jose Domingo.

Also from Nobrow, the 17x23 Showcase, Hildafolk by Luke Pearson, and Megaskull by Kyle Platts.

From the Fantagraphics tables, The Lost Art of Ah Pook Is Here by Malcolm McNeill and The Hypo by Noah van Sciver.

Also from Fantagraphics, Ralph Azham vol. 1: Why Would You Lie to Someone You Love? by Lewis Trondheim and Noah van Sciver's minicomic The Death of Elijah Lovejoy.

And also from Fantagraphics, the excellent Blacklung from Chris Wright and the long-awaited Cartoon Utopia from Ron Rege Jr..

From Picturebox, Sammy Harkham's Everything Together and Jonny Negron's Negron.

From Secret Acres, Theo Ellsworth's The Understanding Monster, Book One.

From Koyama Press, Lose #4 by Michael Deforge and Wax Cross and Baba Yaga and the Wolf from Tin Can Forest.

From Pat Aulisio's table, Marvel Comics Presents #6 (with stories by Josh Bayer, Pat Aulisio, Keenan Marshall Keller and Michael Hawkins), The Legion of Monsters minicomic by Marc J Palm and Josh Burggraf, Yeah Dude Comics and F'Real Real both by Pat Aulisio. All available at Drippy Bone Books.

The bizarre and irresistible mindfuck that is Suspect Device #2 by Josh Bayer and many many others.

From Dr. Jay Hosler, Ant Edna & Wilbur and from his extremely talented son Max, one of the most enjoyable comics on science you will ever read, Ribozymes.

Notebook Drawings, an art book cleverly mirroring an old spiral bound notebook, by Jim Rugg and Neon Super Gladiator by Andy Kettler.

And finally, Gongwanadon, Cusp and White Clay, all from Thomas Herpich.

Seriously, SPX was amazing this year. Can't wait to see what's next!

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