SPX Impressions

Ed Sizemore and I went to SPX last weekend, just for Saturday. I’ve been going for years now, but it was Ed’s first time at the show, so instead of writing up something predictable about who I saw and what I bought, I asked Ed to share his take, from the eyes of a new visitor who knows comics but not necessarily indy/alt works. I can’t resist kibitzing, though, so watch for my notes in italics below. — Johanna

My first impression was of the staff. Everyone was polite, friendly, and seemed excited to be there. There was a great positive atmosphere from everyone; not just staff, but artists, volunteers, and attendees. I’ll say this up-front so I don’t repeat myself a hundred times; every person I talked to was pleasant, upbeat, patient, and just all around nice.

I have to admit I’m always a little anxious about approaching an artist’s table, because I know the person has put a lot of hard work and money into the books on the table. So I feel bad when I look at a comic and it doesn’t interest me for whatever reason. I mean, it’s a very intimate experience, when the artist is right there in front of me and I’m walking away. I want to say, “I’m sorry, you’re a nice person, your comic just doesn’t connect with me.” What I really appreciated at SPX was that nobody there was pushing the hard sell. Each table I approached, the artist explained what their comics were about, asked me to take a look, and then just let me look through their books and merchandise. Even if I didn’t buy anything I was thanked for looking. After the second or third time this happened my anxiety dissipated and I was able to start browsing in earnest. This made the convention a very enjoyable experience.

I did have a few books I wanted to get signed. I gave my copy of Knights of the Lunch Table to my seven-year-old nephew, who loved it as much as I did. I had Frank Cammuso sign the book for him. This makes it the first signed comic of any kind in my nephew’s collection.

Andy Runton signed my three Owly books and put a very nice sketch of Owly, Wormy, and friends in each book. He also gave me some great tips on using a brush pen. I like practicing calligraphy and he helped to see what I was doing wrong.

Rob Ullman signed the dozen items I had. He’s a fellow Richmonder, but I always forget to bring his books to the local comic show. So I finally got all my stuff signed. I also picked up some great books I didn’t have (see below).

What was amazing wandering around were the number of self-published people with bound trade paperbacks to sell. It’s a good indicator of where I think the comic market is headed. There were plenty of mini-comics and pamphlets, too. My problem was I seriously underestimated the amount of cash I needed. I would have liked to pick up a few more comics to sample than I did, but my empty wallet had the final say. I did pick up business cards from all the artists I liked so I could check out their websites. Here’s what I did get and just some quick thoughts or impressions.

Raina Telgemeier – Picked up a collection of Take-Out comics, the first chapter of Smile, and a new mini-comic called Outreach. All of these are slice-of-life stories. I’ve already read through them and really enjoyed them. I wish I had a couple hundred more of these to read. JDC: Raina’s big news of the show was having Smile picked up by Scholastic/Graphix, so she’ll be finishing the story for print publication in color. Yay! It’s due out in 2010.

Jim Ottaviani – Picked up Levitation, which is about the history of the levitating person magic trick. It’s a great book with tons of reference material listed in the afterward. I also picked up Dignifying Science: Stories about Women Scientists and it looks equally as good.

Jim8Ball – Picked up the first two issues of Tail of the Samurai Cat and he gave me the third for free. A nice parody of Lone Wolf and Cub. I’ve already finished these and liked them. JDC: I didn’t even see this table!

Rob Ullman – Picked up Teeny Bikini #5, Grand Gestures #1, From the Curve #5, and Atom-Bomb Bikini #5. Grand Gestures and From the Curve are slice-of-life books that I’ve already completed and enjoyed. The Bikini books are sketch books with a focus on good girl art.

Mariko Tamaki – Picked up Emiko Superstar, apparently the last of the Minx books, it looks good. JDC: I think Token will be the last Minx, due out early November.

Jay Hosler – Picked up Optical Allusions, The Sandwalk Adventures, and Cow-Boy. All look excellent. Since my seven-year nephew likes science and comics I plan to pass these on him. (Except Cow-Boy, that’s mine.) Jay also did the artwork for all the SPX badges. I got him to sign mine. I plan to laminate it and use as a bookmark. (This was the also the first convention I attended as a member of the comic press.) JDC: I loved Jay’s image for the press badge of a woman in a fedora interviewing a talking comic book. I should have had mine signed, too. And I hope Ed enjoys Sandwalk, since I pressed it on him, given his love of philosophical discussion.

Frank Naif gave me a copy of Super Secret Bungling & Crookery. Just finished this and liked the humor a lot. I was in the military so I can appreciate his frustrations with the government bureaucracy. The art is simple but effective for the humor.

T.J. Kirsch gave me A Murder of Crows. It’s an interesting story of a Vietnam vet dealing with his experiences. I wish the piece was a little longer.

Jane Irwin was extremely generous and gave me a copy of the first volume of Vogelein. It looks intriguing. Wait, there are footnotes at the end! I’m sold. Seriously, I’m a sucker for comics with that much thought put into them.

Fanfare/Ponent Mon – Deb Aoki from About Manga was running the booth for them. She was generous enough to give me copies of Times of Botchan volumes two and three. I was really glad to see and talk to her. We were both at NY Anime Fest the prior weekend, and I missed getting a chance to met her there. I love Jiro Taniguchi’s art so I can’t wait to read these. I believe I now own every book Fanfare has published in the US.

I also attended the Critic’s Roundtable discussion with moderator Bill Kartalopoulos. The panelists were Rob Clough, Gary Groth, Jog, and Tim Hodler. There wasn’t a lot of crosstalk. The hour went quickly. Bill had a chance to ask about five questions and get a response from each member. I won’t give much detail on the panel, since my understanding is that the panel was recorded and either the audio or a transcript will be made available soon. Basically, each guest discussed what they tried to achieve when reviewing a comic. What they thought of the current state of comic reviews and criticism. Some of the common problems they saw in comic reviews. Also, mainstream versus comic press coverage and reviews of comics. I enjoyed the panel and wished they had an hour to discuss further issues. I would also have liked to seen the panelists ask questions of each other.

Overall, I really had a good time at the show and will definitely be back next year. JDC: Thanks, Ed, for the company on the trip. And I ditto your feelings! Great time, great comics!

10 Responses to “SPX Impressions”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Good column.

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one to feel that awkwardness of going up to an artist’s table. I think you poked at me at a convention Johanna, about buying a crappy comic because I felt bad not to. (that was at Heroes, with a really pushy sale girl though)

    I honestly don’t remember my one trip to SPX beyond just the feeling of walls closing in because it seemed so tightly packed. (it was a bad time for me though)

    I need to try to make it again some day, now that I’m a bit different. (two jobs in customer/technical support taught me to say “no”)

    I would loved to have met Jay Hosler, as I so loved Clan Apis. (another victim of hurricane Rita) I had not heard of those other comics by his, so neat to know there is new stuff.

    Sounds like y’all had a fun trip!

  2. odessa steps magazine Says:

    I’ve not been to SPX in probably at least five years, but glad to hear it was a good time. I’ve not been since they moved from the Holiday Inn and still had the softball game (1-1 career record as a player).

  3. Johanna Says:

    I do miss the Holiday Inn. The conference center is much more expensive and not nearly as friendly in feel.

  4. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Just an update. I finished the Emiko Superstar book and thought it was very good. I’m also glad to hear that Token will be released by Minx. The preview in the back of Emiko looked good.

  5. T.J. Kirsch Says:

    Thanks for the mention! I’m glad you enjoyed my comic.

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 9, 2008: Chum for the sharks Says:

    […] from last weekend’s Small Press Expo, courtesy of Rob Clough, Calvin Reid, Dustin Harbin and Ed Sizemore. Also: Jessica Campbell has photos, and Mike Rhode shows off some swell Joost Swarte […]

  7. Richard Marcej Says:

    This was the first SPX I didn’t attend in five years. I miss it because it’s always a great atmosphere.

    I’m hoping that my new book will be ready for next year’s show (and am hoping to drag my friend Kerry Callen to finally get out east and attend the show too)

    Glad you had a good time.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Oooh, I would love to meet Kerry! I adore his Halo & Sprocket!

  9. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Quote, Unquote Says:

    […] “What was amazing wandering around were the number of self-published people with bound trade paperbacks to sell. It’s a good indicator of where I think the comic market is headed.” – Ed Sizemore […]

  10. SPX 2008 Graphic Novels: Slowpoke, Baby-Sitters Club 4, Soddyssey, Emiko Superstar, more » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] picked up some interesting books at this year’s Small Press Expo (SPX). I went up there expecting to discover minicomics and other self-published, hand-made works — […]




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