Small Press Expo (SPX) 2009

Now that I’m back home, after a good night’s sleep and a hot bath to soothe my aching feet (from wanting to see everything) and shoulders (from carrying all the goodies), I’m ready to tell you how fabulous this year’s Small Press Expo was. I had the best time at SPX 2009 I’ve had in a long while at a convention. (Even though I lost my voice an hour into the show for no known reason, which meant continual apologies to people I was trying to have a conversation with.)

Paul Sizer and Jane Irwin

  Paul Sizer and Jane Irwin

A subtheme of the show was feeling old but not minding it so much. Some of these creators have only been making comics for a few years, while I’ve been reviewing them since 1992 (starting on CompuServe and Usenet). I decided to make a virtue out of longevity, proudly mentioning my track record to those who hadn’t heard of the site. The result was usually a stunned look, but in a good way.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about cool people who were there. Friends Jane Irwin (Vogelein) and Paul Sizer (BPM) were celebrating their fifth anniversary that day — aren’t they cute?

At their table, I bumped into Daniel Langsdale, who used to do a minicomic called Geeks in Disguise. He didn’t have any comics currently, but he did bring these delicious dessert bars made of chocolate, frosting, nuts, coconut, and all kinds of other yummy things. Incredibly rich, and a great pick-me-up for energy to keep walking around the show.

David Welsh temporarily watches the Fanfare/Ponent Mon table

Blogger David Welsh temporarily watches the Fanfare/Ponent Mon table

First on my must-visit list was Fanfare/Ponent Mon, where I was able to pick up the second volume of A Distant Neighborhood, sent in specially to debut at the show. Jiro Taniguchi’s art always astounds me in its detail. Ed’s going to be writing a review of the series for the site in the future, but in the meantime, it gave me some things to think about in terms of acceptance and happiness and maturity. (And I was tickled to see my name on the back cover in a quote.) It’s unfortunate that their books don’t fit the typical perception of manga, so they have trouble in bookstores. They don’t really fit with Naruto, you know.

A Distant Neighborhood Book 2 cover
A Distant Neighborhood Book 2
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Erika Moen had the much-anticipated (by me, anyway) news that she was hoping to put out a second DAR collection before the end of the year. I was surprised to see that the most popular area in the room, at least when I was on the floor, was the back right corner featuring webcomic creators, especially Kate Beaton. But then, the world is moving from minicomics to webcomics as a way for young artists to try new things and refine their craft. And with their outreach — large numbers of readers, who are often eager to buy prints or buttons or books of their favorite strips — I shouldn’t be surprised at the congestion.

Curt Franklin and Chris Haley of Let's Be Friends Again

Curt Franklin and Chris Haley of Let's Be Friends Again

Speaking of webcomic collections, I enjoyed talked with Curt Franklin and Chris Haley of Let’s Be Friends Again. Their parody strips have a distinctive sense of humor, and I couldn’t resist picking up their first book, Under Pressure, reprinting the comics they’ve done up until July. In color, too! And they all have annotations underneath, making for more funny. (And sometimes explaining just what they’re referring to.) The front page of the book has caricatures of the two authors with blank balloons, and they filled them in with a personalized sketch and dialogue, making my copy unique. Ha!

Masterpiece Comics cover
Masterpiece Comics
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I also picked up R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics, but I missed getting it signed because I went to the critics panel instead. (More on that in a separate post.) However, I did get a free Drawn & Quarterly tote bag with it, which came in very handy by this point. (I’ll have another post on the minicomics I found interesting.) I loved reading these retellings of classic stories in perfectly chosen comic formats. Little Lulu in The Scarlet Letter is my favorite, although the new-to-me Dorian Grey as Little Nemo was also eye-opening. The oversized hardcover gives the whole thing the feel of a storybook, as well as allowing more room for the detailed art and text.

After a wonderful dinner with Xavier Xerexes, Jennifer and Caroline of Fantastic Fangirls, Jeff, and David Welsh, I had to drive home in pouring rain, the least fun part of the trip. But I got back safely and re-energized about the comic medium.

18 Responses to “Small Press Expo (SPX) 2009”

  1. Anatole Wilson Says:

    I was at SPX–amazing show! Jane Irwin’s Vogelein is still one of my favorite SPX finds. It’s too bad you didn’t get R. Sikoryak to sign your Masterpiece Comics–he obligingly did a character sketch along with his signature. The highlight of these conferences for me is always getting the books signed and getting unique sketches from amazing artists.

    It’s funny you mention feeling old. As someone who read your rec.comicss.misc. posts back in the ’90s, when–at the Ignatz awards–the host asked how many people present had been born after 1982, I suddenly realized I was now old enough to be the father of about half the attendees. Yeesh! but it was great to see so many “young people” excited about comics, and the growing presence of women creators and fans at the conference was also a welcome sight. A lot of energy there, a lot of great work!

  2. Johanna Says:

    Ha ha! I’m glad I’m not the only dealing with the passage of time. :) But yes, I do try to stay focused on how great it is to see continuing growth and expansion of the medium and creators. I am sorry I missed out on Sikoryak, especially hearing your description.

  3. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » SPX quick links Says:

    […] § Johanna Draper Carlson’s con report. […]

  4. Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] | Johanna Draper Carlson, Scott Edelman and Justin Kownacki are among the first out of the gate with their reports from the […]

  5. Back from SPX « Precocious Curmudgeon Says:

    […] catch up with her. She’s probably hard at work on a fuller write-up of the critics’ panel and posted a photo of me from the convention, taken during the three or four minutes when I actually had any responsibility […]

  6. Jeff Says:

    I hope your drive home was okay. I got into PA and the rain got even worse and came with bonus fog.

    It was great to (finally) meet you, by the way. Had a great time at dinner.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Yes, I’m sorry we didn’t get more time to talk. The problems of larger groups and long tables! My drive home was probably the scariest I’ve ever done, due to it raining so hard I couldn’t see the lines on the interstates around DC, but I feel better for having survived it, thanks for asking. :)

  8. News from SPX (Small Press Expo) « The Webcomic Overlook Says:

    […] off, some observations from Johanna Draper Carlson: I was surprised to see that the most popular area in the room, at least when I was on the floor, […]

  9. Fleen: Try Our Thick, Creamy Shakes » I’m Gonna Hold Some Of What I Got For Tomorrow Says:

    […] roundups are available from the usual suspects, with notes from exhibitors ranging (paraphrasing slightly here) from It rocked to It […]

  10. SPX 2009: The Critics Panel » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] only panel I went to at this year’s Small Press Expo was the Critics’ Roundtable. It was held at 3:30 on Saturday (the perfect time to take a […]

  11. Rob McMonigal Says:

    I love SPX so much. Was wondering if you were around, actually.

    I probably spent way too much picking up a lot of mini-comics, for the most part.

    It’s funny–I read a fair amount of “capes” stuff, but I have no desire to go to THAT kind of a con. But my wife and I are going to try and add at least 1–maybe 2–indie comics shows. Makes me wonder if maybe I should rethink some of my reading habits.

  12. Johanna Says:

    I’m absolutely rotten at bumping into people. (I think it’s because I only look at tables, not fellow attendees.) There were several wanderers I was hoping to see and missed entirely. And I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to my tote bag of minicomic acquisitions soon.

    You have a very good point about the cons having different feels based on their audiences.

  13. James Schee Says:

    Congrats to Paul and Jane. I love those card things she has in that picture. I know at cons, I always had a hard time remembering if I’ve already got something or the like.

    That card saying Book 2 clearly (couldn’t see the above excerpt) is handy.

    I miss going to cons! :(

  14. Johanna Says:

    The rest of the card for book 2 is actually a pull quote from me. I’d forgotten that!

  15. Quick Advice on Press Copies » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] came up at last weekend’s SPX, and it surprised me how many people hadn’t thought about it, so I thought I’d […]

  16. Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 29, 2009: Different lessons to impart Says:

    […] Small Press Expo 2009 Link: Chris Mautner, David Welsh, Johanna Draper Carlson (one, two), Ben Towle and Samuel […]

  17. Curt Says:

    Johanna, thanks for the blurb and it was nice to meet you. Hope you dig the comic!

  18. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I did! It was very cool, and the notes added a lot to my enjoyment.




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