SPX 2013 Quick Reactions: What a Terrific Show!

Loved going to the Small Press Expo (SPX) this year!

SPX logo

It’s great to see that a relatively long-running show has managed to hit new heights, with a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm from everyone I ran into. It’s definitely still the premier indy comic show. Due to family obligations, I was only there from 11-6 on Saturday (yesterday), which was barely enough time to visit the entire show floor, what with this year’s table expansion to 280. (Many of which had more than one vendor.)

I walked in at opening, and I thought at first I’d gotten the time wrong, because there were so many people already both set up and shopping. The show was nicely crowded right away, and pals were often too busy to chat, which is good — that means they’re doing business! Still, next year I’ll be sure to plan for two days at the show, since one just isn’t enough time to see all the vendors and visit with old friends. (Sorry I never got a chance to catch up, Chris Pitzer.)

Alisa Harris and Alison Wilgus

Alisa Harris and Alison Wilgus shared a table (apologies for the fuzziness!)

My first plan was to hit everyone I absolutely had to see, either to get new releases of favorite series or to pick up a couple of commissions, then walk the floor. Key advice: Stay in the con hotel! It makes it much easier, when you’re loaded down with books, to drop them off in your room and go back for more. I should have done that more times than I did, my aching shoulders protest.

After meeting with Alisa Harris and Alison Wilgus, two of my favorite webcartoonists (and people who know where to dress shop!), I was thrilled to see that Lucy Knisley was selling off her original art. I picked up four pieces to add to my kitchen wall of art about food by women. Alisa had also done a full recipe for me — I can’t wait to frame and hang it!

Jen Vaughn and Jacqueline Cohen at Fantagraphics

Jen Vaughn and Jacqueline Cohen at Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics was debuting several titles at the show, including Blake Bell’s The Secret History of Marvel Comics, which I picked up for KC. Jen and Jacq are two of the nicest as well as best-dressed marketing people to work with in comics. It’s around this point that I started wishing I was still able to drive to the show, since flying puts a real crimp in one’s purchasing plans. All those books have to go somewhere!

Carla Speed McNeil and Cathy Leamy

Carla Speed McNeil and Cathy Leamy

I’m glad to hear that Carla Speed McNeil is working on another Finder collection with Dark Horse, aiming for spring release. And Cathy Leamy, at the next table, is continuing her work with medical education comics. It’s at this point that I realized that I had only been talking with women. It was easy to do without meaning to, given how many women are making great comics.

I did take one picture of a guy, whose name I neglected to get. He had a nifty machine that, when you pushed the button, would spit out three words (like “Elvis kisses you”) which he would then use to draw a sketch for you. It was neat way to stand out and catch people’s eyes.

Sketch Machine

Once I get back home, I hope to talk more about the great minicomics I picked up at the show. Right now, they’re packed up, ready to ship back. Since I missed the Ignatz Awards, Tom Spurgeon has a nicely linked list of winners and nominees, plus some news from the show, including the coming Complete Eightball and upcoming titles from Uncivilized Books.

Update: Heidi MacDonald has a comprehensive post of links to show reports, plus some great observations of her own. I share her frustration at missing people you knew were there — for instance, I never saw Heidi! But this was a welcome reminder:

By now it goes without saying that SPX has a huge contingent of cartoonists who are women but there is also a huge queer contingent and a lot more cartoonists of color. Inclusion means growth.

Heidi mentions a generation gap, and I think that’s the most divisive (but not really) element of the show. I ran into a number of comics and creators where I didn’t recognize their influences or references, which marked just how far apart time can take you. I missed out on the partying for a similar reason. (I’m old and went to bed early.) On the other hand, I introduced some friends and realized that this was the 20th year I’d known them. That’s comforting. I hope some of the people I met this year I’ll be running into in the next decade.


14 Responses to “SPX 2013 Quick Reactions: What a Terrific Show!”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I agree, staying at the con hotel is now a must. Every table is packed with books, comics, mini-comics, and merchandise. Even with two days it’s a lot to take in.

    What surprised me most was the number of bound books for sale instead of pamphlets or mini-comics. Most were trade paperbacks, but there were some very nice hard bound books too. A friend pointed out that many were Kickstarter projects. So it’s interesting to see how the indie comic world is changing in that respect.

    I’m glad I got to see you there. Thanks again for recommending Cartozia Tales.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I was so glad I got to see you too! Sorry we didn’t have time for a meal. Glad you enjoyed Cartozia, too. It was fun actually recommending something in person.

  3. Doc Oracle Says:

    With this event happening almost in my backyard, I’m really sorry I missed it this year. I’m so happy to see that it continues to thrive. SPX 2014 might be the only show I go to next year.

  4. RM Rhodes Says:

    The guy with the nifty machine is Erik Heumiller.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Thank you so much! I was hoping someone could inform me on that. And here’s his website.

  6. Tara Tallan Says:

    SPX was such a great experience! We came home with many wonderful things, and there were so many more books I wish I could’ve taken home as well. And what a nice change of pace for me, having done a year’s worth of “comic” cons where small press comics seem to be a dying breed, to this one where there was an entire enormous ballroom full of creators.

    I’m so glad you were able to come by, Johanna! It was nice to see you again.

  7. Jim Perreault Says:

    This was the first SPX I was at in 6 years (as I’ve been out of town for the last 5).

    It certainly is a lot bigger than I remember it being. It also seems like the production values were a bit higher, It also felt less edgy and experimental than I remember. But maybe, that’s because there is so much more material available.

    I was only there on Sunday, and only attended one panel: on producing material for kids. It was fun to see luminaries such as Roger Langridge and Jeff Smith talk about their approach. ( Although, I never considered Bone a children’s book, as I started reading it back in college when you could only find it in comic book shops.)

    It is great to see DC having such a thriving convention.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Always good to see you, Tara! Isn’t SPX refreshing? It always gives me energy to see so many young creators.

    Jim, you’ve reminded me that Roger Langridge was the one person I wanted to see whom I missed. He was doing panels during my time on the floor. You’re right, this year’s SPX did seem to take several jumps, from size to approach.

  9. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Says:

    Hi Johanna. Just a note to say that “The Secret History of Marvel Comics” has 2 authors. I’m the other one. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo

  10. Johanna Says:

    My apologies, Dr. Vassallo! I’ve read Blake’s books before, so I was categorizing it incorrectly in my head.

  11. Dr. Michael J. Vassallo Says:

    Not a problem, Johanna! It’ll probably happen a ton of times again during this book’s run on sale. By the way, how did you like the book?

  12. Johanna Says:

    I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, unfortunately. My husband has first dibs on it.

  13. Beautiful SPX Trip Webcomic » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Jared Cullum, a cartoonist whom I did not know when I lived in Richmond, VA, but wish I had, posted a beautiful eight-page comic about his trip to this year’s Small Press Expo (SPX). […]

  14. Best Con Report of the Year » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] still great reading. Rob Clough posted my favorite convention report of 2013 in his writeup of the SPX show. This was the year the show expanded, and Rob tackles the size question as well as indications of […]

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