Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

September 20, 2012

A Few More Notes About SPX 2012


By Tom Spurgeon

* this is more of an extended series of thoughts about the 2012 iteration of the Small Press Expo, which took place over the weekend just past. This post supplements an earlier one here, one that's full of urgency written as the convention came to a close. Honestly? That other one is probably the better of the two to read. At this point in time, nobody wants to revisit a convention from the previous weekend, but there was a lot of stuff going that I want to think through, and I think through by writing.

* this was a really well-liked show, and I think deservedly so. Not everyone made a ton of money, but a lot of people did. You have probably encountered some of those figures by now, but the two that stand out for me are the CBLDF doing San Diego-level business and Fantagraphics matching its previous Expo total by 4 PM Saturday. Two people told me that Sunday traffic dropped by more than half from Saturday, but didn't mind because Saturday traffic was so good. That's something. People were actually wondering out loud if they would have a book to donate to the Library of Congress or if they'd sell everything. Nice problem to have.

image* Cheese Hasselberger and House Of Twelve was one of the few exhibitors who said they didn't do spectacularly well at the show. This may be due to the fact that they didn't have a significant amount of debut material, I'm not sure. No show ever works for everybody, and that's good to keep in mind, too.

* to my eye, SPX seems like a mature comic show, like a show that really knows what it's doing and tries to improve on its core model year-to-year and find better way to serve both its audience and its exhibitors. It's that mix of modular moves and refinements that always seems to mark a show in a good place. TCAF and Comic-Con have significant elements of that, too, particularly TCAF, although Comic-Con sometimes may not seem like it to outside observers because of the cataclysmic degree of change that's come with that show becoming a phenomenon. But SPX is humming. The way the guests blended together into a more pleasing whole? That's a mature show. Getting more exhibition space and only giving part of it over to more tables in order to increase the general comfort level? That's a mature show. Trashcans at every table? Well, you get the idea. If you contrast a show like that with a show that's in trouble or doesn't work, you can see these sorts of things play out in bold relief.

* as you can probably tell from reading any single post about the show, and as you certainly remember if you were there, there was also a genial mood in the air. Part of that was probably the mix of guests. Everyone on hand was nice, almost alarmingly so. I love comics' difficult people, the self-dramatic and the self-involved, but there weren't any of those folks in that room.

* part of that good mood was also likely derived from the fact that the part of comics best served by this show has roared through a really depressing 14 months or so. The nice thing about it is that you can see people have been dealing with all sorts of things, and that in a lot of case this involved making positives where they can. I have never seen so many comics people that looked healthier than the last time I saw them, and the last time I saw some of these people was 14 years ago. I even saw cartoonists in the exercise room, which I'm not kidding you is the first time I've seen a comics person within five feet of a non-steampunky machine with pulleys since I spied Kevin Eastman and Julie Strain working out in the Westin Gaslamp in like 1996 or something. I was agog.

* to use a negative measure, there was maybe one recipient of the "whoa, look at him" concern that sometimes bubbles to the surface at a place like this. That's a new record during my time in comics.

* I liked the convention hotel. They screwed up something in my reservation, and palmed it off on some service they use as if this service was somehow not hired by them to do this task, but I get that that happens. I tried to grind through to some Las Vegas-style savings -- a free night, a breakfast in the restaurant -- but they were almost spaghetti-western bad guy in their unyielding response. I figured out why later. There were literally no rooms, and people were asking for them. They had no reason to budge. The West Virginia University band was on hand, and there were like 150,000 of those kids as far as I could tell. At any rate, I thought that the hotel had all the things you want: a staff that wasn't openly contemptuous, desk clerks that knew the area a bit, an exercise room and pool, a lobby with free wi-fi and a lot of chairs, a serviceable restaurant, a bar, and lots of space outside to sit and hang out including one such space attached directly to the bar. Also, I think the parking was free. So not bad. $114 a night for a room at the Marriott isn't a bad price at all (that's what I paid through the SPX site). The hotel was even close to a train station I took all the way to Reagan on Monday.

* I also liked the spacing of the bathrooms, the way there wasn't one scary bathroom near the show but a variety of places you had to walk to for a little while. Granted, when you have a refined bathroom placement aesthetic like I do, it's maybe time to cut back the shows and take up some sort of camping or racquet sport, but there it is. Also: there's a publisher that apparently shouts trivia questions while he relieves himself, which is just weird.


* the neighborhood around the hotel and its bathrooms is super-lousy, though, let's just underline that one more time. I'm from the Midwest, so I'm pretty much that one guy from The Authority only my adaptive powers are specifically focused on strip malls, and even I found that area creepy. I've heard rumblings of a few decent restaurants out there close to the hotel, but I'm not sure I believe the hype. I'm guessing there were a lot of folks eating in their rooms, although I have no real back-up for that. I ate pretty good Persian a short hop from there, but it seems sort of hard to screw up Persian. If there was ever a show that suggested you be creative with your mealtimes, one where stealing away for dinner with a few close friends is an almost necessary skill, that's the one. Even notorious foodies Nick Abadzis and Angela Watson only batted .500, I think. (My thanks to Amy Beadle Roth for scouting out the landscape with great skill.)

* oh, and the pillows in that hotel were kind of awful. I could sleep on a bunch of five-pound Idaho potato bags, but I did hear multiple people complain and I've never heard anyone complain about pillows, ever.

* I spent my first evening and my last evening talking to Jaime Hernandez, my favorite cartoonist, so the weekend worked for me right there.

* later that night there was a group sitting in the bar, taking over a single table manned by Team D+Q and kind of turning it into a lengthy, jumbled mess of chairs and tables. It was pretty astonishing to see the talent on hand. (Cartooning talent, that is; stay focused, people.) Charles Burns was there, and I had no idea Charles Burns was going to be there. I think he just sort of drove down to hang out, which is intensely cool if you stop and think about it. At any rate, I guess what was funny was how wide a spectrum of reactions from deferential to clueless a lot of the other groups of people had to that table; both reactions totally understandable and admirable in their own way. As for table talk, there was at least one discussion of the CBLDF cruise, which sounds like it was one of those events that was horrific in the unfolding and hilarious in the retelling.

* the writer and cartoonist Tim Kreider showed up to scare everyone in his suit (okay, not really; he was actually there to see his friend Tom Hart). I guess Tim hasn't cartooned in a few years now, apparently, his comics outlets sort of dying with the Bush presidency. He's a very fine writer, though, and said his busy-ness essay had gone slightly viral there for a while. You should consider buying his book.

* yeah, Tom Hart was there. I was on a panel with Tom, and we barely talked, but it was nice that he was in the room. We were in a lot of rooms at the same time 15 years ago.

* I ran into Rich Tommaso, with whom I spent many an idle afternoon in Seattle when we were both in our "should have known better/should have worked harder" late 20s. A lot of cartoonists to whom I spoke were genuinely excited about the Sam Hill book Rich had at the show, that this was a complete project for Tommaso when a lot of what he's done over the last decade maybe hasn't been. Rich articulated to me a reason for self-publishing through crowd-funding and then using a publisher as a distributor I hadn't heard yet -- it secures for the artist certain artistic guarantees, like a certain kind of color, or bookflaps, that might not be available to them in a traditional publishing arrangement and the back and forth that tends to result over matters that might occur after a contract negotiation.

* Rich reported that we may soon see comics from the alternative cartoonist formerly known as Jeff Johnson. I was a big fan of Johnson's visual approach. Solid writer, too.

* I liked the badges just fine. They made it look like everyone was wearing a Jaime Hernandez t-shirt, which was cool. I'm not sure the names on the badges worked at all. They were very small. It's a tough thing, designing and executing a badge. But if the names had been bigger, those would have been perfect badges and they were certainly lovely, lovely, lovely. A lot of cartoonists wrote their name on them. If I could make a suggestion to future badge designers, consider a white tagged attachment at the bottom with the name in big, block letters, so as not to disrupt any other design elements. Anyway, the badges were cool, and Jaime Hernandez said he was excited for once in his life to have a "concept" in designing them, which made me laugh.

* okay, Saturday. That was crazy. Like super, super busy, and kind of at this manageable, tolerable, perfect, just-manic state: a 7-Up over cold ice.

* I thought the crowd was both whiter and older than I would have guessed if I had ended up at some sort of nerd sportsbook the night before the show. A friend of mine said there were a lot of crossdressers there, but I either didn't notice or was in some sort of complicated-patterning movement cycle where I saw no one in opposite-gender clothing. The show was about as male/female blended as I would have guessed.

* like I mentioned a few graphs up and in another post, the wider aisles were perfect in terms of allowing people to stop and stare and even talk as the mood hit them. Atmospheric things like that are hugely important to a show. One of the reasons I'm always worried when shows extend hours -- and I think SPX has, although they still seem modest to me -- is that it's an overall quality of show issue. Comics is a pretty intense experience, and you need room to breathe and time to get other things in. It only flatters the show itself. I hope people continue to pay attention to these things.

* one of the things I wondered about with this show is the idea that's been floated that maybe an art form isn't always playing to its advantages to present itself to its public in the form of a flea market. I get those arguments, and I'd love to see models like the one used by Fumetto (multiple locations with exhibits; a single, modest, commercial location) or the one to be employed by The Projects. That said, I'm not sure that the benefits of the flea market model weren't impressed upon me a bit by SPX. People know what shopping is, people like to shop, and the fact that people will pay for comics on paper is one of the medium's distinguishing characteristics right now. There's something very egalitarian about everyone just sort of putting their stuff on a table in front of them and standing there side by side, too. The need for commerce also encourages and limits conversation, which is super-handy. So I'm kind of unconvinced that a wholehearted embrace of non-commerce models is totally desirable for every show, and that's even before you talk about the likelihood of certain people ever being able to do a show if they didn't make some money there.


* saw Renee French, who looked fantastic -- I think she said she's cut sugar out of her diet. Saw Sammy Harkham and Frank Santoro. Talked to Dan Nadel. That's right: PictureBox -- they ended up having a really nice show. The Renee French mini and the new Harkham solo-anthology collection were two I heard multiple cartoonists mention during the weekend. Harkham's panel was praised, too.

* one thing that intrigued me about the show in another counter-conventional wisdom way is that I didn't detect the floor was overtly arranged to encourage traffic flow. D+Q and Fantagraphics were on one wall, but it's not like they had anything "balancing" those two Chris Candido-style cruiserweight monster heels in overt fashion. And yet the flow seemed to work. I mean, I'm sure some people were left out by certain quirks, but there was no huge dead space that I could see. It could be that the organizers know something the rest of us don't, but I suspect this is just a nature-of-the-show issue. People may congregate at one end or the other -- and the physical space at the D+Q/Fanta end allowed for line overflow into the hallway -- but they want to see everything they can on the show floor and that's an achievable goal.


* so: my people. Jog lost about 50 pounds or so. He looked great. Chris Mautner (above) looks to have have lost a few pounds of terrifying, beefy muscle he had a couple of years back, and I felt less nervous as a result. It was nice to see a lot of my fellow writers about comics. While I'm likely to forget a name or two, this included Rob Clough (first time), Sean T. Collins, Ed Sizemore, Heidi MacDonald (who was very nice to me all weekend), Calvin Reid and Michael Cavna (who has this wonderfully busy appearance and presence). Oh yeah, Matt Seneca, too. A lot more. Philip Nel. I got them all to agree to do things for me I'll never get around to asking them to do.

* speaking of Collins, I initially ran into him right before he was off to conduct a Rolling Stone web site interview with Ware, Clowes and Los Bros -- a terrifying murderer's row of great cartoonists. I liked how accommodating SPX was in terms of helping press get these kinds of interviews. No one's really overbooked, and there's a late morning and an early evening in which to slot things if the show itself demands too much attention. Speaking of which, I interviewed with my friend Gil Roth about my experiences last summer in what is bound to be the Godfather 2 of boring interviews. Gil does some comics-related interviews along with his interviews driven by prose literature, and I encourage anyone he asks in the comics world to respond positively to such an overture. I look forward to hearing Gil talk to R. Sikoryak. That should be something.


* hey, look at Gilbert Hernandez smile. Los Bros had a steady line of admirers at the show, which was really encouraging to me. They had good solo panels, too -- Frank Santoro talked to Jaime and got him to choke up a bit, and Sean T. Collins talked to Gilbert and applied to that conversation the benefit of reading the holy shit out of all of Gilbert's work sometime in the last year.

* as you may have heard, the programming was strong. This was the first show where I knew everything was being taped and would be made available in a way that gave me confidence I could miss a few panels I wanted to see. I can't impress upon you what a huge relief this is, and how long it's been since I totally trusted this was going to be done or that I'd get to see anything that I missed. I know that there are legitimate barriers to all of the shows doing this, but I'm glad we're moving in that direction. I don't like proprietary taping all that much, but I do enjoy an official record.


* I moderated a panel on institution building and comics. I thought it was sort of fascinating, although I'm not sure all of that came out within the panel itself. I thought the panel was good -- the people on it were super-smart and articulate: Tom Hart (SAW), Caitlin McGurk (OSU's Billy Ireland), Sara Duke (Library of Congress; that's her above) and Cheryl Kaminsky from the Providence support-of-arts space AS220. The questions from the floor were actual questions rather than statements of personal awesomeness with a question mark on the end -- I even liked the one shouted out by the man in the front row when it was apropos of nothing (about the Boca Raton museum Mort Walker had and why it failed; hint: "Boca Raton"). The reason I thought the panel was a good one even apart from the actual content is that we're due to think about all these organizations and gatherings of people we have, and this seems like a fine time to do so. I've always been kind of anti-comics institutions because of the exploitation rampant within our publishers. They're the primary institutions, and I'm not always happy with their conduct. I'm also distrustful of the idea of community as a concept there to placate folks that aren't rewarded in the more traditional ways they should be. But a show like SPX is a significant institution, with an arrangement with the Library of Congress and a library program and a fundraising function. There are publishers that have been around for a number of years that function way more benignly than the corporate overmaster variety. There are places like The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum that do their thing, largely on their own, without a lot of nodding and staring from the creative and professional communities they serve. There are publishing and arts resources centers more generally, including active ones in places like Providence and Portland that have a point-and-note comics pedigree. This sounds totally banal, but what I've concluded is I think we should make an extra effort to find organizations with which we can work in some way, if only because they can be effective. I'm going to try and make that specific effort. Comics needs to talk about the infrastructure of community, not just enthuse over the social aspect. The year after Dylan Williams leaves us seems like a fine time to start thinking about that kind of thing, anyway.

* it's nice to have booze within 50 yards of an exhibition hall in order to facilitate instant meetings. Also: instant boozing. Although my ideal would be to have a trained legion of St. Bernards with little Warner Brothers cartoon kegs under their chins working the floor directly, a nearby bar works, too.

* ran into Paul Karasik and Calvin Reid. Reid are Karasik are two of the many comics people -- Richard Thompson, Dan Nadel, Bill Boichel, Gary Groth, heck, even Steve Geppi -- with some sort of tie to the Washington DC area whose presence was either directly or indirectly felt at the show. Or at least discussed. You can't really argue Mr. Geppi and the entire DM apparatus had a lot of power over that room, even in contrast to the way the show was at its roots. The Pittsburgh retailer Boichel -- on hand to buy stuff at show's end and god bless those retailers that do that -- seems like the living repository of that area's oral comics history. I also appreciated his suits. Anyway, Karasik just got done teaching a master's class at Center For Cartoon Studies and said it went really, really well. He also said his strategy at shows like SPX is to pay attention to the people that for whatever reason are being totally ignored, which is a not-bad strategy. Calvin Reid enthused over the post-Reed PW and the amount of industry news there is in these Internet-driven entrepreneurial times.

* as Saturday wound down, people began to have that giddy, shit-eating, "holy crap that was an amazingly busy day" look on their faces.

* I asked rising college junior Conrad Groth if he had picked out a career path and he said "heir apparent" with just a dollop of his old man's casual swagger. That made me laugh.

* people more invested than myself have written about the Ignatz Awards. It was my great honor to say a few words about Richard Thompson as they gave him a special award. I like Richard, and admire his strip. It struck me in the totally idiotic, blunt way as I was walking up to the podium that it just sort of sucks what he's going through, so that and the day of talking to people probably put an emotional edge into my voice. It was fun to read his words in the letter he provided me; I felt like Mr. Danders or one of the other Cul De Sac arts players. The audience gave Richard a healthy round of applause in anticipation of his return to the show with something new down the line. I can't imagine he heard it, but I'm hoping he felt it. Lot of admirers in that room.

* after the show several people told me that it came out at Baltimore Comic-Con that Bill Watterson recently visited Thompson, which is startling and very, very nice.

* I liked that Los Bros won multiple awards, and I was stuck by Jaime lecturing the new talent winner that they weren't allowed to quit and had to do comics the rest of their lives. Like most of the older people in attendance, the presenters minus Nick Abadzis and Francoise Mouly were totally baffling to me, but I think that's good, too. One way comics is actually like a high school -- a high school with very few jocks, and more study halls than classes -- is that people conflate their own experiences with the entirety of what's going on. I know when I look at my high school yearbook I tend to see my friends but also all these other people and I'm like, "Who the hell are all these folks?" I feel that way at comics shows, too. Comics is worlds within worlds, and we always have to remind ourselves that there are tons of people out there, entire groups of people, entire webs of relationships and comics-making and likes and dislikes, many of which will have nothing to do with our own experiences.

* speaking at the Ignatzes kept me from trying to sneak over to the AAEC convention and see Jake Tapper and try to meet Zunar. I regret this as much as I am able to regret anything about that ridiculously pleasant weekend, which isn't a lot. But still: Zunar! Damn it. I'm glad that a contingent of AAEC folks came over on Sunday. It was nice to Matt Bors. No one's had a better year than Matt Bors, it seems to me.


* the Ignatzes afterparty in the back lobby and adjacent outside area went so well that several of the cartoonists initially giving the universal sign of "I'll be leaving soon" (arms crossed, staring straight ahead) stayed for a couple of hours. I'm told that Dan Clowes and Jaime Hernandez holding court and telling stories was basically inkslinging Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, they talk so smoothly together. A bunch of you said nice things to me, surely fueled by alcohol consumption and standing on your feet all day. I saw Ethan Rilly, which was nice. I did not expect the latest issue of Pope Hats to be out, and was happy to read it on the flight home. I got to sit and chat with Dean Haspiel, which was cool. I never talk to Dean. I met Dean at my first show as an official comics-type person, a Chicago con back in like '95, I'm thinking. Nothing else... just a lot of nice people talking and laughing. Dan Zettwoch actually went back to his room to get a bunch of people beer, because Dan Zettwoch is the kind of guy that does that and Brian Ralph is the kind of guy that asks people to do that. Ralphie, Ralphie, Ralphie. That's Zettwoch in the picture above, a photo taken the next day. I'm punching Ralph while taking the photo.

* when the good-looking young people on hand broke out the brown alcohol at about 2:30 AM, I fled in Digby Chicken Caesar careening-style terror.

* the first thing that goes when you're old and go to a lot of comics shows is your ability to stay up that extra late-at-night 20 minutes gossiping with your roommate, which sort of sucks when it's a longtime pal with all the good gossip. Sorry, Eric.

* a compensating virtue is that if you stick around long enough you eventually get to clear up rumors people heard about you a decade or more ago.

* I interviewed Dean Haspiel and Francoise Mouly -- separately, although wow -- on Sunday morning for future posts on this site. Francoise is a contender for best comics-related interview subject. She usually doesn't get brought up, but she's right there. Man, what a talker. Smart and funny and super-articulate. I could talk to her for many more hours than could possibly be fun for her. She said she had a copy of Renee French's Toon book, because she had apparently given it to Renee. So that seems imminent. I asked her a bunch of questions about Shark King, a book I liked quite a bit. Although actually, what happened was I asked one question and Francoise gave me like five great answers about Shark King because she's awesome at interviews. Francoise had a very funny, off-hand line about everyone having panels that took place during her well-received panel, although mine really did overlap, I swear. Anyway, any weekend I can do an interview and talk about William Shawn, I'm happy.


* this is the Koyama Press table. About a half-dozen people wrote in to say how much they admire Koyama's presence at the show, how devote the artists are to that company and how well they did. I think Anne Koyama is going to leave a huge impression on a lot of people currently working in not-quite-senior position in the comics industry. I don't know any other publishers right now where people will bring up certain moves they do in a "and then you know what they did? they did this" voice.

* Derf said he brought too many books but that he was having a good show. I don't think I was more pleasantly surprised by any book this year than My Friend Dahmer. He does this really ruthless and thorough job of indicting that entire Midwestern environment for not catching up to Dahmer before he flipped over into forcing his will and appetites onto others, at which point Derf totally places the blame on the deceased mass murderer. But he captures the big strokes and fine details in a way that made me really enjoy that reading experience despite the tough subject matter.

* here's a stray bit of publishing news that I'm not sure I knew that was probably public knowledge. Secret Acres is distributing stuff for Koyama in the states, and claims to be doing really well with it. It's like finding out a couple of your friends are dating. That's good, right? I also thought that Secret Acres might have bailed on Diamond, but I'm assured that totally wasn't true and that I'm an idiot for thinking so. So if you ever heard me say that... sorry. Not true. It was nice to meet Theo Ellsworth.

* and here's another one I'm not sure I've seen, but that's almost certainly on me. Tracy Hurren -- who was one of the two-person Team D+Q this weekend with Julia Pohl-Miranda -- is that company's new Managing Editor.


* here's another moment that struck me. I was talking to a couple of cartoonists who said they were just speaking to "Fantagraphics" and indicated some people behind them. I look over to see where they were indicating, expecting to see Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, or maybe Eric Reynolds, and instead I saw Jacq Cohen and Jen Vaughn, already back to working. It struck me that this makes total sense: they're what Fantagraphics is right now. That's good. The presence of Cohen and Vaughn even allowed me to use the "the only pretty girl that worked at Fantagraphics when I was there was Eric" joke, which is not only not true, is kind of stupid. Oh well. I mentioned the fact that the presence of the two biggest alt-comics publishers at the show were anchored -- in a sense, in Fanta's case, because Gary and Kim were around; literally in D+Q's -- by women under 30 to a friend of mine and they wrote back, "I approve."

* maybe my favorite exchange of the show was me telling Lisa Hanawalt in over-earnest, dopey, really-tired fashion how much I appreciated the more challenging work she continues to do and then having her give me a mini-comic called "Sell Your Boobs." She was sick at the front end of the show, but you'd never know it. Fun comic, too.

* Hanawalt was set up next to Mini-Comics Jesus himself, John Porcellino, for whom we're one day really going to have "Send John Porcellino Five Bucks Day." He had a new King-Cat out, which is good, because King-Cat is a perfect comics object. I like how he still seems to be a bit nervous asking after how you liked his latest.


* I went to the "life after alternative comics" panel, which as is often the case was a lot about "life during alternative comics" including a fun bunch of images for funny, drily sarcastic Dan Clowes and Gilbert Hernandez to pulverize. I think Bill Kartalopoulos' point with that panel was to draw a hard distinction as to what alternative comics means as opposed to post-alternatives and undergrounds, which is a worthy idea to enter into the culture. He got at the changing context in which various series were released, like the thought that Love & Rockets was interpreted as a superhero comic without the superheroes present because the entire context for understanding comic books by that point was superhero-oriented. Very thoughtful panels this year. In fact, the panel that followed the "life" one, with Renee French, Warren Craghead, Keith Mayerson and Aidan Koch, could even be perceived as a response to the artistic lineage represented by the special guests. That is some advanced panel-creation kung fu right there. I also appreciate that they were all short, even the ones that obviously could have gone longer.

* it was fun to see Craghead, and to be reminded how much I like his comics. Warren had my favorite line ever at an SPX some 12-15 years ago where he talked about his expectation that he'd show up and there'd be an open bidding war for his services between D+Q and Fantagraphics, a conflict to the death shouted into being right there on the exhibition floor. All the panelists in that one were good -- Renee French is one of the best comics personalities. She was close to Dylan Williams, about whom a lot of people were thinking and talking all weekend long.

* so I guess Papercutter is on hiatus while it's decided whether that one will continue. I think that's a fun anthology, but one without a context into which it could be naturally placed. Not anymore, anyway. I hope it survives, but if it never comes back you can't say Tugboat didn't give it a decent shot.

* I didn't detect a book of the show. You'd be fine stringing together any number of choices from various categories. The one hard-to-categorize work was a 'zine Jim Rugg put together.

* there was genuine applause when the show ended; not just relief-applause. I also thought it was interesting to be at a show that ends where people leave without being asked to leave, if that makes any sense. People just sort of behaved.

* D+Q had about five books left at the end of the show, although when I mentioned that to a few folks it was pointed out to me that maybe one of their shipments went missing going in...? Still, it looks like they had fun.

* I got to hang out with Frank Santoro that night (that's Frank with Jonny Negron and Benjamin Marra at the top of this post) and have drinks with Los Bros as they held court. Getting to watch Gilbert Hernandez interact with Michael Deforge a couple of times seemed significant to me in some unexpressed way -- it was nice, too. Frank is actually taking the time to drive Gilbert and Jaime around on the rest of their east coast trip. He's also resettling in Pittsburgh. No better comics guy than that Frank Santoro. I'm sorry I missed his comics sale outside on the porch. Someone needs to just film Frank doing that one of these days. Or mic him. That would be fantastic.

* Brett Warnock seems to rarely wear shoes. A friend of a friend commented that having met Chris Staros at past shows that he didn't quite understand Top Shelf and how they function until he met Brett. I get it.


* I don't have anything much to report from Kevin Huizenga, but I thought this was a nice photo and I don't think I'm interviewing him any time soon in order to use it in a more directly contextual fashion. There's going to be a book version of the Ganges material, which is good to hear. I'm pretty sure that's common knowledge at this point, but there are so many books coming out being reminded of something like that is what it takes to put it back front and center in your mind.

* I hope he doesn't mind me saying so, but Huizenga and I talked a bit about how to do a series right now; I think Kevin would like to do a series but hasn't quite figured out how to make that happen. Kevin's done two of the best alternative comics series: Supermonster and Ganges. In fact, I think Kevin is one of the best cartoonists, and I further think comics is better off generally when we look at the medium and the industry though the filter of our best artists. So if there's something unsatisfactory about series sales or how they work for one of our best cartoonists, I think we should work on it rather than simply throw our hands up in the air.

* I enjoyed watching Alex Cox and Charles Brownstein working together at the CBLDF booth. They come across very fraternal, that pair. Not actual brothers, but like fraternity brothers. Like fraternity brothers that once got into a fistfight just so they'd know who could take whom, but they don't ever tell anyone who won.

* Lilli Carré and Julia Wertz were among those that sold out of new books right there at the show. I'm sure there were dozens of others. Met Will Dinski and Luke Pearson -- separately, not together -- near the end of the show.

* I really did try to eavesdrop on come younger cartoonists and really did hear, first thing, one person saying to a returning other, "That was the longest dump you ever took." Both the dumper and the person commenting on the dumper have been interviewed on this site. She and he know who they are.

* a bunch of you readers were really nice and it was cool to meet you. Thank you for saying something to me. Thank you for reading.

* I left Monday morning on the train, and too it all the way to Reagan. (I basically did this in Seattle, too, and I have to admit that heading off to the airport for less than $6 and with no hassles is a wonderful thing.) I believe John Porcellino put on display his midwestern upbringing by taking a couple of people to the airport when he wasn't going himself, or at least that's what it looked like. I got my photo taken with Noah Van Sciver, who was nice enough earlier in the weekend to introduce himself despite I think being convinced I hate him. I enjoyed that new Abraham Lincoln book of his.


* my thanks to Gil, Amy, Eric, Warren Bernard and everyone whom I encountered on a deeply enjoyable and satisfying comics weekend. Congratulations to Team SPX. Warren earned that smile.

* it's not the kind of story that tends to show up on year-end round-ups because it doesn't involve some sort of licensed property being reconfigured, but it's been a big year for the comics festival/convention circuit. Things are beginning to fall into place for a number of outreach and gathering opportunities run by smart and devoted people -- a real calendar of worthy shows not to replace but supplement the way comics art finds its audiences. The matter-of-fact presence and example of so many iconic alternative comics talents, the idea floated through panels and by their own participation in various show events that comics' varied institutions are as important as having drinks and ego-stroking sessions with your buddies in terms of the comics community thriving, the idea that there are things to talk about in the art form and in the industry that don't involve the hard sell, these all seem like good things to me. I'd like to think I'd believe this even if it all hadn't been so damn pleasant. SPX 2012 was a 72-hour smile.



posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink

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