September 18, 2019
The Never-Ending, Four-Color Comics Festival: Shows And Events
By Tom Spurgeon
* I had a really good time at SPX
this year. Some quick notes in succession.
* It was hard as hell to drive there west to east this year. That's usually drive of just under six hours from Columbus, meaning it is reachable up from a fair number of substantial eastern-half cities. It was ten this year, and there were a lot of stories about fog drifting down into the Cumberland Gap and general highway-construction chaos surrounding Pittsburgh, any number of which I can confirm. I drive down to transport boxes for CXC, and mission accomplished there, but there will likely be weather-related and general decline of American infrastructure related hassles for regional travel in the future. It's going to be harder to get to these shows. I think we're near the end of more than a few people doing double-digit shows in any one calendar year.
* the hotel was much the same in most places. The new rooms are fine. I like any comics show hotel with a pervy-looking water stick. A few people were freaked out by the combination of the hotel's bar and restaurant in to a big open area spilling into the lobby, although it seemed like the restaurant part was more frequently used than usual. It also made going outside more an active choice than a default choice, even though there will still plenty of people in the traditional nooks and crannies.
* seemed like there were more older cartoonists than the year before. I don't think this was at the expense of younger cartoonists, who still dominate the show numbers-wise and culture-wise.
* I saw two babies I was interested to see: Eleanor Davis' and Meredith Gran's.
* this was a good book show. SPX usually is, particular for early-career books, but there was a nice combination and then veteran cartoonists with major works. Chris Ware, Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga, Eleanor Davis, Emily Carroll, Connor Willumsen, Frank Santoro, they all had really hefty, not-messing-around books out there, as did a ton of others.
* the crowd is always amazing at SPX, and when it's buzzing and fully engaged with the table set-up in this surprisingly complete and fascinating way it's also just one of the best things to see
in comics. The attention seems to me extremely egalitarian in the context of the differences in talent involved. There's an audience for just about everything, and smiling faces from people some of whom I rarely see smile.
* I saw a very good panel spearheaded by Carol Tyler about comics where cartoonists tell stories of giving birth. A lot of people cried. Carol had a bunch of family around her and took some time Sunday to sightsee.
* Craig Fischer did an excellent job of hosting the Chris Ware and Eddie Campbell in discussion panel. Those two were great together, and there was one question that floored me whether those artist's individual fatalism grew out of their comics-making or was caused, at least in part, by the act of making comics. Very sizable crowd, although I'm not sure how it matched other crowds over the weekend. One thing I laughed at was the "Awwws" Chris Ware's story received about how as a kid he would kiss the TV out of love for a show he might watch because he wasn't sure he'd see the show again. That awwww was the most SPX reaction ever.
* that photo is by Gil Roth, whose twitter you should follow
until he posts his SPX podcasts with Ware, Annie Koyama and Sylvia Nickerson.
* I think both of those men are great cartoonists. I'm reading Rusty Brown
right now, and The Goat-Getters
was massively slept on. Campbell has a sequel to that book about the transition of sport cartoons into daily comics that he was carrying around the show in mock-up form. I have no idea of its status but I hope it's published.
* the late night mood was light-hearted, although there was an edge to it in terms of general economic worry for cartoonists, just simply finding a way to have one's comics contribute to a bottom line, someway, somehow. I learned Zack Soto has been at Oni Press since July, and talked to one cartoonist who is working on something for them because of it, so I hope that goes well. I don't even read or watch the things that allow me to participate in young-cartoonist small-talk, which also confuses me on a structural level, but people were nice. People were nice all weekend.
* I quite liked the Jaime Hernandez/Katie Skelly conversation moderated by Rachel Miller. Those two have an interesting friendship buttressed by similarities in approach to art -- which is the best kind of friendship. Miller was adept at keeping them on point. My friend Dan Wright says that everything that comes out of Jaime's mouth is interesting to him these days, and I agree that he's been a particularly great interview the last two-three years and into this one. Skelly announced Maids
for Fantagraphics and according to my eavesdropping will probably be aimed at the late-Fall part of the publisher's schedules. It's her first non-fiction, which I hadn't realized until seeing the panel.
* Simon Hanselmann had a great show in terms of lines attention. I was happy to see and hear that, because I think Bad Gateway
is probably the best book he's done and this may be a sign he's past the typical initial pushback and we may see a lot of work for him for a while.
* it was fun to talk about TV shows from the present and the future with my comic-book friends.
* Matt Bors was a nice presence at the show. He's out stumping for the future of The Nib, and there were enough people there he hadn't met before that was fun to watch, too. They were well-supported, and won an Ignatz.
* I do not know the general results of the Ignatzes, and will catch up to that post on the site this weekend. I think that Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell and Mariko Tamaki won multiples. I did hear some wondering out loud if a First Second Book was a best choice for a show that try to foster support for independent publishing companies, but I didn't hear anyone complain about the book itself. I think the Ignatzes have always had a pretty loose definition of how that factor plays in, and can certainly scramble to such a position with any set of judges setting the bar where they like. Might be something they move into in the future, especially as the bigger companies become more what the broadest expression of big-company comics looks like.
* Warren Bernard gave a speech about ageism that I did not see. Reaction I encountered on the floor seemed split between generational lines, mostly on the subject of when and why one might best use the language of inclusion. I imagine there's still a lot of work to do, but that this will happen as cartoonists like Kevin Czap and Carta Monir and countless others become better known and describe though both talk and action how best the industry evolves to suit a community that includes all of these new members and their concerns. I look forward to seeing what that younger community does.
* I'm really grateful for as many who walked up to talk to me about comics or whatever during the show. If I looked tired, I am.
* saw people being friends together I didn't place from a previous SPX and realized I had seen them meet at CXC, which made me feel great.
* Here's to 25 more.
* I miss the fried calamari.
* and to end, a bit of announcement news: ICAF will return to SPX in 2020
. That's a good place for it, given the number of schools nearby, the weight of the comics festival and the chance to bring in non-US cartoonists.
posted 5:25 pm PST
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