This year I attended my first Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, in what seemed like only a couple of days after the phenomenal Boston Comic Con. I drove down a little ahead of the Expo in order to attend Dean Haspiel’s talk at the Library of Congress, celebrating the donation of over 600 minicomics from his personal collection to the Library, but also the ongoing collection that will house Ignatz Award nominated comics and other worthies drawn from SPX each year. It was a proud day for comics, and plenty of other comics folks turned up for a tour of the impressive comics holdings the Library already had on offer. If you’d like to see my coverage of that event for The Beat, you can find it here.
After returning to the hotel for a spell, some of us headed back into DC for the Literary Death Match event featuring Dean Haspiel and the Beat’s Heidi MacDonald as judges. It was a hilarious event hosted in pro fashion with a whole cast of talented cartoonists competing through wits and art.
When SPX finally opened the next morning, the crowds were impressive and I realized right away how special the Expo was. I’m new to indie comics, and this was a premier festival for creators and fans of the self-published, off-the-beaten path and even hand-made in comics. I was overwhelmed by the well of creativity I saw there, and tried to pick up a wide selection of minis produced in different ways. I talked to lots of creators, hearing their stories and motivations in the creative process, but I also saw the way in which everyone enjoyed seeing and talking to each other in an environment in which their efforts were understood. Add to that the all-star cast of famous names attending SPX this year from Daniel Clowes to the Hernandez Brothers and Chris Ware. It made for an ebullient atmosphere. It wouldn’t be far fetched to call the event one big comics party, but a party where people made record sales from interested attendees. This really signals a rise in popularity and recognition for indie comics.
I spent a lot of my time attending fabulous panels, hearing straight from veteran comics people about their careers and the future of the form, and covered lots of them for The Beat. You can see my day one coverage and day two coverage with pictures if you’re interested.
I also covered the entertaining Ignatz Awards which was one of the most up-beat ceremonies I’ve ever witnessed, not to mention the sprawling late into the night parties that followed. It left me broken down by Sunday morning, but ready for more knowledge. A full day of panels (reinforced by a great cooked breakfast) kept me on the move.
[These fine fellows are Jim Dougan, Dean Haspiel, and Joe Infurnari, all of whom create comics]
Driving back, my mind was literally still spinning with all the wit and wisdom I’d been a party too. As Warren Bernard said to me, it would be very very hard to top SPX this year, and as people started responding to the event online, it was clear that everyone had just as good a time as me. It was a crowded, lively, welcoming Expo, bringing in new readership and talent. I’d highly recommend people interested in comics attend in future years, whatever genre you’re into. It’s increasingly evident to me that comics is actually a fairly small world and if you want to hang out with like minded people, SPX is a premier place to do just that. Two thumbs up!