Sunday, October 5, 2008


I made it.

My girlfriend Sam and I just got back from the Small Press Expo comic show in Bethesda, Maryland! Our good friends Dave Paggi, Matt Powell and Sean T. Collins rolled down there with us for the 4-hour drive and the combination of road trip, comics discussion, comic book buying and sketch-getting was exactly the level of fun I'd been eagerly anticipating since going to the show last year.

For those of you who don't know, SPX is a gathering of what is traditionally called "alternative" comics creators and publishers in one hotel ballroom in Bethesda. It's smaller than other indie shows I've been to like MoCCA (in New York City) but larger than others I've seen like Staple (Austin). They also have absolutely interesting panels at the shows that go beyond the traditional "here's what our comapny is doing this year" showing at your average mainstream con. The one I was most excited about this year and last was the Comics Criticism panel featuring a group of respected critics all discussing everything from how comics should be analyzed to what the average reader's personal responsibility as a reader is. It's eye-opening stuff and I've walked away from both, I think, as a more conscious fan.

I also attended a panel on the style of art called clear line and Herge, the creator of Tintin. Joost Swarte (Raw), the cartoonist who created the term "clear line" was in attendance and it was so exciting to see him talking about Herge and the evolution of cartooning since Herge was creating new works.

Anyways, the road trip down was rad cause we were all so hyped to get there that even my not printing out directions and getting slightly lost a few times didn't slow our excitement down, and we made it to our hotel around 12:45 at night before staying awake til 3 talking and laughing. We also totally played the hotel by telling them there were only 2 of us! Take THAT, Marriot!

We hit the show about 20 minutes after it opened at 11:00, and, within seconds, we were all seperated, having run off to follow our own agendas. Dave grabbed his Calvin and Hobbes sketchbook from Jim Rugg (whom he'd handed it to at another show), Matt ran after some sketches of his own for his book containing old cartoon characters, Sean did a lap to get a feel for the floor before diving into new additions for his Bowie sketchbook, and Sam and I did our own mega-fast lap to see where everything was generally located. The first thing I bought? John Pham's SubLife from Fantagraphics. I freaked when I saw it. Here's the rest of what I bought:

FIRST Picture:


  • Harvest is When I Need You the Most - I didn't get it at MoCCA so I was excited to see it here
  • Sublife - (I know the creator from MOME, and now I have a full book of his work!
  • Sulk - new comics from Jeffrey Brown!)
  • Afrodisiac - Jim Rugg's hard-hitting steet king in a mini all his own!
  • Dharbin #1 - an amazing little mini from Dustin Harbin. Harbin did that fantastic illustration of some of today's most talented indie creators and it's collected in here along with a bunch of other great stuff. Each issue has an open frame on the fornt and he draws these delciate little images inside it of your choosing. When he asked what I wanted, I was caught off guard so I said a banana cause he had one sitting next to him. He asked, "Really?" with a smile and I said, "I dunno. Shit, man." And so he drew a banana and a pile of poop for me. He's a great, talented guy who seems PSYCHED about comics.

Also Pictured:
  • You Ain't No Dancer #3 - the next edition of the fun anthology series
  • binibu barnabus - the only mini from Robert Goodin I was missing
  • 2 Robert Goodin postcards - made out of wood and featuring the Monkey and Alligator from his heart-breaking story and a little monster guy Sam liked
  • The Man Who Loved Breasts - Goodin's new original book from Top Shelf
  • Teen Power! - A hilarious collection of simple strips about being a teen
  • Pixu vol. 1 - the horror anthology colab from the team behind 5 (Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá)

Next picture:

Some of my favorite people to see at these shows are the recent graduates of the Center for Cartoon Studies and those guys were in the house with some new work!
  • Wall City - a Calvin and Hobbes collection-sized original story by the very talented Alex Kim.
  • insides - an icky, beautiful story from JP Coovert
  • Hey. psst! Be quiet. - a free (!) little mini from Joseph Lambert
  • Daffy - Chuck McBuck's mini, which I'm excited to read now that I've finally started understanding his Snake Oil series.
  • Sword - A new anthology from the One Percent Press guys surrounding a SWORD. You'll love it and the cover is beautiful
Also pictured:
  • Papercutter #8 - featuring Corinne Mucha, Elijah Brubaker, and Jeremy Tinder!
  • The 2008 Phase 7 Summer Supplement - by Alec Longstreth, a guy I love seeing with new stuff at the shows
  • You Ruined Everything - a collection of one-panel comics done as part of the 100 Themes online art challenge by one of my favorite creators, Greg Means
  • Poop - a cleverly titled mini featuring one-page gags by Sam Sharpe
  • Shithole - an also cleverly named comic by Corinne Mucha about a terrible apartment she stayed in
  • Return Me to the Sea - Sam Sharpe's Matt Wiegle-esque modern fairy tale
  • The Seed Collector's Daughter - from Sam Sharpe and David Goodrich
  • I Hate Mom's Cat - Corinne Mucha's funny mini about an asshole kitty

  • The Factoids of Life - Kevin Huizenga's new collection of informed comics
  • New Construction #2 - Kevin H.'s new set of thumb-nailed images from various comics projects, giving a look inside his creative process
  • Or Else #5 - It's out! Kevin H.'s next installment of the thoughtful series from Drawn & Quaterly!
  • Fight or Run - Ahhhhh! FOUR new Kevin H. books at one show?! This one's from Buenaventura Press and deals with a video game world of face-off fights that I believe is a continuation of what he did at the start of Ganges #2 from Fantagraphics.
  • Boys Club #2 - If I had to leave this show with only ONE item, it would have been this book by Matt Furie. I've been dying for it since I grabbed issue #1 at WonderCon in 2007. Now the book is published by Buenaventura and it's out and it's the funniest fucking thing you'll read this year.
  • A couple Buenaventura postcards with large Matt Furie art on the front.
  • Stay Away from Other People - Lisa Hanawalt's collection of odd drawings including detailed renditions of stylin' anthropomorphic folks
  • Boys Club t-shirt - WHAT?! Sean got the sea-foam green. Sam recommended I get the canary yellow. Dave decided not to get either in case he was at a aprty or some other gathering where Sean and I were both wearing ours so he opted for a Paul Hornschemeier shirt. I was excited to see them, but less excited about the exchange I had with the guy who sold it to me from Buenaventura, which went something like this:
Me: One Canary Boys Club shirt, please.
BP Guy: Sure! What size?
Me: Uh, how about large.
BP Guy: They're American Apparel shirts.
Me: Cool!
BP Guy: (Looks me up and down) You sure you don't want an XL?

BOOM! He got me.

Last picture:

  • Monsters #3 - Ken Dahl's newest work spotlighting the horrors of HERPES! Features an amazing screen-print cover along with the usual amazing art.
  • Why Did I Put This Town on My Face? - Matt Wiegle's new collection of scattered mini comics. Might I recommend also that you check out his work in the Sean T. Collins mini-comic called MURDER?
  • Kool Aid Gets Fired - Strange, goofy little mini about Kool-Aid Man dealing with some harsh realities. Cameos by your favorite name-brand mascots.
  • Four Squares - New mini from Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Liz Prince and Tim Finn
  • Cryptic Wit #1 & #2 - Gerald Jablonski's mind-bendingly dense comic
  • Pizza Wizard #2 (with free little post card) - The new issue from Samuel Gaskin
  • Eye of the Majestic Creature #1-#3 - The up-to-date run of Leslie Anne Mackenzie Stein's series that I can only describe as bendy and relaxed. I came in late on this.
  • Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth - Jon Chad's impossibly constructed comic about a man's trek from his home THROUGH the center of the Earth and out to the other side. It comes in a screen-printed, brown paper bag and he's bound it in a way in which you read from top to bottom as Leo Geo crawls down into the planet. It's really beautiful and FUN.
  • Please Release - Nate Powell's book from Top Shelf
  • Bets are Off - A Nate Powell mini based on a Pretty Girls Make Graves song. Nate was at the show, so I snagged it while I could.
And that's it. I've saved up for the last five weeks to spend the way I did and it all paid off. I also went and spoke with Jim Rugg. When I left Wizard, as a going-away present, the guys commissioned Rugg to do this AMAZING original piece for me:

It's Kamandi and Impulse (my two favorite characters) saving me from falling debris in an homage to this cover and kinda this one, too. I never got the chance to thank Rugg, so I did it in person. We chatted a bit and then I asked if he could contribute to my Watchmen sketchbook. I started it at MoCCA this year. I love Watchmen so much that I thought it'd be great to get new art featuring the characters since it seems like there's never going to be any from the combined might of Moore and Gibbons in the future. I'll post images from it later. For now, this is what I got at SPX.

When I told Rugg what the book was, he seemed happy to provide me with a sketch! Then he asked if there was a character I'd like him to do that no one else had done and I told him Dr. Manhattan. He laughed about how he "got" to be the first one to draw a penis in my book. After a full-page try-out penis in pencil (which I won't post until maybe later), he did this wonderful picture that does the God-like being right:

I also got one from Brian Ralph (of Cave-In and Daybreak fame). When I went to pick it up, he'd done this hilarious sketch:

Literally while I was scanning these images in, I found this other sketch ripped from the book and folded and placed in the back that he must not have liked. I'm not gonna post it, cause obviously he didn't like it, but it had Dr. Manhattan on a toilet, so it's needless to say I love it.

I also got some new additions to my tiny ninja sketchbook. I'll post the old one later, but at SPX I got one from Kazimir Strzepek (The Mourning Star).

And David Paggi.

and the mad-talented Drew Ewing

We left about 6:20 and drove on home, stopping at a rest stop for dinner. The show is now on Saturdays and Sundays (a change from the old schedule of Fridays and Saturdays) so that means we skipped Sunday, but we'd pretty much finished everything we came there to do/buy. We were all beat from the long show and the lack of sleep the night before, so discussion was a little splintered by long bouts of exhausted silence, but we still had a great time. We ended the night dropping Sean off at Penn Station in NYC, bringing the tally of states we'd been in on Saturday to 4.

I love a convention that reminds you that people are excited about comics and that's what SPX is. No matter how high-brow the comics are or how accomplished the creators are, there's tons of amazing stuff to see and tons of enthusiasm.

Now I can't wait for next year...


Anonymous said...


Thanks for coming out to the Critics' Roundtable! It was exciting to see so many people show up for that panel.

--Rob Clough,

Dustin Harbin said...

Hey thanks for the kind words about my mini and about my PSYCHEdness! It was a pleasure to put poo on your comic.

HardtravelingHero said...

Awesome write up, Rickey. Now I've got some kind of template to follow for blogging about all the future shows I attend!


Unknown said...

I'm trying to collect the works of Sam Sharpe. The Seed Collector's Daughter is the one thing I'm missing. I'd give you $10 for it.

Unknown said...

Plus $5 for shipping!
That is, if you still have it or are willing to part with it.