My first time at SPX was a mixed experience. I had a blast hanging in the cartoonists concentrate of the Bethesda Marriott, sold a lot of Vortex and my two risograph minis, and brought home a heavy stack of fantastic comics, but I was unable to fully represent Sparkplug due to a shipping snafu.
On Friday, my hotel roomie and I caught a metro ride to join my friend at Fantom in downtown DC for a hot and humid but fun book signing with Farel Dalrymple, MK Reed, Brandon Graham, and others. We checked out Fantom’s inventory – DC is lucky to have such a great shop!
Saturday morning I was dismayed to discover that the box of books that Sparkplug had shipped to the hotel wasn’t at my table. Sam Marx, the friendly SPX Exhibitor Coordinator, and the hotel staff scoured the loading dock but the box was never found. So instead of a table full of books, I had a minimal installation of Vortex, Cold Heat Special #10, and Sphere Fear (which luckily did arrive at the hotel).
I hadn’t seen Sphere Fear before the show (published by Yeah Dude Comics). I was a worried about my riso color choices (orange and green – I worried that it would be unreadable but I wanted to expand beyond pink and blue) but Issue Press did a wonderful job printing the minis, they looked beautiful and I sold out of my comp copies. Look for it on the Birdcage Bottom Books distro soon.
After the morning’s disappointment I rallied. I was in an auspicious table location – to the right of Benjamin Marra and around the corner from Frank Santoro, who was selling treasures from his long boxes unearthed from the basements of comics history and promoting the IndieGoGo campaign to fund the embodiment of his school in a physical building, the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency (contribute to this exciting cause if you can), and supporting his table neighbors with snacks.
Sparkplug Books intern Jenny Flax brought the Sparkplug tablecloth and postcards to the table.
I tried to stay rooted behind my table but I couldn’t help but slip away to check out the rich outpouring of talent at SPX. Since moving to Kansas City I’ve been in a bit of an art comics desert so this was an oasis for me. My favorite book was the Blades & Lazers collection by the aforementioned Ben Marra, fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign, including a bad-ass genderbent comic by Lale Westvind and Keenan Marshall Keller, and brilliantly printed in fluorescent pink and metallic blue spot colors, genius choices by the Sacred Prism publisher. I also really dug Mickey Zacchilli’s Venom riso mini, which boils super villain angst and vicious energy down to their viscous essences; the very metal horror-fantasy book Azzuldekkon by Alan Brown; Meghan Goes to McDonald’s, Meghan Turbitt’s hilarious and absurd collaborations with her comics students; and Pat Aulisio’s Infinite Bowman, frenetic psychedelic SF that riffs on 2001. I got a lot of other great books too and I’m slowly reading my way through my pile.
Saturday night I stayed out far too late and got to hang out with a lot of great people. I love how everyone stays close to the hotel, it’s very convivial. I’ve been to enough shows at this point that I have a crew I usually hang with and most of them were there. I didn’t attend the Ignatz award ceremony but it was great to hear that so many skilled women were recognized, especially after this year’s Hugo nonsense.
Sunday was slower than Saturday. Sales were steady but I noticed a definite shift in what people bought – Saturday was all about the risograph minis and Sunday was for books.
Sunday night I took it easy – got dinner with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend; played (and lost) a round of the Magic card game, which was a fun nostalgia trip; and soberly talked with some people at the bar before trying to get some restorative sleep before my early morning flight. When I got up to catch a cab at 5am, a few people were still up, jam drawing. Next time I’ll have to get a later flight!
Despite the lows, I loved SPX and the close-knit atmosphere it emits. And thanks to Alex Hoffman and Matt Moses for being great hotel roommates. Sharing a room made the trip a lot more affordable for me. I can only do one out-of-state show a year and SPX might be my choice in 2016 too.