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My official report on this year’s Small Press Expo is up on the main CBR site, but I thought I’d take a few extra minutes and share some additional, hopefully more in-depth impressions of this year’s show.
1. Man it was crowded. Maybe it was because it was in a different ballroom this year (although only just one room over). Maybe there were more artists and tables than in previous years. Whatever the reason, SPX 2009 was packed, easily the most crowded I’ve seen it in a while, at least on Saturday, when I attended. I found myself frequently having to apologize as I attempted to make my way through the aisles, my increasingly heavy burlap bags slugging innocent folk left and right.
Many of the attendees and exhibitors I talked to agreed that it seemed like a busier Saturday as usual and most said that they were doing well sales-wise. I take that as a good sign, not only for the show, but for the indie comics scene in general. Obviously the show still provides a good opportunity for fans of inide comics to get out and revel in them.
2. People really love Kate Beaton. If you needed any further signs that the comics world is moving from print to digital (and perhaps back again) then you should have tried to make your way past the Webcomics side of the room, where Kate Beaton took on her appointed role as Queen of All She Surveyed, with a long line of the faithful anxiously waiting to purchase a sketch or book from her. She wasn’t the only Webcomics artist that seemed to be pulling in customers — Girls With Slingshots creator Danielle Corsetto seemed to have a steady throng of admirers — but Beaton was by far the most popular person in the room. I have no idea what larger significance that holds other than Beaton makes cool, funny comics that people like.
3. People really love comics criticism. That’s the only reason I can come up with to explain with the Critics Roundtable panel I was on was so well attended. They certainly weren’t there to see me. They might have been there to see Gary Groth or Tucker Stone (David Welsh, whom I finally had the good fortune to meet afterward, told me one of the reasons he attended was to see if Stone talked the same way he wrote. Short answer: Yes). Tucker later joked that everyone there probably was a blogger themselves, or had a comic they wanted to get reviewed. it was a lot funnier when he said it.
Anyway, it was an entertaining discussion though I didn’t get to say much beyond “Um, er” and I was really honored and grateful to be a part of it. You can download an audio file of the panel over at Sean T. Collins’ site.
4. People also really like that new Simpsons comic. Lots of people — at least the people I was talking to — seemed to be all agog over that new Simpsons Treehouse of Horror comic featuring indie folks like Kevin Huizenga, Ben Jones and Jeffrey Brown. PictureBox was selling copies of it at their table, and it kept coming up in conversations like “Have you seen that thing yet? Good lord.” I’d almost call it the Book of the Show, except …
5 I’m not sure there was any Book of the Show. Every year people try to suss out what the “big book” of SPX — the one that everyone’s buzzing about — is. apart from the Simpsons book, there didn’t seem to be too much of that kind of guessing this year, at least not that I could make out. People seemed to really dig Josh Cotter’s Driven By Lemons, though, which AdHouse was selling early copies of. Folks also seemed enthused by the latest issue of Cold Heat, and by Lisa Hanawalt’s new comic, I Want You. But there didn’t seem to really be any one title that broke through to the top of the pack and become the book everyone wanted or at least wanted to see, the way, say, Brian Chippendale’s Ninja did.
6. I cannot stick to a budget. I can make all the promises I want to about keeping within a reasonable range of spending, I ain’t gonna keep to it. Not when there are so many great books around that I’ve been unable to find at my local shop. Not when Fanfare/Ponent Mon happens to be in town. And definitely not when the CBLDF is having a $5-$10 dollar sale on most of the stuff on their table, including a hardcover collection of Transit that I had tearfully relegated to my “someday, perhaps” list.
As an unofficial seventh point, I’d like to acknowledge how was great to hang with folks like Jog and Tucker, finally meet respected online personalities like Welsh, Sandy Bilus, Xavier Xerexes, Sean Witzke (and many, many others) and just say hi to all the various artists, publishers and fans I know and respect. SPX has become a real highlight of the year for me, and it’s in large part due to the people I bump into there.