I had really low expectations for SPX. I had been on the wait list for months (number 7) and less than a month before the show I found out I got in. I was warned that it was a bad table, all the way in the back... but I didn't care! I had heard such great things about SPX and had to make it there! I quickly searched high and low for a table mate, who was going to be Ben Towle, but rearranging his plane ticket would essentially be buying a new ticket, so I was flying solo. Was this an omen for what my SPX experience would be?
Well, the rumors turned out to be true! SPX is the best show in almost every way! The table actually turned out to be great. There were huge crowds, so a lot of people were pushing their way through and when they got to the back they would take a breather and I was the first person there. I was frantically stapling and sewing my stuff together when the con started, but I never really had any down time on the first day.
I was lucky enough to drive up in a car with MK Reed, Liz Baillie, her husband Zane and Joe Flood. Joe narrated our trek through Jersey, which was also a drive down memory lane as we avoided all the toll bridges. We stopped at Wawa, which, like every stop in Jersey was infested with yellow jackets! Who knew The Garden State was this WASPY?
We got our badges from some guy who was being a dick to Zane, and for some reason mine said "DO NOT FEED" on it instead of the books I do, but Liz, Joe and I went to the gym to work off some steam. I pretty much flailed a weight around and stared at a TV without sound until Liz started showing me some Hapkido falls and we ended up punching one of those weird giant ball things.
Saturday morning I woke up super early, and my work senses must have been tingling because I found the Rockville TJ's. I grabbed some snacks and a toothbrush (and scoped out the art, of course!) and waited for the Old Navy to open so that I could buy a swimsuit. I had to run across the freeway to get back to the hotel... the whole place reminded me of Andy Warhol's perfect town, where everything is off of one giant road...
The actual con was great! I got some really great stuff from trading with people, and only left my table to see the panel on creating your own world, since the next big project I'm working on is a sci-fi/fantasy comic. It was great and informative... I especially liked Charlie "Spike" Trotman, who does a webcomic called Templar, AZ. It updates 3 times a week, which is amazing! It is a sort of alternate history comic, but the ideas she explored sounded interesting.
On Saturday I got to meet Mario Gonzalez, who came all the way up from Mexico. He is a great guy and I got his book Wyliman. Mario illustrated a piece for PILE DRIVER, and also happens to be Mayor of Hobotown! His book looks fantastic (available in English and Spanish) and he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.
I also bought Liz Baillie's Release the Bats (named after a Birthday Party song, so you already know it's good!) full of minicomics and collected works. I had some from the minicomics of the month club, but it's nice to have them collected in a book (especially since I'm missing some!) and it has this David Wojnarowicz piece I really really love and is worth the price alone!
I also bought Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro book, which I've wanted for ages. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and seek it out. It's put out by AdHouse books and is awesome!
GB Tran's book Vietnamerica looks incredible! It isn't out yet but he had a proof there and it was breathtaking! Definitely watch for that!
The following is a list of all the stuff I traded for, so if you want to skip it, just go past this text!
I got a stylishly weird and darkly humorous comic from Lizz Hickey, Sandcastle Syndrome by Hilary Allison, which has this yellow ochre/blue marker color palette that really gives the art this outdoorsy, dusky quality, Swear Not by the Moon and other stories by Olivia Russin, Grixly issue 13 by Nate McDonough (and this weird George Bush doodle art by his friend... sorry I forgot your name, dude!), two issues of Badzine (zines, yay!!!!)... and so much more!After the whirlwind Saturday show, the Ignatz awards began. Liz Baillie hosted, doing a "Fakenatz" award show simultaneously. Whoever guessed the presenter through a series of hints got a Fakenatz, which is a brick full of candy and wacky bands! Some savvy internet nerds ruined it by knowing who the presenters were, so she didn't get to show off her Jaime Hernandez tattoo as a clue.
I saw Neil Brideau, who I pretty much only see at cons. I got Spitting Pennies and Write Now! which are both fantastic! They have this quality that reminds me of being a kid, and Write Now comes with a secret pocket and a short story inside; Adventure Princess and the Mysterious Dragon, which is the story from the comic. It is about a girl who IS a writer in a class of kids that want to be something. It is cute and inspiring... check out more here: http://fromthewell.info/. I also got to meet Adrian James, who I'd seen around. I got Sooky Service LLC #1, and the art is fantastic! The world needs more queer punk comics! I think Adrian goes to SVA, so watch out! I also saw Katie Fricas, who I hadn't seen in forever and got her new comic (finished moments before the show!) Santa's First Christmas!
My table neighbor Reid Psaltis had some great prints of cryptozoology, and some awesome fold-out comics. I got Carry On, Carrion; A Crow Funeral and and anthology called The Matter, both are beautifully printed and have some awesome art! I snuck by Jamie Tanner, but he was talking to Mr. Phil, so he just slipped me The Retreat and Other Matters of Motivation and Relaxation which has his trademark stylish art.
After the Ignatz show I jetted to DC with Liz to see The Bouncing Souls. If you know Liz, you know this is her favorite band, but we were trying to get there early enough to see Defiance, Ohio open for them. We didn't make it, but the show was fun. I don't really know The Bouncing Souls at all (except through Liz's comics) but they put on a great show and have a song called "East Coast Fuck You" that I liked. We headed back down the hilariously named P Street to catch the train back to Bethesda.
By Sunday, I had done so well that I decided to not "work" the crowd and just draw. I had forgotten all my drawing stuff, and all I had was a ballpoint Bic pen. So I started to draw with it. This turned out to draw (get it?) more people than just saying "hi!" Everybody stopped to see what I was doing but then were amazed that I was using a Bic pen. So I might just do my whole next book with it! Definitely a con trick (get it? get it?) I will use in the future!
Throughout the weekend we ate at this 50s style diner that actually had a decent veggie burger and really great granola/banana pancakes. I need to plan better for going to places like Bethesda as far as vegan options, because it costs a lot to constantly eat out and it sucks to have to compromise. But everyone that worked there was super awesome, even amongst the throngs of cartoonists and families on Sunday.
Sunday night we got to swim, but only about 10 minutes, since we were so late. It was nice, though... I haven't swam in years!
The ride home was sleepy and hazy and New Jersey-filled. An endless bevy of toll bridges and country music and Primus. It was a great show... I got so much great stuff, met so many awesome people, and had a blast. And I have to come back next year 'cuz I missed the chocolate fountain!
I'm glad I'm not an SPX virgin anymore, and hopefully we can do it again some time. Call me!