Taking a Look at SPX 2008

Taking a Look at SPX 2008

The 2008 Small Press Expo, a major event on the calendars of many independent, small press, and handmade comics creators, was held October 4th and 5th at the North Bethesda Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center. The event, colloquially known as “The Expo” or by its initials “SPX”, moved from its usual Friday/Saturday format to a Saturday/Sunday set up this year.

On Friday night, a reception was held for exhibitors where they could also pick up their registration information to expedite Saturday’s opening day procedures. Old friends caught up, and new friends were made. Attendance at the reception was steady, with people coming and going as they pleased and snacking on the various appetizers provided by the hotel.

Saturday the hall opened to creators early and the doors were opened to the public at 11:00AM. The space quickly filled up with many exhibitors commenting on how bustling the first couple of hours were.

The list of exhibitors featured such fan favorites as James Kochalka, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, Alex Robinson, and Andy Runton, as well as stalwarts of the mini-comics scene Alec Longstreth, Liz Baillie, Marcos Perez, and others.

The Expo is also noted for having international exhibitors. Included amongst them were Swedish cartoonists Simon Gärdenfors and Johannes Klenell attending in support their collection of Swedish comics titled From the Shadow of the Northern Lights, the Dongery comics collective from Norway, and Lisa Drake and Arletta Smolinska from Guelph, Ontario, Canada exhibiting their mini-comics and zines.

Programming that was planned for the first day included discussions with Tom Tomorrow, Bryan Lee O’Malley, the contributors to the Kramers Ergot books as well as panels focused on the work of Tintin creator Hergé and his Clear Line style, children’s and young adult comics, and editorial cartooning.

By the end of the day, there seemed to be no big buzz book such as years past, though there was interest in Fanfare/Ponent Mon, a translator/publisher of manga that originally appeared in mature readers magazines in Japan. They debuted The Quest for the Missing Girl by Jiro Taniguchi which has just been solicited by Diamond. Being the only publisher whose offerings were primarily manga, they garnered the curiosity of a lot of attendees.

The first day of the show wound down at 7:00PM and was followed at 9:00PM by the Expo’s Ignatz Awards ceremony.

After a welcome message from SPX organizer Karon Flage, Heidi MacDonald hosted the awards. Liz Baillie presented the award for Outstanding Anthology or Collection, which went to Papercutter #7, edited by Greg Means. Supernatural Law creator Jackie Estrada presented the award for Outstanding Comic to Snake Oil by Chuck Forsman. The Outstanding Graphic Novel award was presented by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley and went to Mariko and Jillian Tamaki for their book, Skim.

Rob Clough presented the award for Outstanding Story to Lilli Carre for The Thing About Madeleine. The Outstanding Debut award, eligible only to those comics who are debuting at SPX, was presented by Kazimir Strzepek to Nate Powell for Swallow Me Whole. Jason Lutes, creator of Berlin, presented the award for Outstanding Series to Chuck Forsman for Snake Oil.

Babysitter’s Club graphic novelist Raina Telgemeir presented the award for Outstanding Mini-Comic to Jesse Reklaw for Bluefuzz. James Kochalka presented the award for Outstanding Online Comic, but not before extolling the virtues of doing online comics. He stated that they were superior to print comics in one way: “They glow! They fucking glow!” The award went to Chris Onstad for Achewood, and it was accepted by someone in a gorilla outfit.

Nick Burrier presented the Promising New Talent award to Sarah Glidden for her work on How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. The final award, Outstanding Artist, was presented by Whiteout artist Steve Lieber to Laura Park for Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream.

Though not an official part of the programming, many of the exhibitors went to a karaoke bar where they preformed their renditions of their favorite ‘80s tunes.

The second day of SPX started at 12:00PM with many exhibitors tired from late night shenanigans. Many were wondering what attendance and sales would be like considering the change in days. Some creators were planning on leaving early, especially if they had long drives ahead of them.

The beginning of the day was busier than Fridays in the past, which was the real measure for a lot of people to determine if having the Expo on Sunday was a better move than being on Friday. Friday’s programming included discussions with Ben Katchor and James Kochalka as well as panels focused on collaborative cartooning, editorial cartoons, small press publishing, and a Center for Cartoon Studies workshop.

SPX’s second day came to a close at 6:00PM with still quite a few attendees making last minute purchases. The exhibitors packed up and headed home, with plans for next year’s show percolating.

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