This is a lovely video shot at this year’s Small Press Expo in Maryland last weekend. I was impressed by how well it captures the feeling and the mood of the show — if you’ve never been to SPX or a comic show like it, take two minutes and watch the video. It’s really lovely, and it gives you a good sense of what this whole nonsense is all about.
This was my fifth year at SPX, and I like to think I’ve come a long way since those first strange days when we were convinced we had to be loud and attract attention to our booth with stunts like organized staring contests and freestyle rapping. SPX is a peculiar convention because it’s held in a hotel in North Bethesda, and while there are some restaurants in the neighborhood and a subway stop nearby, it’s dissimilar to the other two major indie-comics shows (New York’s MoCCA and San Francisco’s APE) which are held in major cities where folks don’t lodge near the venue and everyone scatters as soon as the doors close each day. SPX is a capsule, a spaceflight full of cartoonists that launches with everyone hermetically sealed inside. It’s sort of like going to comics sleep-away camp, where you check in, hole up for a while, do some crafts and sing some songs and then emerge a few days later with a new outlook on life.
This year Dave Kellett and I decided to do the red-eye from LAX so we’d arrive the early morning before the show. After a quick nap in the hotel and some bleary breakfast, we set up our wares and got ready for an incredibly busy day. Part of the fun of SPX is seeing what conference is invariably scheduled for the banquet hall next door — last year it was a Miss Teen Maryland competition; this year it appeared to be something having to do with eye diseases, if the giant blown-up photos of corneas were any indication. Maybe next year it’ll be a Miss Teen Conjunctivitis convention, and maybe the year after that they’ll think twice about allowing me on the planning committee.
Anthony Clark, of Nedroid, premiered his new book Beartato and the Secret of the Mystery at the show; it’s a TopatoCo book which I helped Andrew design and set up, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. If you don’t read Nedroid, you should, because it’s remarkable, a comic that’s both hilarious and wonderfully, actively pleasant. You should pick up his book too. It is that rare jewel, a work that is enjoyable for just good ol’ everyone.
After a full day of comickin’ on Saturday and some additional comickery on Sunday, I spent Monday in Washington, D.C. I’ve already mentioned how last year I missed my Monday-morning flight home and killed the entire day waiting for the next one by browsing the old newspaper records in the Library of Congress, looking for interesting articles about beards. This year I only got as far as the Library’s coat-check to drop off my luggage before heading to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. The last time I was there I was ten years old, and my mom knew to allot the entire day. I felt that just the same this time.
It’s funny: I didn’t recognize at all the layout of the museum — I’m sure they’ve remodeled the place in the last twenty years — so it was like exploring a brand new place, an awesome hall of airplanes that I might as well have never seen before. (I guess the place could have been exactly the same, but I was just way tinier then.) I get giggly around airplanes, especially old airplanes; I probably made some weird noises in the museum. Luckily it was loud in there.
IN CONCLUSION: SPX was once again great, meeting folks and saying hi to some I remembered from years previous, hanging out with friends and colleagues and making new ones too. These are the days, in my strange profession, when I am “at the office” — my cubicle is a convention table, my shift a 10-hour day of shifting on my feet and trying to hold conversations in a room where hundreds of other people are trying to do the same. It’s marvelous, and I can’t wait to do it again.