September 18, 2011

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SPX 2011 Wrap-up Post

It has been an incredibly busy time of my life recently, but I could not let the opportunity pass to share my thoughts on my most recent visit to the best show of the year, the Small Press Expo.  As usual, I had an awesome time, and am already counting down the days to next year's visit.

This was a different SPX for me because I normally go on Saturday, but personal reasons prevented me from being there on the first day of the show.  My understanding is that it was a record-setting day, with crowds exceeding previous attendance marks.  It meant that things were quite crowded and I missed out on a few things that were already gone by the time I attended the show first thing on Sunday.  On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of crowds, so perhaps it was for the best that I wasn't there.  (I am, however, so very happy for the exhibitors, several of whom are my friends, who got so many people to look at their stuff!)

In exchange for not making the show on Saturday, Erica and I made a rather longer trip (because I was too tired to think logically) down to make our first-ever appearance at the Ignatz awards.  Like the show itself, the awards presentation was packed to overflowing.  I ended up standing on a chair to see what was going on.

Unfortunately, between so many people and sound trouble, it was a bit hard to enjoy the presentations.  Dustin Harbin was a great choice of host, balancing sarcasm with optimism in his trademark style.  He definitely talks in the same way he comes across in the printed page and online.  Harbin worked through the problems, kept people laughing, and made sure everything went smoothly.  If they do repeat hosts, it would be great to see Harbin host again.

One thing that was interesting to me was that you could almost do the Ignatz by acclamation.  Generally speaking, you could pick the winner by the applause as their name was called when listing the nominees.  I was rather unfamiliar with the candidates this year (gonna try to fix that in 2012), but it was great to be part of the atmosphere and do some casual talking with comics folks.

Before we knew it, it was time for Erica and I to get back in the car and drive down for Sunday, where we could celebrate "comics Christmas" as we've come to dub the show.  I quickly walked around to talk to some of my friends, such as Sara Lindo and Rob Ullman, and to find certain books I wanted before they sold out, such as the Time Traveller's Pocket Guide and Katie Omberg's Gay Kid 3.

I followed my own advice and browsed before I bought, getting only those things I knew I wanted.  After sitting in on my only panel of the day, Johanna's discussion of publishing, I made my way back upstairs and worked the show floor.

I have to say, I was quite pleased with one change this year:  I saw a lot of creators who had books that were $1, $2, and $3, and I picked them up accordingly if they interested me.  Some were as high as $5, but for a suitably-sized comic.  I did not see nearly as many $10 for 10 pages books as I did last year.  That was my biggest complaint last year--comics that were priced too high for what they were.  Give me something to try first, and if I like it, I will definitely be back for more.

Speaking of back for more, I had quite a few people who I got more from, one of the highlights of the show for me each time.  I had new material from Harbin, Ullman, Bill Roundy, Omberg, Joey Weiser, Nate Powell, Anne Thalheimer, and Noah Van Sciver, all people who I encountered at SPX in years past.

Naturally, there were newcomers to my collection as well, and I can't wait to see who gets added to the ranks of people I want to buy things from at shows like this.  Watch for reviews!

A big change for me was spending less money on the "big" publishers.  We only got one book from Top Shelf because they closed up before the end of the show, nothing from Fanfare (they were sold out of most titles by the time I got to them), nothing from Drawn and Quarterly (ditto), and only two Fantagraphics books.  Part of that was circumstance, but part of it is that honestly, I can get those elsewhere.  My priority is on stuff I can't find at Atomic Books, my local (and awesome) bookstore.

Sunday is a shorter show day, and I think had I been there on Saturday, I would have bought a few more things that interested me but not enough to commit before the show ended.  Looking back, I don't think I took enough chances on books that maybe cost a bit more than I usually pay or spent some money taking $1 and $2 fliers.  Next year, I think I will budget some money just for "take a chance" purchases.

SPX was once again a great experience for the two of us, and I couldn't be happier that it's doing so well that they have to expand!  Next year, SPX promises to be 50% larger, with more room and more attendees.  In other words, my comics Christmas just got even better.  I cannot urge you strongly enough to join me and the rest of these wonderful people at SPX next year!  It's an experience you won't forget--and you'll want to relive it year after year.