September 17, 2014

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Guy Thomas Goes to the Small Press Expo 2014

Emily Carroll provided one of the posters for the event.
I have a confession to make… I absolutely love comics.

I know, this may come as a surprise, even a shock to you. I am, after all, writing for blog focusing on independent comics - an opportunity afforded to me thanks to my own blog, which is (spoiler alert) all about comics. I’ve been reading comics all my life, I’ve explored a huge and diverse spectrum and I’ve participated in many groups and forums dedicated to the medium (and even started my own). I want to work in comics in any way that I can (the how doesn’t really matter, let’s be honest here), and never before have I felt so validated, so affirmed that what I want to do is the right choice for me.

Registration Table on Sunday afternoon - It was packed Saturday.
This weekend I had the exciting privilege of going to SPX, the Small Press Expo, in Bethesda, Maryland. I’ve been to quite a few cons before, but none like this. Here, there were no cosplayers, no obnoxious vendors, no blatantly creepy nerds (though there were plenty of nerds), and a very distinct lack in that kind of sweaty, musky smell that seems to pervade almost the entirety of every con floor.

Comic conventions tend to be populated by people who love comic characters, or publishing houses. In contrast, at SPX I found myself surrounded by people brought together by a love for comics as a whole. Replacing the odor of nerd was an air of support and inspiration. This wasn’t a con in the traditional sense – where you go to geek out and spend way too much money (though that totally happened), rather it was a place you went because you loved comics, because comics are a huge part of your life, and everyone loves you for it.
Tumblr meet up Sunday morning.
I did a great deal of things over the weekend. Including being lucky enough to get to hang out not only with my friends who went with me, but with cartoonists like Rachel Dukes, Mike King, Benji Nate, KevinBudnik, and Pranas T. Naujokaitis. I was able to attend the Ignatz award ceremony (though I spent the entire hour kneeling as there were no chairs or wall space left), full of heartfelt acceptance speeches from some extremely talented creators, and even found the time to go to SPromX afterwards, which was much more fun than my high school prom, I must admit. There were a few comics superstars there that I got to meet, including Gary Groth (an inspiration to me, so that was a big deal), Carla Speed McNeil, and CharlesBurns - as well as several people like Emily Carroll and Sam Alden who are going to be a big deal very soon. You, dear reader, can look forward to the interviews I got with Rachel Dukes, Kevin Budnik, Alec Longstreth, and AprilMalig – all coming up soon. And despite protests from my wallet, I got to stock up on some great books directly from the creators, including Lorna, Bartkira, Finder: Third World, and Ignatz winners Vattu: The Name and the Mark and Wicked Chicken Queen.
Hanging out with Alec Longstreth.
David Bowie by Sam Alden.

For this event, I had decided to print my own comics. I had only done a couple of short stories before, but never made physical copies of them. It was a delight to realize that I was able to give away all fifty of the books I had brought. Several of which I traded for minis from other creators, some were given to creators I admired, and a decent number were traded for quick drawings of David Bowie in my little sketch journal (which will slowly make their way to the internet). I was astounded at how incredibly nice every person I spoke with was – especially when I asked them to draw me a little Bowie. Perhaps it is just the intense for Bowie that seems to exist in this community, but I think it has much more to do with how accepting and excited about comics we are. Just about every creator I spoke with was genuinely excited to be there, not only because it is such a great event, but a great place, with great people, doing great things.

SPX everybody.
Going to SPX for the first time may have been a life changing experience. I knew that I belonged in the comics community, but I never felt quite welcomed the world ruled by the Big Two, or even the slightly larger community that is still defined by publishing houses. Here, I found a place I know I need to be. This weekend I made good friends, found good books, tried new things, and, above everything, confirmed that I’m doing exactly what I need to do be doing with my life. This weekend, I think I found home.