The worst part of attending SPX is returning from SPX. One may suffer from withdrawal anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Seriously, I get used to seeing all these artists around me, as well as friends that I know from conventions, and from the comics world. And just when your old bonds are renewed, and the new ones are in place... It's all over, and you have to go back home. Sigh... But I will say that this year could have been the best time I've had, or at least one of the best at any show.
I flew to Maryland annd attended the con with Nathan Wiedemer, Wayne Spencer and Darryl Fefee. Wayne and Daryl have never been to SPX before, so they were pretty excited about it. Maybe Darryl a little more than Wayne. Ok, maybe a lot more, as he was a lot more... energetic the first day. There was an incident with a phone and a steak knife at Chili's, but I'll let them explain that part.
Here I am in the hotel. We originally were three, but Wayne was a late comer. Instead of three nights of hetero-cuddling we opted for one rollaway bed for one of us and a "nest" of blankets and pillows for another. Here I am experiencing the rollaway.
On Friday night there was a cocktail reception, so after we had a few drinks at Chili's we got our badges and helped ourselves to a few more. Above are my compadres trying to look cool.
We talked to a few people we already knew like Matt fortninety Hawkins and Jarrett Williams. Later, at this cocktail table, Nathan was gesturing wildly when he bumped the guy walking behind him. He spilled the guy's wine over his hand, and that's how we made our first new friend at SPX. His name was Keith McCleary, and he was shortly joined by Rev. Chris Self of Houston. We got along alright, mingled some more and then retiured, eager for the show to begin.
I was the first one up. I cleaned up and wentout into the October morning and it's welcome slight chill. The weather is my other favorite part of coming up to the show. After a sausage McMuffin with Egg breakfast at McDonals (a foodI really never eat), I rejoinded Nathan and we went downstairs to set up the table. This is a process of leaqrning at every convention, and SPX 2008 was no exception. After Nathan and I settled in our table neighbor arrived and set up. Unfortunately part of his display was this towering easel with his art work mounted to it.
It was intimidating to say the least, and this was my view to the left. I was afraid of getting a twitch in my left eye from it taking up my peripheral vision on that side.
Table from the front.
Table from the left hand side. Witness Nathan's sale face.
Look at the size of that thing!
Wayne sketches his heart out. To our right was Tom Scioli, artist of Godland. We were lucky to be in a great grouping with Ed Piskor, Pat Lewis, Rob Ullman, Frank Cammuso, and several more.
Pat Lewis talks to a pretty constant stream of people that visit his table.
The Gayborhood rides again - sorry - and sammiched in the middle of it is the Eat Your Lipstick Crew. Behind what I feel is her best display yet are (right to left) Lauren, artist Monica Gallagher, Michael DiMotta, Dennis on the floor, Suzanne cutting Dennis' hair. Matt Hollis was also present, just not pictured, I love these kids to death, and it's always so great to see them at the show. They gave me a warm welcome, and I hope I was able to reciprocate.
The heart of the Gayborhood: Tim Fish, Brett Hopkins, Tim Piotrowski, Richard Ruane, and Bill Roundy.
This was the first year that SPX has taken place on Saturday and Sunday, and I feel that it lent to higher energy and more visitors on the first day. My plan was to browse first, then make my educated purchases on Sunday, and it seemed I wasn't the only one. The business was slow for me, but pretty good for Nathan. We split the real estate of the table up four ways, and we were able to accommodate the accumulated works of Nathan and I, with Wayne's book Clock Jumpers, and Daryl's wares, too. He brought his brand new mini called Grimy Comix, and also two designs of tee shirts that he screen prints by hand. He wasn't sure how it would go, or if anyone had any interest in a book that was so gritty and akin to the underground comics that he loves. He was pleasantly surprised once he got out and explored some of the tables, of course. This is SPX, and it won't be held down by genre or status quo. Both he and Wayne were like kids in a candy store checking out other books, meeting new artists, and returning to the table to tell the tales of wonder and cool. We all were a tag team at the table, someone goes out for a while, someone stays behind. Even with that system and all day at the show, there was still so much to see the next day.
After the doors closed at 7:00, we got dinner down the street at House of Kabobs. It's cheap, filling and delicious, and they still make a hell of a racket pounding out the pitas and wraps at the counter. I've never been brave enough to order a cup of Doogh, though. Maybe next time.
The 2008 Ignatz Awards took place at 9:00, and we tried to position ourselves. We attended, mostly for the sake of the 2 new guys maybe, even though we weren't up for any awards ourselves. Here, the crowd gathers.
Suddenly an ape appeared - making a return visit to SPX!
Kibbutzing before the ceremony.
We managed to get good seats right in the middle of the auditorium-style ampitheatre. We didn't go in last year, and I got to know what it must feel like to be at a United Nations meeting. There were mic ports and everything.
Behold the Ignatz Awards: Real bricks set atop a wooden base with your name on it. Click here to learn about it's namesake.
Emcee Heidi MacDonald.
I'll admit right here that Nathan and I went in a bit miffed. He checks their site all the time, and I have been watching my emails for the show, but we never saw a call for entries. It was also curious when we learned later that despite the entries that were supposedly submitted the usual way, the judges had the freedom to nominate books that weren't sent in that they felt were worthy of the competition. I don't feel that any of this is right, and I hope it all is cleared up and a smoother process is established in coming years.
Aside from all that, the awards were enjoyable. They wanted to keep it as brief as possible, the presenters like James Kolchaka, my friend Raina Telgemeier, and even the shy Kaz were quite personable and funny. Of the awards accepted, the one that stole the show (again) was the monkey. The guy in the gorilla suit was actually Chris Onstad who won for Best Online Comic. Last year he won and used an ape sign language while Perry Fellowship Bible creator Nicholas Gurewitch translated. This year, the ape spoke into the mic... "Humans... I have been learning your language..." Attendees from last year were in hysterics, and I laughed as well. He never broke character, and claimed Onstad worked for him, and was part of his bigger plan for apes to break into the comics field. Good stuff.
I stop to vamp with two of my favorite ladies, Marion Vitus and Raina Telgemeier. They are among the first friends Joel and I made at SPX all those years ago.
In the days of Olde Smalle Press Eckspough, there were a few traditions like the Big Dinner Exodus and the late night skinny dip. The new flava is heading out to Karaoke at the Zip Lounge after the Ignatzes. This, of course, pleases me to now end, and confirms my place in this part of the comics world. It's attached to a Korean owned restaurant, and is more of the standard style of set up that I thought I'd have to wait until I was in Japan to experience. We all took up three rooms that were pretty full of people, and rocked out all night long.
Clockwise from the top: Maryanne Ways, this great singer, Kim, Reunited friend Colleen Venable, her friends Jess Fink and Tom, actually cool and funny guy Tim Finn, another great singer and friend of Wayne's friend Colleen (not the same Colleen pictured), The arm of Curt Franklin. Going for the book is the always electric and cool Maris Wicks. I don't know the girl behind her. If you know there people, hit me up and I'll gladly add their names!
Ignatz Emcee Heidi MacDonald has the Eye of The Tiger
The cool glasses and soulful voice of Marianne Ways.
Colleen rock chair style
Daryl in the dark.
Colleen and Penina Gal.
Tim brings some punk power to It's Raining Men. James Kochalka checks in.
Tim feels it, Maris grooves while Joe Quiniones and Curt pair up for Under Pressure.
Me and Colleen Venable. We've met before in previous years, but this was the first year we really hung out. She was a highlight of the show, being so funny, witty and a really good singer. Trifecta!
Curt Franklin and Chris Haley of LetsBeFriendsAgain.com bring a lot of rock love. Friends.
Maris on it...
Hair in the mouth or heartfelt air guitar?
Wayne and Joe sing a long
Marianne throws down Kriss Kross. KRISS KROSS!!!
I show them how Photograph is supposed to sound.
Joe and Tim swoon the Ladies with Don't Want to Miss A Thing.
Chris is on FIYAH!
Colleen and I rock out on 9 to 5, and that was the last of my voice. Also, inappropriate angle for a microphone.
Wayne pops his Karaoke cherry with Losing My Religion, and was quite good at it! Go Wayne!
Best photo all show. Period.
Kurt and Chris back Mr. Spencer up.
Daryl on tambourine... we think he missed his calling. Despite all the drinks he had, he was ON with that thing, adding live depth to every song and always on the beat.
Then all the good luck ran out and a retrograde Mercury came to call. Every aspect of our trip there was speedy and, dare I say, easy. Even Dulles wowed us by having our luggage at the carousel before we were. But at 2:15 AM, with too many shots on top of too many drinks in a lot of us, we found ourselves waiting for a cab that was called but hadn't come. The rest of the party rooms had left, and here stood me, Wayne, Daryl, Colleen (Wayne's friend Coleen), Adam, and Penina. At 2:40 Adam called the cab company, but they said no cab had responded.
2:45. Every cab we see turns away from us. WTF?
2:50. Still waiting.
We finally flag a cab down and talk him into taking all 6 of us. He's a cool guy from Eritia, I believe, near Ethiopia. He knew a more direct route back, and we tipped him well. I slept like a rock.
The Gents. The Marriotts, I assume.
We got to sleep in a little since the show didn't open till noon. Thank god. I was down there at 11 to set up, and to begin looking for publishers to talk to about my pitch. Of course most of them were wither waking up or at brunch. I used it as an opportunity to browse the sections of the show I hadn't gotten to. I saw some more awesome work and talked to some of the Nominated and awarded artists I learned about the night before.
What's this? It's Jerry Stanford's doppelganger! If only he made it in person - thanks to Eric for posing.
Let me tell you that Sunday was a blur of talking to companies, tracking down Chris Staros, and talking to new artists, new friends, and old ones, too. I ran into Marianne and Colleen, and was hoping we could do lunch, but they all had to head back to NY. I think that's lame, because when you meet great people you just want more of them.
Liz Bailie and MK Reed
Colleen is in disbelief over Leah Riley's bacon bracelet and perhaps even Will Wood's 10 Things You Can Do With A Fake Moustache - complete with real fake moustache!
Sara Bauer and Tom McHenry of adorable cat comic blog Hey Pais, with Brian Fukushima.
Thanks to Marianne and Leah Riley for the pics above!
SPX closed it's doors at 6, and we all did our best to grab the books we wanted to get all weekend, and talk to everyone who was leaving. A group of us made plans for dinner, and on the way we got to meet MISS TEEN MARYLAND!
At dinner with Matt, Monica and Dennis.
We were also joined by Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots and her assistant Katie. Also joined by but not pictured: Mike Dimotta and Pedro, who left right after dinner. That was a great evening of deep discussions of politics, the caricature business, and is Family Guy the new Andy Griffith Show. That's right. In this photo: Katie holds up a chicken nugget that resembles a sailboat. Seems her whole dinner was sort of "sea-themed" shapes.
Here we see Nathan and Wayne joined by Rev. Chris Self. we met him on Friday with Keith, but sadly Keith had to head out. Chris was really funny, had great stories, and knew how to make strange cocktails from many lands.
After dinner, Chris, Wayne, Nathan and I had some more drinks, then some coffee, and adjourned to the lower level of the hotel to talk and draw. I really enjoyed hanging out and laughing with those guys, especially at Chris and his stories. We met a man named Termite Watkins, who is having a movie made about his experiences with the Iraqi boxing team. We went late, and when we realized that Chris had wandered off and not come back, we went off to look for him, all his luggage in tow, and found him having some more drinks in the bar. He lost his wallet the night before and had nowhere to stay until his flight the next day. we offered our room and floor, but he declined. I hope he found a good place to sleep it off.
We slept well and had a really great Monday. We had breakfast at local joint Izzy's Bagels and More and sat out in the cool morning, discussed the con's best and worst parts. We left for the airport and encountered no traffic or delays. We returned the rental car without a problem or accident. We arrived at Dulles and sped along to ticketing. That's when it hit the wall. Seems there was some confusion when we left the rental place, and Nathan left his wallet there. After the appropriate amount of freaking out, searching for it, and calling the company, we worked our way to the airport. UPDATE: they called Nathan and the rental car co. had his wallet. It's en route as I type.
After that it was back to a cake walk. We all went home with great memories and bags loaded with comics. Wayne is hooked and will definitely be back next year, and I really wish I could be back, too. SPX is growing, and I can't wait to go back when I return to the homeland.