I took time away today from studying, researching and writing to head up to North Bethesda for the annual SPXPO. Although essentially a comic book convention, It is a con with a twist. SPXPO specifically supports indie publishers and creators, and is also the home of the Ignatz awards---quite a big deal in the cartooning community.
Populated with the large bearded fellows who make up so much of any comic book con, SPXPO also hosts punk rock types, indie rock kids, aging hipsters and even a few open minded guys and gals in suits. Rows and rows of tables hosted by dealers, publishers, writers, artists and cartoonists stretched out in every visible direction in the conference room. Although there were a few examples of super-hero and fantasy comics, the wares were mostly made up of indie-spirited producers creating unique visions. Visions of true to life stories, retellings of epic myths like Gilgamesh, clever surrealist expeiments, and even text-heavy comics explaining the lives and thoughts of major philosophers. Big name indie presses---Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf---were all there but it was more made up by dozens and dozens of smaller publishers I've never heard of.
I was a little but overwhelmed by it all.
In fact, I was so overwhelmed after making one full lap around the room I walked back out. Not to leave, but to get my bearings. I pulled out my handy dandy brochure, circled tables I knew I wanted to check out and then strolled back in, armed with somewhat of a purpose.
I wandered and met Craig Thompson, who is every bit as nice as he seems in his own comics. Rob G of Gigantic Books was also pretty cool, although in a very different way. I even got to play a little on a computer demo for some comics-creating software that uses clip art and pre-packaged shapes for panels. Even though I had no idea what I was doing it was still fun.
It was really too crowded to do much browsing of new titles, so I took a lot of notes for my next trip to Atomic Books. In the end, I only bought two things. One was the most recent issue of Mome, a great ongoing set of anthologies pulled together by a certifiably wacky team of cartoonists. I also picked up a collection by Paul Hornschemeier, whose book Mother, Come Home still sits as one of the most devastatingly beautiful stories I've ever read.
It's too bad I have to work tomorrow, because otherwise I would go back to take in the panel discussions happening throughout the day. With topics like web comics and selling your first book, I think it would have been a lot of fun. There's always next year.