SPXPO: NAME-DROPPING AND HOT-LINKING
(First of all, thanks to Chris Eliopoulos for filling in for me last week. In addition to the weekend convention, I was also in the midst of switching jobs, so the downtime from Pipeline was greatly appreciated.
It seems like the war stories of traveling to conventions just get progressively worse as the year grinds on. San Diego was no big problem. I don't think a single leg of that flight was delayed by much more than a half-hour for a little bit of rain. Not a big issue.
Chicago's travel woes were well documented here last month.
The Small Press Expo (SPXPO) was even more interesting. I drove to it, since it's only about four-and-a-half hours away from Pipeline HQ in Northern New Jersey. Made it about four hours down before making one last pit stop. That's when, at midnight on Friday, the car ceased to start back up again. Thank goodness for cell phones and AAA. I was back on the road by about 1 a.m. and finally met up with CBR head honcho, Jonah Weiland, a little later.
After all this, I'm positively frightened by what might happen on the train ride into New York City in November…
The Small Press Expo took place on the second floor of the Bethesda Holiday Inn in lovely Bethesda, MD, a short 15-minute train ride away from the heart of Washington, D.C. (More on that in a bit.) It was divided into two ballrooms, which were lined with creators and companies hawking their wares. This is a strong group of dedicated creators, most of whom have some interesting stuff to be read. (Others I just had to shake my head at and wonder why they were deluding themselves, but to each his or her own.)
The first ballroom was slightly larger and had enough aisle space to keep things moving along and running smoothly. The second room - actually, it's two or three smaller rooms - was a tighter fit. Jeff Smith was in this room and his line stretched out pretty far. I felt bad for the creators at the tables around him who inevitably got blocked off from the rest of the world for that line.
The first stop was Jeff Nicholson's COLONIA table, of which Jonah is a big fan from his Eisner judging days. I bought the set and read the first issue in the hotel that night. It's a weird, surrealist fantasy story starring a teenager who gets rooted out of his own reality and finds himself on a weird island populated by talking ducks and fish-men. The art is remarkably solid. The characters are expressive; the backgrounds are actually drawn in. It's way too early for me to make a final determination on the series, but I'm glad I picked it up and look forward to reading the other 5 issues that comprise the series so far.
At the table next to him was Tom Beland, who should have been mentioned here months ago. (Actually, I may have done so and forgotten already.) He's responsible for a minicomic called "True Story, Swear To God." It's an autobiographical humor strip. Each page is a self-contained comic, in the vein of a Sunday edition of a comic strip. (There's one serious strip in each issue, on average.) Starring Tom and his wife Lily, the strip recalls events from childhood to modern times. The art style is easy on the eyes, with designs influenced by Bedland's self-proclaimed Hanna Barbera role models. The big difference here, though, is that his characters are more animated. Even on the printed page. ;-)
If you enjoyed Brian Bendis' FORTUNE AND GLORY book, I think you'll like this one. While not Hollywood themed at all, some of the approach and storytelling style seems to be in a like vein.
There are numerous sample strips from Beland at his web site, or you can buy the on-line edition of the book at Jambooks.com, and I would highly recommend his minicomic to you, as well. The book was nominated for an Ignatz Award this year in the Best Minicomic category.
There are six issues available of it now. It carries a price tag of $2.25 per issue, and runs 12 black and white pages each with heavier colored-paper covers. You can order any and all of them post-paid for cover price each at:
True Stories, Swear To God
Cond La Puntilla, edif D-2 #46
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
Drop Tom a line first for more info and confirmation of the prices, too. He loves getting e-mail. Shower him with attention.
Stopped by the always-impressive booth of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, where I finally got to meet CBR and Pipeline fan, Marc Deering. I merely include this paragraph so I can have a shameless excuse to provide a link to the CBLDF.
Met Dan Berger next, creator of GUTWALLOW. I've never read his book before, but that'll change now that I have a copy of the trade paperback. I like the character designs and the pages I flipped through were done well enough to warrant further investigation.
Moving down the aisle, the Slave Labor Graphics people took up a long stretch of wall. Got to meet and greet with THE WAITING PLACE's artist, Mike Norton, and SLEEPING DRAGONS' Kevin Mason. Haven't read the latter yet but can recommend the former. I picked up a couple issues of TWP in Chicago and had a good time with the first couple of issues of the second volume. The first volume, I'm told, is going to be collected into a trade paperback next year.
Moving down the table, I ran into Jolly J. Torres, sitting behind a stack of the excellent anthology series, LOVE IN TIGHTS. I asked him about SIDEKICKS and he assures me the second issue is due out rather soon. (I don't want to get him in trouble by giving out the exact date just in case, but it is on its way, folks.) I also scored myself a preview copy of his upcoming Oni one-shot, ALISON DARE. I'll have a full review of that for you later this week.
Found Jay Hosler's table next. Hosler is the brilliant mind behind CLAN APIS, a book I did a full-on rave about a few months ago. He was nice enough to draw a bee in my sketchbook. Since my sketchbook has a theme of snowbound characters, he assured me it would be a grisly sketch. And that it was. =) The sequel to CLAN APIS is coming out eventually, and if you catch him at a con, ask for OWEN, a three-page story about a sponge. It's in the same vein as CLAN APIS, but it involves the life of an ocean sponge. Funny stuff, with a couple extra bits of geek bio humor, for those of us who had some of those bio terms drilled into our brains back in high school.
I forgot to ask about his late Comics Buyer's Guide strip, COWBOY, though. Dang.
Ran across Rich Henn again, who I last saw in Chicago. He's still pimping TIMESPELL. He's working on finding a new artist and starting up the book for a second series next year. Keep your ear to the ground.
Brian Scot Johnson was even in the room, hawking his SONS OF OSIRIS mini-comics and his excellent mail order comic book service, Khepri Comics.
Oddly enough, Frank Cho garnered no large line when I passed by his booth early in the morning. I found that strange. It might have been because he was hidden from plain view in his location, I suppose. LIBERTY MEADOWS is still worth a read, though.
That was all the first room, and that constituted the bulk of my con experience. The second room was much smaller and felt much more confined. Top Shelf Comics, Fantagraphics, and Cartoon Books were all there. I picked up PENGUIN BROS. from Joshua Blaylock just because, again, I thought the character designs looked neat.
Stopped by the Oni Press table, said a quick hello to Oni uber-editor Jamie S. Rich, and picked up a bunch of ONI DOUBLE FEATURE issues from early on in its run, before I started to read it.
Finally, Jonah and I stopped by Eisner Award Winner Steve Lieber's table to say hello. While there, we each picked up a copy of Sean Bieri's JUMBO JAPE from him. This is the minicomic you may have seen him hawking on various message boards recently. I can honestly say that it's just as funny as he's said, so long as you don't mind a little bit of, er, sacrilegious humor. I mean, the lead story is "The Gospel According to Saint Segar starring Jesus, the Savior Man." It's bound to infuriate some.
My second favorite is probably the over the top story of a dental hygienist gone nuts. It's the SIN CITY-inspired "Hard Boiled Hygienist." 60 pages for $3 makes it a good deal. E-mail Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering info.
Jonah and I did all of the above, including some lengthy conversations and sketches, in about two hours. Nothing against the SPXPO people, but that was all we needed to do. After that, it was time to strap the cameras around our necks and go be tourist geeks in our nation's capital. I can't speak highly enough of Washington D.C., folks. If you get the chance, go see it. The monuments are truly breathtaking at night, and there's more than enough stuff there to keep you busy. The Metro train system is clean, easy to follow, and not too expensive. It's just a great place to visit.
It's a very good chance I'll be headed back to Bethesda next year. It's a smaller convention and much more personable than the larger ones. You get a chance to sample some out-of-the-way stuff, and not have to pay a fortune to get in. It's nice when you can save your money for the artists at the tables. Besides, I need another excuse to go down to D.C.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN CONTINUES…
There's something I just don't get. For all the good that Marvel has been doing lately, they're still capable of some amazingly bone-headed moves. They're not alone in this, grant you, but let's look at one glaring example of a, er, questionable nature.
Bill Jemas gave an interview over at Fandom.com this weekend. In it, he discusses how Marvel is not going to go to a second printing with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1, despite it being sold out at stores nationwide.
Quoth Jemis in the Mike Sangiacomo article:
"There has been a lot of demand to print more, but we won`t. Let them be collectible, the fans who bought them deserve to have a comic worth $20 already. How long has it been since a new company went up that much in value that fast?"
Pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. This is as stupid as Black Bull printing GATECRASHER to initial orders and no more. The best thing you could possibly do as a comics publisher is to limit your audience right out of the gate?!? ::sigh:: No wonder this industry is where it is.
The problem with this whole setup is that it runs counter to everything the ULTIMATE line is supposed to be about. This is a book that's meant to bring new readers into comics, right? Then why would you not make sure the comics are accessible by all readers? Why would you limit the readership to just the first people who walked into the stores the day the comic came out? Isn't that running counter to the hopes of bringing in new readers?
One other Jemas quote:
"Anyone who wants the comic for reading purposes (as opposed to collectable reasons) will be able to get it. In January, the comic will be released in a newsstand version and will be available for anyone."
Isn't the problem with the newsstand market that nobody sells comics on them?!? Yeah, this helps. Or maybe I'm just being cynical in my old age.
The book will also be available in January through giveaway promotions with Buster Brown shoes and the like. That's nice. I don't criticize that, but it does make me wonder about something else: Didn't Marvel just completely waste their aggressive marketing campaign on the book? The book had great buzz the week it came out from all the media attention is received. There were articles in dozens of newspapers about this new first issue of a Spider-Man book. Isn't the point of all the media attention to stir up interest in the populace to read the book? If so, why do you (a) not make available as many copies of the first issue as there might be people to read it and (b) not put the comic out outside of comics shops for four months afterwards. Aren't you blowing all the positive publicity?!?
Ah, well, maybe the X-MEN book will be timed a little better. The DVD was just recently announced for the end of November. When does the comic come out? December? It might be close enough…
TWO MORE PIPELINES YET TO GO THIS WEEK!
There's still a bunch of comics I've read in the past two weeks that need reviewing. I think Friday should be dedicated to a little bit of that. In fact, check back here on Wednesday or Thursday. I'm just insane enough to do a third Pipeline again this week to cover some of this stuff. That ALISON DARE book, for one, is burning a hole in my hands.