Con Report: SPX 2010

Well it’s finally happened. We all knew it would some day. There came a time on Saturday at SPX where the crowd was so butt-rubbingly, San Diego Comic-Con-ishly close that it wasn’t fun to walk the isles. Anecdotally, I’ve not heard either way whether this late afternoon crowd surge translated into a late afternoon money surge, but it sure was fun to see.

After grabbing some much-needed sleep on the plane and navigating the Metro, I arrived at the convention center around 11 am or so on Saturday.  If you’d arrived then, drunk such that you vision were blurred much like an unfocused camera phone, here’s what you would have seen at SPX:

I once again attended this year as a “civilian” and didn’t get a table. Despite the fact that the giant box of unsold Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean books in my cabinet seemed to call out to me naggingly at times, I really do have a much better time at these things if I’m able to wander around and buy stuff and actually attend some panels. Before I started laying down my hard-earned cash, though, I took a quick walk-around to get a handle on what was out there on the tables. I was delighted to see a minimum of non-comics “art objects”–things my pal Adam Casey refers to collectively as “silk screened pizza boxes.”

Lunch was had at the nearby Vegetable Garden restaurant, which has decent relatively-cheap vegetarian fare. It was nearly vacant for lunch but I heard later that it was mobbed for dinner and contributed to a number of folks I know missing the Ignatz ceremony.  I ran into buddy James Sturm there picking up some take-out and was glad to have a few minutes to chit-chat with him while not in the chaos of the show itself.

Returning to the show, I went on a hog-wild (mostly) mini-comics buying binge. This year’s earlier show aligned with my birthday, which is a dangerous convergence since it means my bank account is pretty flush with gift money that really should be spent on more sensible things than funnybooks. But to Hell with that, I say.  I entered with $85.00 cash and it was quickly converted into this:

So here’s what that stuff is (left to right, top to bottom):

  • There Must Be More: The Search for Bigfoot’s Box – JP Coovert
  • Phase 7 #15 – Alec Longstreth
  • Life of Vice #1 – Robin Enrico
  • The Bad-Ventures of Bobo Backslack- Jon Chad
  • Bikeman #1 – Jon Chad
  • Henry and Glen Forever – Tom Neely
  • Adrift – JP Coovert
  • Book Comic – Phil McAndrew
  • Paranormal Hipsters – ?
  • Adele Blanc-Sec – Jacques Tardi
  • Drop Target #1 – Alec Longstreth and Jon Chad
  • Too Far – (Anthology) Ed. Joe Lambert
  • Beard – Pranas
  • Dan Clowes: Conversations – (Interviews) Ed. Isaac Cates & Ken Parille
  • Trugglemat – Neil Brideau
  • Why Did I Put this Town on my Face? – Matt Wiegle
  • Daily Catch – (CCS Anthology)
  • Courtships of Ms. Smith – Alexis Frederick-Frost
  • Mermin #1 – Joey Weiser
  • Duncan the Wonder Dog – Adam Hines

Neither the Duncan the Wonder Dog book nor the Tardi book came out of my cash till since both Fanta and Adhouse were accepting credit cards.  I was blown away to see Chris Pitzer at Adhouse use some crazy iPhone swipe app/device to process payments.  This new credit card-accepting thing has apparently made me violate my long-held “minis only” policy at small press shows.  Oh well…

Hopefully I’ll have time to do some write-ups of some of this stuff, but so far just flipping through stuff, I was really impressed by how completely Alexis Frederick Frost has changed his style in this new stuff.  I talked to him on the floor a bit and he said he’s switched entirely from brush to Gpen nibs.  I’ve done that too for Oyster War; why doesn’t my stuff look as good as his, dammit?!  I also read Drop Target, a pinball zine, over breakfast this morning. I wasn’t surprised to find that Alec Longstreth had cranked out a pinball book since last time I was up in White River Junction he was clearly on a trajectory to develop a pinball obsession. This is a zine of the old school variety and it was making me wax nostalgic for the Factsheet Five days of yore.  It’s a great read whether you’re interested in pinball or not.

At this point, I was out of cash, but had spotted a few more things I wanted to buy, so I wandered into the hotel lobby to get some cash. This was a silly thing to do since (as in past years) the ATM was broken. This is a regular problem with the Marriott at SPX and really needs to be addressed. Most folks with tables at the show can accept only cash and if the show is going to be in some parking lot wasteland then the hosting facility needs to have a ready-for-prime-time ATM.

Fortunately, I was grousing about this to J. Chris Campbell and he offered me a quick cash infusion which sent me back out on the floor to pick up a few more books that I’d eyeballed:

  • Diary Comics #1 – Dustin Harbin (with great hobo sketch by Dustin!)
  • Dharbin #2 – Dustin Harbin
  • Seven More Days of Not Getting Eaten – Matt Wiegle
  • Wiegle for Tarzan – Matt Wiegle
  • The Numbers of the Beasts – Shawn Cheng

I only attended two panels on Saturday but both were great. The first was the “Focus on James Sturm” panel. I’ve known James for a while and figured I was familiar enough with his “bit” that I’d be able to hear 30 minutes of his panel and then bow out for the Dan Clowes panel.  I found myself, though, surprisingly engaged in James’s talk. I’ve made a mental note to investigate cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty who James mentions as a major influence–someone I’ve never heard him talk about before. Other artists and writers he discussed as being influences on Market Day were Richard Ford, Raphael Soyer and Lionel Reese (sp?). The Clowes panel had more interesting ideas floating around than I could really wrap my brain around in the alloted hour and I can only hope that whomever was filming the discussion will be magnanimous enough to upload the whole thing to YouTube or Vimeo for all to see and contemplate.

I managed, after a quick dinner, to get a “standing room only” seat for the Ignatz awards. You can get accounts of the ceremony from any number of sources, but I’ll just reiterate what others have said: Liz Bailie did a fantastic job as host, and the awards lived up to their reputation as the shortest ceremony around. probably clocking in at less than an hour.

The post-Ignatz party was the usual affair: expensive beer that no one could afford and a chocolate fruit “waterfall” that no one should really be eating from beyond the first 20 minutes it’s been put out. I wouldn’t swear to the beer prices from years past, but this year’s eight dollars for a Budweiser seemed to me to be squarely in the “highway robbery” realm. If I wanted to got to a small press event in a city with eight dollar beers, I’d go to freakin’ MoCCA! People seemed to find “workarounds” for this though, as with escaped mental patient/comics writer Chris Reilly here who cashed in four drink tickets obtained from god-knows-where:

For obvious reasons, my recollections of the evening become less clear the later things get, but I really enjoyed hanging out with (and I’m most assuredly forgetting people) Adam and Shawn Daughhetee of Heroes Con and Dollar Bin, Roger Langridge, Mike Rhode, Richard Thompson, J. Chris Campbell, Kevin Brownstein, James Sturm, Tom De Haven, and many many others who were subjected to my drunken comics ramblings.

After a quick 30 minutes of cardio at the hotel gym the next morning, I continued my personal tradition of a Sunday morning crab cakes Benedict at the Silver Diner then finally arrived back home in Winston early afternoon via USAir. I loved being at SPX, but now I really look forward to evenings sitting on my screen porch reading all my purchases in the gradually-cooling end of summer air.


1 ping

  1. Bryan Fordham says:

    Not sure, the but crazy iPhone credit card thing may have been from Square: https://squareup.com/ Pretty spiffy setup

  2. Jackie Estrada says:

    I love that photo of Chris! Escaped mental patient indeed . . . Wish we could have been there this year!

  3. Ben says:

    @Bryan – Yep, I checked out that link and that’s exactly what he was using. Some folks just brought their iPads and had people Paypal them right on the spot.

    @Jackie – It was fun and we’d have loved to see you out in this neck of the woods (and of course it’s round about time for me to revisit a West Coast show….).

  4. Anatole Wilson says:

    The other option to solve the ATM crisis would be to come up with an SPX currency that people could buy with their credit cards and use at the conference.

  5. Chris Reilly says:

    Thanks, Jackie.
    All you have to know to get those free drink tickets is be the one person who can find Jeff Alexander and demand all of his tickets. He’s an honsest guy and once he’s out of tickets and can go hide somewhere. I wish we could post the one with me and Charles B. taken 10 seconds later, but I think when he asked that it never show up online he was serious.
    On a down note, we had no tables or chairs at the party this year and after 16 hours on your feet, it is not unreasonable to want to sit for a bit. It was still a lot of fun. Ben managed to not tell me it was his birthday until about a quater to 12 Saturday night or I would have gotten him a cake or at least not let him pay for his burrito and beer at supper.

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