I'm Neither Important, Nor Very: SPX 2013

This was my first time at SPX and it was a good convention. It was also completely exhausting. The convention only lasts two days, and open at 11 am on Saturday and noon on Sunday, which is a good starting time. When I arrived the doors were already open and there was a line of people queued up to buy their passes.

I’m neither important, nor very, I’m just running a panel, I said to the staff member, almost apologetically. You'd think I'd have a better line when meeting women for the first time...but no.

The show takes place at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, which is conveniently across from the Metro station. Despite being packed with people the hall was comfortable–though some people under the vents complained of being cold–and at times the aisles were packed, but for the most part people were polite and apologized when bumping into each other. There were girl scouts, people in costume, elderly, children, people with their infants in tow. It was a great cross-section of people. The room was set up so that there are many doors and after a few hours, all the doors were opened on three sides of the room and at many of the entrances and outside in the halls were water coolers, many with tins of mint next to them. (Just so you know, there are no water coolers or tins of mint at the San Diego Comic-Con)

(R to L): Jen Vaughn and Jacq Cohen behind the Fantagraphics booth. One of the small touches I liked about SPX was that the show gives balloons to those who have been nominated for the Ignatz Awards, which are handed out Saturday night.

The Ignatz Awards are also determined by ballot and anyone who attend the festival can vote. Here one of the show's employees walked the show floor encouraging people to complete and hand in their ballots.

The reason I was a VIP (deservedly, or not) is because I ran a panel, “March Spotlight with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.” It was the third panel on Saturday afternoon and the three had been signing at the Top Shelf booth earlier and after a short break were in front of a mostly packed room. I prepared a few slides, but they were more for the audience as none of the three needed any prodding to talk. We had a great audience. I’m told it was packed, but honestly I didn’t really look around the room much.

While I was asking questions and keeping an eye on the clock, Nate Powell was answering questions and drawing a sketch of the Congressman in profile, which he gave to me after the panel. It was a kind gift and I need to find a good place to put it.

We talked about A. Philip Randolph, Malcolm X, and so many other things. I’m thrilled that I could be a part of it. Heidi Macdonald wrote the show up for Publishers Weekly ( and she mentioned the panel in very kind terms. People kept coming up to me all weekend saying how great the panel was or how they heard great things about it, which was really gratifying.

Walking upstairs after the panel, a line just shorter than the one to get into the show in the morning, was wrapped around the outside of the ballroom as people lined up to get books signed by the three. Nate and Andrew are both great guys and deserve all the attention and success their getting because of the book, and it was a pleasure to get to see the Congressman again and have another chance to talk with him.

SPX will be posting video of the panel soon, but photographer Bruce Guthrie was there and has some great pictures of the panel on his website. He has also has pictures of other panels (Jeff Smith, Gary Panter) and a lot of pictures from the show floor as well.

I was there that weekend to do work. After the panel wrapped up, I did a few interviews over the weekend, but spent most of the time walking the convention floor

I like talking to people at conventions. I’m not part of a group or clique, so I don’t have any good stories of hanging out with X, dining with Y, getting drunk with Z. I've heard and read a few people throw around the phrase "Adventure Time Mafia" and I'll be honest, I really don't know what that means. So I don't have a good or insightful insider take on the show.

Of course I did spend most of the show talking to people. My favorite part of any show is seeing people who I do know in comics – and tend to see a few times a year, usually at shows. Other times it’s meeting people I’ve interviewed, seeing publicists I e-mail regularly. Or I’m just meeting people for the first time. We discuss the work we’re doing, books other people have put out, thoughts on various creators, dissecting different books. We discuss our lives and share stories. And in a pinch, well, we can always talk about how we’re introverts and being a crowd like this and talking all day just starts to drive us a little nuts.

An incomplete list of the incredible people I got to talk with over the course of the weekend:  Alec Longstreth, Allie Kleber, Andrew Aydin, Brendan Leach, C. Spike Trotman, Carla Speed McNeil, Cate Hall, Charles Forsman, Chris Mautner, Chris Pitzer, Chris Staros, CJ Joughin, Cody Pickrodt, Colleen AF Venable, Dan Nadel, Dan Zettwoch, Dave Roman, Dash Shaw, Dylan Edwards, Dylan Meconis, Elizabeth Staley, Elle Skinner, Gene Yang, Gina Gagliano, Glynnis Fawkes, Isaac Cates, Jacq Cohen, Jason Viola, Jeff Smith, Jen Vaughn, Joe List, Joe McCulloch, Joseph Remnant, Josh Shalek, Julia Phillips, Julia Pohl-Miranda, Justin Hall, Kathleen Glosan, Kenan Rubenstein, Kevin Huizenga, Laura Knetzger, Lena Chandhok, Leslie Stein, Marguerite Dabaie, Nate Powell, Nathan Marsh, Neil Brideau, Noah Van Sciver, Pete Wartman, Renee Lott, Rutu Modan, Sam Spina, Sara Turner, Terry Nantier, Tom Kaczynski, Tracy Hurran, Veronica Mautner, Whit Taylor, Zach Smith, Zan Christiansen.

I’m sure I’m missing plenty of people because it was an exhausting weekend–plus I’m not always great at names. I did get to meet Kate Beaton. We’ve crossed paths at different shows, but I dislike approaching people when they’re just walking around. Hell I felt awkward enough bothering her when she was hanging out drinking coffee behind the D&Q booth. She was as gracious as one might expect from reading her work.

Because it’s life, I also never got to talk with a lot of people I wished I could have. I saw Leslie Stein briefly, but sadly we didn’t get to talk. I spoke with Tom Spurgeon for a few minutes late on Sunday. I didn’t end up talking to Matt Bors or Seth. Would have liked to chat with Danielle Corsetto, Rebecca Mock, Kate Leth, Nick Abadzis and plenty of other people. I never saw Heidi Macdonald, but I never see Heidi Macdonald.

I managed to pick up a large number of books that piled together comes to almost two feet high (all the more impressive–or troubling–since most of them are minicomics). I should have them all read by next SPX. Fantagraphics and D&Q both sold out of some of the titles they brought and had just a few piles of books by the end of Sunday. Cartoon Books had a great weekend, selling out of not just the many boxes of Rasl they brought to the show, but boxes they got from a nearby bookstore as well, plus copies of Bone, Little Mouse and stuffed animals. Others didn’t do quite so well, and many said that the year wasn’t quite as profitable as last year had been for them, and others described it as a good show for sales, but not a great one, but even they didn’t complain much about the show.

People have often spoken of SPX in evangelical terms and I didn't have that response. Which is fine. Even in a show this size, there should be the opportunity for lots of people to have very different experiences and have very different shows. I have nothing bad to say about SPX. I liked the size and the tone. I liked the people. A lot of good comics debuted at the show. I have nothing bad to say, but it still feels as though I'm damning the show with faint praise. It was a good show.

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