SPX 2014 Reporton September 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm
For many cartoonists I know, SPX is the biggest convention of the year. Bigger than MocCA, Comic-Con, APE, TCAF, etc. I’d always been a little skeptical but now I believe. I’d been skeptical because it’s in the middle of freakin’ nowhere. When I think of vibrant comics communities, the suburbs of Bethesda aren’t really the first place that leaps to mind. However, from the moment the doors opened until they closed it was a non stop horde of masses, asking me questions, flipping through Demon, buying books and offering to trade. At the end of it all, I can honestly say, that this year’s SPX was one of the greatest convention experiences I’ve had.
I should disclose here and now that I’m an Oakland boy to the bone, so part of me is always going to root for APE over SPX just because it’s my home town convention. In fact I didn’t even want to apply for a table this year. The process seemed jacked up and set up against me from the get go. Namely, half the spots are reserved for legacy cartoonists who have tabled previous years while the other half are chosen by lottery. That means if Don Rosa wanted to table at SPX, it would all come down to the luck of the draw. That’s madness!!! I can see why someone would do it this way, you want to grandfather in your base and divvy up the remainder in the an unbiased way. But man, I don’t know. I think quality should count for something even if it’s just 10% of the tables. As luck would have it though, some friends of mine had accidentally bought too much table space and offered to sublet it to me. I’m just glad my friends didn’t hold their own lottery.
It had been 12 years since I had last tabled at SPX and it’s roughly doubled in size since then. In those years, the organizers have streamlined the show down to a well oiled machine, trimming out all the tables that aren’t comics, distributing signage in the shape of balloons, creating special badges and stickers for Ignatz winners, keeping the ATMs well stocked and most impressively providing a row of chocolate fondue fountains at the afterparty.
The Ignatz awards were a blast as well. I haven’t won a comics award since Fleep in 2004 so it was nice to feel somewhat relevant, which can be difficult to feel when the majority of the convention tablers and attendees are a good generation younger than me. Although I’ve heard some people criticize the Ignatz award for being East Coast biased I guess that didn’t apply to Demon. I do have to admit, the optics of it looked funny especially when the two hosts of the Ignatzes were James Sturm and a former CCS student, the presenter of the award category was also a CCS teacher who was giving the award to a CCS student who proceeded to thank her teachers at CCS. As an Oaklander attending the awards, it’s hard not to feel like an outsider to the culture. And while I guess that criticism of a bias in the Ignatzes has some merit in general, my rebuttal to that would be to look at the individual winners. Can you honestly say Chuck Forsman or Joseph Lambert or Sophie Goldstein don’t deserve to have an Ignatz award?
All in all, I’d say SPX was a great comics convention that has stayed true to its indy roots. As someone who got my start in indy comics it’s been pretty fun to see how my peers have developed over the years and what surprises the new generation has in store. Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years before I return.