SPX, Yo! [Part 2 of 2]

By | September 30, 2016 at 3:00 PM
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All photos by Ryan Wapner

Hi again! Ryan and I, Lauren, are back to tell you even more about our favorite finds from Small Press Expo 2016! If you missed part one click -> HERE <- and get caught up. Otherwise, let’s dive right into part two and more of our favorites in alternative comics and art!

With wandering around trying to take it all in, we ended up stumbling upon some really great people this year. Don’t blink, you might miss something cool! Jesse Denobrega is a young Toronto based artist who’s prints caught Ryan’s eye right away. (The one pictured glows in the dark!) At his table, he also had comic called Concentrate. He said he there is more, so it sounds like we have some homework.

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An artist that seemed familiar to me, was Pam Wishbow. Her work reminds me a lot of James Heimer’s and that is a very good thing. Big bold shapes, muted colors, and all screen-printed! What Pam had with her at SPX seemed to have a more of an overall spooky vibe compared to James with screen printed tarot cards and Ouija boards at the front of her display. Will definitely be keeping an eye on her work to come. A book called Light by Rob Cham caught Ryan’s eye; Buno Books is the publisher of that along with another interesting one called Gutt Ghost by Enzo Garza which caught my eye. We weren’t familiar with either and ended up not picking them at SPX, but after searching for Cham online and seeing his other work, I wish we had! 

Jen Livv is another artist from The Great White North. We love Canada! I fell in love with her prints and picked up a one with what looks like a plant at first glance, but when you really look at it, you notice the plants are actually women, and the flowers are their hair. Very cool stuff from her! Angelica Alzona was another new face for us this year. Ryan noticed a small Digimon sticker, and it turns out Angelica curated a Digimon zine last year called Pepper Breath via Pyrite Press. He’s on the hunt for a copy now; sadly they’re all sold out!

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The Fantagraphics, Drawn + Quarterly, Koyama, and Nobrow booths were all teeming with fans as per usual. They are some heavy hitters always in attendance. They all had a bunch of debuts, back catalogue gold, and a laundry list of artists in attendance. Some notable stuff from them was John Martz’s Burt’s Way Home and Tom Gauld’s Mooncop. There was a new advance volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro, and Nobrow had two new offerings as well: Luke Healy’s How To Survive in the North, and Wren McDonald’s SP4RX. And did you hear that Luke Pearson’s Hilda series is getting the animation treatment through Netflix in 2018?! We are both very excited for that! Hilda And The Stone Forest comes out next month to tide us over til then.

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We finally came upon the table of SPX dream team, Drew Weing and Eleanor Davis. I discovered both Athens, GA based artists years ago when I first got into small press comics, and I am always thrilled when they release new work. Drew has an ongoing webcomic called The Creepy Case Files Of Margo Maloo, and it’s finally in a sturdy hardback print form thanks to First Second Books. It was actually another SPX debut and one I was very excited to pick up! Think Stranger Things, Scooby Doo, The Halloween Tree, etc. Perfect for Autumn! Drew also has a great book from Fantagraphics called Set To Sea. Eleanor on the other hand is debuting a new slice-of-life comic called Libby’s Dad published by Retrofit and Big Planet Comics. You might know Eleanor’s name from the award winning How To Be Happy from Fantagraphics. It compiles a ton of her work and is the perfect place to start if you are unfamiliar.

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One of Lauren’s favorite finds this year was Rosemary Valera O’Connell. She raved all afternoon long after finding her and a little purple zine called Phylum. Rosemary’s booth was filled with minis, riso prints and adorable tee shirts that were printed in all of Lauren’s favorite colors (she’s really regretting not picking one up). The Phylum zine’s purple-pink translucent cover has a dark twisty body shape made of vines and leaves. It tells the story about a girl in her garden eating a small root that is now singing through her stomach. It was the first thing she read after coming home. Afterward, she did some research and found out that this is one of the last printings! How lucky! We also found out Rosemary released a graphic novel earlier this year with Mariko Tamaki called Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me.

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Another rad lady at this year’s Small Press Expo is Jen Tong! Her magical, multi-color prints make her hard to miss! I found her last year at SPX and have been a big fan ever since. We actually have a print of hers waiting to be framed. Jen debuted her new mini-comic accordion series (3 different ones!) yesterday, and with forest spirits, tiny witches, colorful succulents and little berry babes, they were a must have in this years haul. Who isn’t into adorable mini comics that you can fit in your pocket!?! (≧≦)

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While we are on the topic of magic and spirits and witches, I must mention Andrea Kalfas! We picked up some of her stuff last year and loved it! Her work has all of the witches, wizards, and magic and adventure you could ever want. She had a second volume of her Tales From Aeaea comic so we scooped that up and another fun one called Cauldrons and Casseroles and it’s filled with those witches and wizards cooking up magical treats. She also did a Twin Peaks compilation a while back that is awesome. She screen prints all the covers too!

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I can’t count the times I see Lauren looking at minimalist pale pink artwork, and this weekend I was reminded of that artist’s name, GG. Low and behold, while wandering around day 1, a pale pink zine with a minimalist sketch of a woman on the cover sitting on 2dcloud’s table. It was the latest issue of Altcomics Magazine, published by 2dcloud and printed by La Mano 21. The curator asked three artists whose work steps outside the binary of comics, of narrative, and of sequence as linearity to contribute. This issue sees Sab Meynert showcase the work of GG, Eli Howey, and Juli Majer. Lauren spotted GG’s soft pink and mysterious grey silhouette coverwork from tables away. She has been a big fan of hers since she found her work on Instagram last year but has never had the chance to pick of any of her work, saying: “Her risograph prints bring out all of my emotions”; so even though this was a small appearance at this years convention she was very excited to get her hands on Altcomics Magazine 3 is now up for pre-order. Hopefully we see more of GG’s work an upcoming events!

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Another welcome surprise was the discovery of publisher Odod and their Musnet series from Kickliy. It’s about a mouse that lives in Monet’s garden, becomes friends with the mice living in his house, and takes interest in becoming an artist himself. These were an on the spot purchase for me; I loved the watercolor art style, the concept, and a little bit of mysteriousness around the author. Odod is also gearing up for a Kickstarter campaign for Volumes 3 and 4 very soon. It may have actually launched in the time between writing this and posting. I will definitely be contributing when it launches, and you should too!

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Leading up to each year’s Small Press Expo there are slew of deserving artists nominated for an Ignatz Award. The Ignatz Award recognizes outstanding achievements in comics and cartooning by small press creators or creator-owned projects. Fans, friends, peers, anyone can vote, and Saturday night after day one of SPX wraps up, the winners are unveiled right there at the convention.  

 – Outstanding Minicomic: Radishes by Carolyn Nowak
 – Outstanding Story: My Hot Date by Noah Van Sciver
 – Outstanding Series: Powdered Milk by Keiler Roberts
 – Outstanding Anthology or Collection: Step Aside Pops by Kate Beaton
 – Outstanding Online Comic: Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran
 – Promising New Talent: Tillie Walden for I Love This Part
 – Outstanding Comic: Fantasy Sports No. 1 by Sam Bosma
 – Outstanding Graphic Novel: Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
 – Outstanding Artist: Tillie Walden for The End of Summer

I can’t speak for everyone, but after SPX I feel SUPER inspired. So much creativity in one place!! Here is a little something incase you too are inspired to make your own comics. Maybe you’ll be the winner of an Ignatz next year!

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Going along with creating your own comics, there is something happening near my neck of the woods in Pittsburgh that I must share with you. I am just recently learning of Frank Santoro’s Comic Workbook Rowhouse Residency. An artist and educator named Frank Santoro has been working to turn the house next door to his in the Swissvale neighborhood of Pittsburgh into a kind of collective melting pot for the comics community there (and the world!) with a school, workshop, rare comics library, and more. It’s my understanding that he has been hosting things in some capacity in his home, along with online correspondence courses and classes, for some time now. But just recently has it really grown with the addition of that space next door! There is now a residency option where any level of artist can come and stay. They can create, collaborate, and grow from mentoring masters and collaborating peers.

I believe another new point is publishing the work of residents through Pittsburgh’s own Copacetic Comics, a shop I always go to whenever I visit the city. Artists often travel to promote their work; they visit various local shops (like Copacetic) and conventions (like SPX) around the country or world, and with that, Frank’s space is another stop on a list like that when an established artist is visiting Pittsburgh. When visiting, they could be there as a teacher holding a workshop, or as a student working through an idea with like minds. The entire project is something I am very excited about and inspired by. I can completely relate to being so passionate about your hometown and creating something to strengthen community there. I can’t wait to really dig into everything Frank has going on just short drive away.

^ I completely missed Frank’s successful Indiegogo campaign last year. The IGG video along with his full website go into a lot more detail. I encourage you to dig with me!

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The convention is growing year by year with so many kids and kids at heart in attendance. Many of the artists are growing as well; getting scooped up by animation studios or ad agencies, making a transition to that next level. Those guys all have people out there scouting (Nickelodeon even had a booth last year). I’ve only gotten to go to SPX a few times over the last five years, but I feel it growing bigger. It’s awesome to see it gain the much-deserved attention from those types of media. I’m sure those artists that have hit mainstreams like Cartoon Network, The Guardian, Nickelodeon and The New York Times aid in that increased attendance and attention the last few years as well. I also saw a lot more young people (and parents with their children too) this year. That’s a huge thing! Who knows which of those youngsters will pick up a pencil or a brush in the years to come. I hope many of them do!

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We may have to wait until this time next year for another fun filled SPX weekend, but in the meantime make sure you are supporting the incredible independent artists, shops and shows that make up this fantastic community. There is no other like it. Share your favorite artists with us (and the world), and keep your eyes peeled their new work and newcomers! 

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