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19 September 2012

The 2012 Small Press Expo report from Henry Eudy

(Image stolen from the Small Press Expo facebook page.)

The following report on the 2012 Small Press Expo was provided by Superman's real best pal Henry Eudy.  
All of the photos below were provided by Erin Cassavaugh except where noted. 

(Rich Barrett, Adam Daughhetee and Henry Eudy.  Image stolen from The Dollar Bin.)

Let's forget "small press", let's drop it all together. Let's not even think that much about comics, about mini-comics, about hand pulled screen prints, about anthologies, pin-ups, buttons or badges. Let's just focus on people, on special people, the Special People Expo 2012. Let's let that radiate for as long as we can before we go back to arguing about lettering techniques, what kinda manga is whatever kinda manga, about selling boots and raising dough. Let's ride those good waves, good people, special people, cartoonist people.
A good feeling in a comics community is maybe not that rare of a thing but it can be rare enough. This year's Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland was a pearl, a perfect, small, shiny thing that glowed, that radiated it's specialness. It seemed to me that everyone wandering the halls of the Bethesda Marriott knew in some way that this was a special show. That we were all gonna ride a high together that, later, in the shadow of memory, we'd look back on and say, "Man, that was it. That was the top." Or maybe I'm talking out my ass here, maybe it was just a comics show and some stuff got sold and some stuff got bought and some minorly famous dudes signed some swag and we all went home. Maybe that's all that happened. Or maybe it was magic, for me it was magic.

(Joey Weiser on the left.  Not sure about the fellow on the right.) 

I've been too timid to apply to show at SPX shows in the past. I've attended, I've bounced around in the crowd, but I've lacked the guts to get in there and push out my paltry minis alongside the many there that I admire. This year I took the plunge, I tabled with some good friends, some smart, talented friends who helped me mask my meekness. If possible, always table with people smarter than you. You can observe them in their smartness and maybe get close enough that a little might land on you and stick. I was with Rich Barrett of the webcomic "Nathan Sorry" on one side and Christian Sager of the historical graphic novels "Think of the Children" and "The Cabinet" on the other. Both of these guys are more savvy than I am, smarter than I am, and better at the business of comics than I might ever be. It was a joy to rake in the jack with these fellas at my side. I think we all did a pretty tidy sum sales wise and gained some serious bro acumen. 

Helping boost the bro quotient at a booth just a diagonal jaunt away were our pals in the Alphabet Press; Ben Towle, Sam Wolk and Isaac Cates. Everyone at that booth is a special and wonderful friend to yours truly but Sam made me a pastrami sandwich. So yeah, Sam Wolk, official Top Bro. The bewilderment of being far from home and lost in a wilderness of folded and stapled foliage was lessened by the kind and familiar faces of my home state homies like Seth and Heather Peagler of Exile on Plain Street, Adam and Shawn Daughthetee of The Dollar Bin and Adam Casey and Allison Carroll, one of whom is associated with Winston Salem's sSalefish Comics. So, those are my shout outs. I like all you dudes and thank you all for helping me feel comfortable and at home at a show with some of my biggest idols in cartooning just drubbing along in the hallways, drinking coffee and adjusting their watchbands. 

(Dan Clowes.  Duh.)

So, on the subject of my idols, the cartoonists that made me want to be a cartoonist. Holy smokes, a lot of them were there, just looking like regular skinny awkward guys. Not all floating on a cloud of opalescence or radiating a milky light from their eyes and ears, leaving a scent of jasmine in their wake. They seemed to spend a lot of time in the bar. 

So, OK, Dan Clowes: Dan Clowes is like my Jack Kirby. He changed what comics could be for me. He made them bizarre and then he made them human and then he made them bizarrely human. I never thought I'd ever get to meet this guy and here he was, walking the halls in a black shirt, looking at the patterns in the carpets. He, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine ate breakfast at the table directly behind mine. And here's where the indie comics community is so cool. These great cartoonists took no precautions, they openly walked among us and we just soaked up their presence with a sort of pride. I didn't see them getting hassled in the hallways to sign Little Enids or plastic Quimby's or Maggie and Hopeys. They didn't seem cornered in the bars by wild-eyed well wishers detailing their past catalogues. Everybody in the place had a real hang out vibe going and once in a while we'd kinda glance over and think to ourselves, "Yeah, those are our best." 

The closest I got to breaking that bubble was as I casually looked to my right as I walked to my room on Saturday evening. Between the railings of the lounge, my eye caught sight of Clowes, Ware and Charles Burns leaning forward toward one another over a small round table, partially consumed beers in their hands. I slowed in my footsteps. I reached for my phone and I thought about taking a photo. But that seemed crass. That brought celebrity in and, to my amazement, the feeling of celebrity had never been present with this show. Instead I was feeling a kinship with these gentlemen, a oneness as fellow cartoonists. We seemed to belong to something united and a nod or a glance would suffice over a photo op. This is totally the magic of the Special People Expo.

(Brad McGinty and Josh Latta.)

So, I don't know, does that kind of convey what kind of warm feeling was slinking down the aisles, bolstering up the table skirts of this wonderful show? There was a real feeling of oneness, of acceptance, a big tent of cartooning. Or, at least, I felt that way. I felt very generous to the overwrought, overly precious, barely twenty somethings, the manga kids with their big-eyed foxes and spiky haired heroes, the boob and fart crowd, the high arters, the too weird to live, the too strange to die, the lonely bedroom autobio-bot, the cutesy and the gruesome, the middle finger and the plea for understanding, the genuinely funny and the sharply snide, the total mess and the delusional dreamer, the boring and the insipid and the occasional truly unique. I felt like the floor was full of wonders and I felt like cartooning was the greatest. That's special, man.

Anyway, I bought some stuff and I met some people but that kinda stuff seems of little importance. The show was so good. Everyone was digging it and feeling all together now. It was a high. As the clock struck 6 on Sunday, the show closed to a rapturous and spontaneous round of applause. We'd all experienced something great and maybe some of us were present enough to know it. I was scared to death of attending what to my mind was a real "big time" alt comics show. I carted my wares out the swinging doors feeling very much like I belonged here in a hall with my heroes. Thanks forever, SPX 2012.  

-Henry Eudy.  September 18, 2012. USA.

Visit Henry's website here.
Follow Henry on twitter here.

Thanks Henry!
Thanks Erin!

Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith

p.s. Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook.
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.
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