autobiography Blog comic con

SPX 2012

There is no better feeling than setting up a table of comics within spitting distance of our nation’s capitol. Just think: President Obama could waltz into the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center and see my work! The chances of this happening were small (and in fact it did not happen) but were much greater than at any other show I have ever exhibited at.
I was able to stop by the Prez’ house on my way out of town. Barack was not in (I tried knocking) but I did get to see the Presidential Beehive, so nobody can say I went away empty handed. My hands were full of honey, which is okay because I paid for those bees.
This was my first SPX, and I could not have been happier with the outcome. Sure, I’d heard success stories from my friends. My tablemate Reid told me of the year he sold 40 foldy comics. Kenan, always the optimist, recalls how he had “a great show, which for anybody else would be considered a mediocre show.” Neil, never one to kiss and tell, considers SPX the best show that he doesn’t help organize. These stories aside, there is no better way to experience a good show than to actually be at a good show.

The view from my table

SPX convention floor

SPX helped me rack up a few new personal achievements. I sold a book to a man from the Department of the Interior and I was interviewed for National Geographic’s website. I had my second-best show saleswise after ComicCon. I got to meet one or two people who have been reading Falling Rock for quite some time. I’ve said this before: the best part of going to conventions is being able to chat in person with you, dear readers. It is the best. The best.

Chris Ware
, the rare rockstar cartoonist, was one of the many, many excellent guests at SPX. Although I wasn’t able to attend his panel, I did run into him on the convention floor. He was incredibly nice and not at all the awkward misanthrope as portrayed in his comics. When I told him I was a big fan of his work, he smiled and thanked me, as though nobody had ever said this to him before. The awkwardness was all on my side of the conversation, dear readers. I did pull myself together enough to offer him a copy of Scenic Byways, which he took and presumably threw on the pile of mini comics he keeps in a barn on his sprawling estate.

The Ignatz Awards (for excellence in making comics nearly no one reads) happened Saturday night. They are named after Ignatz Mouse, and they are real bricks. It was such a good feeling to be surrounded by fellow cartoonists, recognizing the work of my peers. This show, more than any other, made me feel like I was a part of the comics community. I cannot overstate how good it feels to be lumped in with these dudes. It truly is a long way from showing my parents comics I drew in my sketchbook.

The most moving part of the Ignatz was the very first Gold Brick, awarded to Richard Thompson as a sort of lifetime achievement award. Richard has, among many other things, drawn Cul de Sac for the past five years. Tom Spurgeon said a few words about Richard’s amazing talent and his bravery (and good sense of humor) in the face of the evil forces of Parkinson’s Disease.

Let’s not end this post on such a weighty note. On my way out of DC, I finally saw my opportunity to show the world what I think of Ronald Reagan. At the Reagan Blah Blah Blah Building, I went inside and used the bathroom. I peed on Reagan!

autobiography Blog comic con

APE 2010

Kenan told me to sit this way.  He called it the Trump Pose.

As my friend Brian used to say about Alternative Rock, “Alternative to what?”  The Alternative Press Expo, in San Francisco, is a showcase for comics, zines, trinkets from Shangri-La, relics of saints, baubles, broaches, brocades, elfish magic tricks, a pie-eating contest, and mythological animals.  It is the alternative to everything boring, dull, and stupid.  It is the epitome of aweseomness, daring, and the new.  This was my second year exhibiting at APE and I daresay my best.  It was a real party.
I was seated in the midst of genius: my tablemate, Reid, a way better artist than me and also taller by at least 4 inches, was debuting his book Cryptozoology.  Turns out his instincts were right on.  He got a number of folks remarking on how cryptids were this year’s “in” theme.  Although it certainly wasn’t Reid’s intention to cash in on the zeitgeist, he ended up making four billion dollars and got a movie deal.  No seriously, he did well and made some new friends, some of whom were even nice enough to stop and talk with me too.

To our left was the table that could barely contain Kenan and Neil.  To my great delight we got to spend time together after the show; our little collective made me feel like a real artist.  We partied like it was some year that ends in the numbers 9, 9, and 9.

My neighbors, Kenan and Neil

Saturday night the four of us went to a Chinese restaurant.  You enter through the kitchen, go up a flight of stairs, and sit in a tiny, narrow dining room.  The server was an older lady who was trying, apparently, to have a heart attack that very night.  That or a broken leg; she kept running around and nearly tripped down the stairs.  It was especially strange since the crowd was not all that large and did not necessitate a server who literally threw our chopsticks at us as she sprinted by.

Later we went to Isotope, a very cool comic shop a few BART stops away.  Every year they give the Isotope Award to a deserving minicomic.  This year’s winner was Pete Hodapp for his comic The Possum and the Pepper Spray.  As you can imagine, if you put that many cartoonists in a room and serve alcohol, you get a wild party.

Of course the joy of APE is not confined to The Concourse in San Francisco.  On my drive down I paid a visit to the majestic redwoods.  These trees are powerful.  I’ve met them twice now and still don’t feel like I have spent enough time with them.  Perhaps next year I can make more time for the trees.L1020486 L1020517

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, just chillin’.

After the redwoods, I made a beeline for the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa.  I’ve never seen so much original Peanuts art before; the linework and design that went into each individual strip was almost unbelievable.  Schulz drew huge!  27.75 inches by 7 inches for a daily, 23.25 inches by 15.75 inches for a Sunday.  That’s a lot of ink.

There is a tile mural in the grand hallway.  It is composed of about ten year’s worth of strips, made into tiles, and when you stand back they form an image of Charlie Brown trying to kick a football from Lucy.L1020531
Next to the museum is the ice skating rink Charles Schulz visited every day.  After a morning of cartooning, he’d have lunch and watch the skaters; he was a huge hockey fan and even played in the National Beagle League for three seasons, from 1953-55. (He eventually quit in frustration after he kept losing his puck to the Puck-Eating Tree.)L1020552
To my great amazement, a little red-haired girl was taking skating lessons inside.  I am not making this up.L1020556
On the Friday before the convention, Kenan and I made a trip down to Monterey to visit their great aquarium.

Seahorse watching.

The aquarium stood on the site of an old sardine canning factory.  They left standing one wall of the old plant, and had several of the machines used for the production of canned fish on display.  These machines will show up as Friday Robots in the future, have no doubt about that.L1020711
Now it’s that part of the post dedicated to LINKS!
A number of old friends were also exhibiting at APE, listed here in no particular order.  Visit their websites! Read their comics!  Live your life without regrets!

Keith Knight
Stephen Notley
Raina Telgemeier
Dave Roman
Alec Longstreth
Greg Means
Matthew Ocasio

I managed to make a number of good trades despite being tied to my table for the majority of the show.  This just goes to show you how much talent there was; had I spent the whole weekend browsing I would have filled boxes with awesome comics.

Spitball Press
Octavio Rodriguez
Karen Knighton (Karen also works for the website Ringtales, which you should check out  for their animations of daily comic strips.  I’ve never seen comics animated so well.  The way they do it, it works.)
Kevin Woody
Russ Kazmierczak, Amazing Arizona Comics
Ako Casuera, Cactus Girl
Jen Tong, prints
Jonas Madden Connor

Finally, links are coming back to me about…me.  Here are a couple early reviews:

A Comic a Day
Neil’s Oh Boy, Comics!L1020476