SPX 2014

All I ever write about on here is SPX. Of course, that’s mostly because SPX is the fall harvest festival directly before the Fiscal New Year – and I like to keep my thoughts about it someplace permanent instead of a blink and forget it stream of consciousness site like Tumblr.

This year’s SPX was awesome. I’m a backstage, behind-the-scenes guy by nature, so I spent more time paying attention to the production details than the big names of the show. There were a lot of little changes that worked really well. The most obvious were the balloon letters over each of the islands. At various points during the show, various volunteers came around and asked me if I needed anything or if I needed them to watch my table while I went to the bathroom or got food. I thought that was a fantastic touch.

The SPX Good Eats food map that I curate (friends don’t let friends eat at Chili’s) was made into a print by the fabulous Yao Xiao, which was really exciting. They sold prints at the main SPX merch table and had a larger version mounted on foamcore in the hallway outside the ballroom. That was really cool to be a part of.

I was also involved with the Prom, again in a backstage capacity. Tony Breed announced that he was going to play music for dancing and my wife offered up our DJ rig and sound system (she was a dance club DJ for seven years). Tony took her up on the offer and asked her to join him as a second DJ. My job was to offer suggestions to the Prom committee, pack the rig and speakers with my boxes and generally act as the roadie. It’s a role I’m used to and have gotten very good at.

While everyone else was at the Ignatz awards and watching Simon Hanselman get married to comics, we were in the Prom room, getting everything set up. That was entirely by choice, mind you. It’s just where I feel the most comfortable – doing what needs to be done so that everyone else can enjoy themselves. And people really enjoyed themselves; the Prom was basically just a dance party with fancy decorations and disco lights and a good dance party is a good dance party.

The only downside to being the roadie for the Prom was that we woke up at 7:30am on Saturday morning and went to bed at 2:30am. I spent the majority of those nineteen hours on my feet because I don’t believe in sitting behind my table, even if there are no customers. On Sunday morning, we discovered that the blackout curtains in our room didn’t quite close all the way, so I had to spend a groggy twenty minutes getting them sort of closed so that I could sleep in til 10. Next year, I’m bringing some twist ties.

I didn’t really get out from behind my table on Saturday, but I did make enough to cover my table, so I spent the first hour or so on Sunday morning walking around looking at books and talking to friends. We didn’t buy as much stuff this year as we have in years past, but I did shell out for the giant Little Nemo tribute book that Locust Moon put out. I also picked up the Weird Al book by Kelly Phillips. It wasn’t until I got to her table on Sunday that I realized two things: a) I’d picked up one of her books last year and b) she was one of the other prom organizers. It’s funny how that works. “Apparently I’m already a fan of yours,” I told her.

On more than one occasion, I had a conversation about the fact that it can be really difficult for comic book creators (not every cartoonist makes comics and not every comic book creator is a cartoonist) to stand out from the crowd. The running joke is one creator emailing another six months after the show, saying, “I was the guy with the glasses, the interesting facial hair and the shirt with the witty saying.” The female version goes, “The girl with bangs, nerd glasses and a tattoo on her arm.”

I will say that I noticed a lot more creators wearing ties (with or without full suits) this year. That trend started a few years ago, but it’s really gotten noticeable in the past two or three years. Funny how people who spend a lot of time focused on graphic design seem to have such difficulty with presentation.

The other major conversational theme that I had was the relative inability of creators to sell themselves. Last year, Derik Badman covered Simon Moreton’s table next to us and sold Simon’s stuff better than Simon did. I think there’s a lesson there. Maybe everyone at SPX should move two tables to the right as an experiment to see how well people do when someone else is enthusiastic to the public about their work.

For those that are just looking for the executive summary: SPX was great this year. I didn’t see everyone I wanted to see because it’s gotten to the point where it’s impossible to see everyone and everything. And that’s a great thing. If SPX is a microcosm of the larger indie comics world, then I would say that indie comics are thriving. And that’s enough to keep me going until next year.