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Small Press Expo 2011

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Small Press ExpoWith such huge names as Chester Brown, Craig Thompson, Matthew Thurber and Sarah Glidden to name just a few, this past weekend’s Small Press Expo, held each year just North of Washington, DC continued to show off why it’s one of the best comic book shows in the nation.  The intimacy of the setting and quality of not just the guests, but also the panels makes it one of the few conventions in which you can shake hands with your favorite writers and artists but also be educated along the way.

This year continued the convention’s growth seeing record crowds that cause traffic jams in the aisles on Saturday.  But the best part of the show was watching comic book fans buying books from independent creators trying to get their materials into the hands of fans.  Much of the work here you won’t find at comic book stores and you’d have to dig on the web.  This is one of those few opportunities where you can really see true independent artists and talk to them directly.

What’s great in this setting is the fact that you indeed can talk to the creator of the book you just purchased.  It’s more than just simply getting an autograph or a sketch after handing over your money, you also get a chance to pick their brain or hear them directly tell you about their work.  There’s a connection that’s often missed at larger shows where an assembly line mentality takes over to turn and burn autographs to get through the crowds.

Even after the show door closes you’re able to head to the hotel bar and continue the schmoozing with fans, publishers, artists and writers well into the night.  It provides an experience like no other show I’ve been too.

The buzz of the show was BOOM! Studio‘s first ever attendance with the focus on their BOOM! Town and kaboom! line of comic books.  Roger Langridge was their to represent his new graphic novel The Show Must Go On which is being published but the company.  Some questions were raised if this set a bad precedent, but their being there was not only appropriate but welcomed.  There’s numerous types of “small press” and “independent press” and BOOM! absolutely qualifies.  Many of the artists and writers who attended have had books sold by major publishers like Vertigo, and there was no question as to their right to attend.  Overall, it seemed to be more about snootiness and taste than an actual issue.  Here’s hoping BOOM! will be back next year.

While my pile of books wasn’t as big as last year, there’s some quality material here (and at the show in general).  I walked away with numerous ashcans left out on tables for free, but also purchased were:

  • Freedom – Seamus Heffernan debuted his Xeric Grant backed comic book at the show.  It explores a world in which the British won the War for Independence.
  • Forever Winter – There’s those comics you hold in your hand and have to get, this was that one.  It started off as a webcomic, the art is solid and haunting with what looks to be an excellent story about serial killer and the backdrop of a world of dark clouds and endless snow.
  • Americans UK – The crazy series’ latest issue was at the show for purchase. Not only did I grab it, but also a dirt cheap t-shirt with the comic’s logo.
  • American Terrorist – The full graphic novel will debut at New York Comic Con in a month but the sketchbooks that give you a good taste of the comic were on hand for purchase.
  • A Home for Mr. Easter – Brooke A. Allen’s comic about a young girl who finds the real life Easter bunny is cute, funny and a great read.

The worst part now is it’s another year until we get together again.