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Small Press Expo 2019 Announces Keith Knight, Craig Thompson, Ebony Flowers, Hannah Templer, Ben Passmore, and Lucy Knisley as Special Guests for 2019

Small Press Expo has announced another group of guests of Special Guests for SPX 2019. The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 14-15, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and will have over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables, over 20 programming slots and additional hands-on workshops to introduce attendees to the amazing world of independent and small press comics. Additional Special Guests will be announced soon.

Keith Knight

Keith Knight, winner of the Glyph, Harvey, and Inkpot Awards, is a spectacular and amazing cartoonist whose Knight Life comic strip is read nationwide in such newspapers as the Washington Post. Knight Life was optioned for a television series and is currently under development by Hulu with the title Woke. Keef’s funny yet hard-hitting cartoons in his webcomic series, (th)ink and The K Chronicles, led him to be named one of the 2015NAACP History Makers. Knight is the illustrator of the critically acclaimed tween book, Jake the Fake Keeps It Real. Keef has a new collection coming out this Fall called (th)ink: It’s the Racism, Stupid!

Craig Thompson

Craig Thompson is a cartoonist and the author of the award-winning books BlanketsGood-bye, Chunky Rice; and Habibi. He was born in Michigan in 1975, and grew up in a rural farming community in central Wisconsin. His graphic novel Blankets won numerous industry awards and has been published in nearly twenty languages. Thompson lives in Portland, Oregon.

Now, for the first time in his career, Thompson is working in serial form, in a bimonthly comic book series. Part memoir, part travelogue, part essay—all comic book—Ginseng Roots explores class divide, agriculture, holistic healing, the 300 year long trade relationship between China and North America, childhood labor, and the bond between two brothers.

Ebony Flowers was born and raised in Maryland. She holds a BA in Biological Anthropology from the University of Maryland College Park and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she wrote her dissertation as a comic (mostly). Ebony is a 2017 Rona Jaffe Award recipient. She lives in Denver, CO.Hot Comb is her first collection of short stories published by Drawn & Quarterly. 
Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into Black women’s lives and coming of age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn.

Hannah Templer is a queer cartoonist and graphic designer. In addition to writing and drawing Cosmoknights (Top Shelf Productions), they are the artist for GLOW (IDW Publishing, Netflix), and have also worked as a colorist, cover artist and interior artist on well-known titles such as Samurai JackTomb Raider, and Jem and the Holograms. They enjoy life with their trusty dog Thistle and grumpy cat Noodle, and play tabletop roleplaying games as often as they can.

Ben Passmore lives in Philly. His comics are about crime, monsters, anarchism, sexual dysfunction, police brutality, art theory, and his feels. Creator ofDAYGLOAYHOLE and Goodbye, his comicYour Black Friend won the 2017 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic, as well as being nominated for an Eisner Award. His illustrations have appeared in publications such as including the New York Times, Irene, Now: The New Comics Anthology, and Believer Magazine. Ben contributes political/social editorial comics to The Nib, and his latest book is Bttm Fdrs with Ezra Claytan Daniels.

Lucy Knisley is a critically acclaimed and award-winning comic creator. She lives in Chicago.

She specializes in personal, confessional graphic novels and travelogues.

Her last name is confusing and has a silent K. It’s pronounced kind-of like “nigh-slee.”

Around the Tubes

We’re recovering from Small Press Expo a fantastic show that’s a yearly reminder of the amazing and diverse amount of comics out there. We’ll have our thoughts this week but for now, here’s comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

NewsOK – Oklahoma educator earns scholarship with comic book proposal – Very Cool to see this.

Washington Post – Meet Captain South Africa; she’d rather not punch criminals – Might have to check this out.

WVLT – Comic book stores give away free comics to Florence evacuees – This is great to see, the community helping out. Go support these shops!

DC Comics – Breaking News: Cassandra Jean Amell Joins the Arrowverse As Nora Fries – Interesting…

DC Comics – Breaking News: The Arrowverse Finds its Lois Lane – She looks the part.

Smash Pages – SPX, TCJ, OMG: A Hot Take – If you want to read another take other than our own…

Smash Pages – Marvel cancels Cain, Mohan, Koch’s ‘The Vision’ miniseries – Sigh…

The Comichron – Fantastic Four #1 leads August 2018 comics sales; market up 4%, Marvel up 22% – It’s doomed! DOOMED!

 

Reviews

Talking Comics – Elric: The White Wolf #1

Talking Comics – Fantastic Four #2

Comic Attack – Stranger Things #1

Review: Survive 300 Million 1

With Small Press Expo this weekend, we’re reviewing some of the comics that’ll be debuting at this year’s show!

Published by Retrofit Comics, Survive 300 Million 1 by Pat Aulisio is about a father and son team, Axel and Blaze, traverse the post-man ruinscape of the future. They stumble upon an advance reptilian base in the dulce mountains and have to face the inhabitants within.

What do we think? Find out!

You can purchase your own copy directly from Retrofit!

Review: The Prince

With Small Press Expo this weekend, we’re reviewing some of the comics that’ll be debuting at this year’s show!

Published by Retrofit Comics, The Prince by Liam Cobb is a trippy horror story that follows May, who is going through a bad marriage, but forms an unlikely friendship with a frog, who mysteriously turns up at her apartment as things between her and her husband deteriorate. Part animal comedy, part erotic thriller, The Prince is a strange, vengeful love story that tells the story of a woman and her pet.

What do we think? Find out!

You can purchase your own copy directly from Retrofit!

Amazon Isn’t Indie and Small Press’ Enemy, It’s Another Platform to Sell

If you read The Comics Journal, it might seem like one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was descending on Small Press Expo which takes place in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend. In an article entitled “A Plague Comes to SPX” RJ Casey makes the case that Amazon and comiXology‘s involvement in the show is an “affront” to those who attend and exhibit at the show.

comiXology is a digital platform that acts as a storefront for digital comics and was purchased by Amazon some years ago. Since then, the company has expanded allowing individual creators to upload their comics to sell through comiXology Submit and more recently launched a line of original comics called comiXology Originals.

Amazon and comiXology are bringing one of those originals, Hit Reblog, to SPX along with some of the creative team behind it and giving away printed copies to attendees. They’re also sponsoring portions of the convention.

Some feared when comiXology was acquired Amazon they would flex their market dominance putting pressure on publishers and brick and mortar stores. In the years since the focus has been more on experimentation and slowly integrating the service into the Amazon family such as Amazon Prime and Kindle. Even before Amazon, comiXology was the 800lb gorilla in the digital comics market and at any time could have easily become a tyrant with their exclusive contracts and market dominance. Though there were alternatives earlier and after, they remain the gold standard service by which all others will be measured. None have come close to matching what comiXology delivers.

While it is understandable to be nervous about Amazon’s entrance into the comics market and apprehensive due to their questionable treatment of employees, reality is their store had already been in the comic market for years selling individual comics and graphic novels and accounting for an unknown, but vital, amount of sales. Well before comiXology, Amazon had a section dedicated to comics with regular promotion and since the acquisition, those promotions have become better focused and better curated running appropriate sales during events such as San Diego Comic-Con and Small Press Expo raising awareness. ComiXology Originals are free to read for Amazon Prime a service millions are already paying for.

While the TCJ article spends a decent amount of time advocating for the rights of Amazon employees, its actual focus on the comics aspect seems to fall short in both facts and conclusions.

The fear seems to be, Amazon sponsorship of Small Press Expo is a trojan horse to take over independent comics as if there is one publisher by which that can be accomplished. The article and those concerned supporting it make indie and small press comics out to be both on the edge of collapse, easily broken, and also so lucrative that Amazon of course would want to snatch it up. It’s Schroedinger’s business. Both fragile and also immensely successful as is.

What the article fails to mention is that Amazon is already in the small press comic game and has been for years as both a platform and a publisher. Not only can creators self publish through their many services but the company also has Jet City Comics launched in 2013. They were already in the original comics publishing game well before the comiXology acquisition and that included distribution through comic stores. For a behemoth that is portrayed as so focused on closing brick and mortar stores, it’s strange that in their business model of their own comic line would include brick and mortar stores.

The article claims that Amazon wants to be “your printer, distributor, and most likely, publisher and editor.” As stated by Bedside Press‘ founder Hope Nicholson, Hit Reblog is published and owned by Bedside Press, not comiXology and not Amazon. An attack on the comic is an attack on a small press comic company. Similarly, Savage Game, the first comiXology Original comic to be printed, is owned by Cryptozoic.

Amazon and comiXology are the distributor and printer at most, very different than other comic publishers and more akin to a combination of Diamond Comic Distributors, the monopoly that currently is the major comic distribution service, and a possible printing company. Honestly in a way they’re like Image, a brand that comes with some benefits but in the end are creator owned. comiXology Originals sound more like paid for exclusives, a value added for comiXology and Amazon Prime customers and subscribers. They’re also willing to sink money into promoting comic projects featuring varied subjects and different creative voices that we don’t normally hear from other publishers.

The article also mentions a hit on “artistic freedom and intent” with a focus on the paper on which the comics are printed. While different printings can create a different reading experience, the focus on this, much as the article as a whole, screams of elitist gatekeeping as if there is one way to print a comic. ComiXology is providing these creators, and all of those that participate in comiXology Submit, a creator owned platform and the ability to do as they please with a possible visibility that can’t be replicated by any current comic publisher or distribution system. Amazon for years has provided print on demand services and it’s only natural that this be incorporated into this latest experiment of theirs.

As C. Spike Trotman emphasized in the comiXology Originals San Diego Comic-Con announcement panel, the ability to work with comiXology and Amazon is a value added and provides an opportunity to open doors. These are opportunities that might not exist to her as an already successful independent comic publisher (one who has been a regular at SPX for years). This is a comic creator who has raised over $1 million on Kickstarter. Trotman pointed out despite that success some doors are still closed to her. Amazon and comiXology are partners to possibly help open some and explore others neither have ever imagined.

With those incorrect conclusions and facts, the TCJ article warns of dire times when Amazon will force indie creators to print through them and undercuts creators through their platform. As if there’s not other on demand printing options and also downplays the do-it-youself nature of indie comics.

The reality is, a sale on Amazon because an individual saw the comic at a convention is still a sale. Yes, the creator will make less, but they’re still making money that most likely will have never been made otherwise. Conventions like SPX are as much about visibility and advertising as they’re about direct sales to the consumer. Conventions are about raising awareness and getting on attendees’ radars. That fee for the table, that’s the advertising fee. What you make there is some of which you make back immediately from that advertising. And Amazon’s cut of the sales through their platform? That’s no different than selling through Diamond or to comic shops directly or through Kickstarter or Etsy or Indiegogo which all take their piece of the pie. Amazon and comiXology are the technology platform through which these individuals can sell their wares globally and if done right get their creations before an audience that might not otherwise see them. That’s something TCJ’s parent Fantagraphics should be well aware as they use both Amazon and comiXology as two of their sales channels. It’s not an either or, it’s an all of the above to sell comics.

But where the article absolutely fails is its advocacy for attendees to throw copies of Hit Reblog in the trash. As if that comic is less worthy to be at the show than any other. TCJ seems to forget that the beauty of small press and indie comics is that anyone can make them. The paper it’s printed on, the format it comes in, and the ability of the creators are varied. Indie comics and small press are all an experiment. None of it is right, none of it is wrong. No one can “own” small press and indie comics because anyone can create them. Walk up and down the aisles at Small Press Expo and you can see that from the high quality books published by the likes of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, and Top Shelf, to the comics xeroxed, stapled, and folded by the attendees themselves. RJ Casey, TCJ, and Fantagraphics has seem to have forgotten this and are becoming the gatekeepers they themselves would have decried years ago.

Rebecca Sugar is Coming to the Small Press Expo

The Small Press Expo is VERY excited to have Rebecca Sugar at this years show. Given her stature in the world of TV animation, to accommodate the expected interest in her panel at this years show,admission to The Universes of Rebecca Sugar panel on Saturday at 3pm in the White Oak Room will require a pink wristband for entry.

  • Wristbands are free with admission and available first come, first served when picking up your admission badge on Saturday morning, until they are gone
  • When picking up your admission badge, you must ask for a pink wristband
  • Wristbands are limited to one per person
  • You must be present to get a wristband, someone else cannot get a pink wristband for you.

Lines for admission badges will form in the exhibit hall foyer beginning at 10:00am Saturday morning. This applies to both e-ticket admission redemption or admission purchased at the door; you must be in the admissions line to request a wristband.

E-ticket holders who do not want a pink wristband will have the opportunity to be checked in from their place in line by floating volunteers to avoid long wait times for admission.

Exhibitors/volunteers/VIPs and members of the Press that have already registered may queue in the admissions line beginning at 10:00AM to pick up a wristband.

The line to enter the panel will form downstairs outside of the Linden Oak Room beginning at 2pm. Volunteers with signs will guide you into the line.

All panels are recorded and available on the SPX youtube channel a few days following the show.

Rebecca will also be doing two books signings, Saturday from 1:00PM-2:00PM and Sunday from 1:00PM-2:00PM. The signings will be at table W85, with a line forming outside the doors to the ballroom closest to her tables.

Small Press Expo Launches a GoFundMe for Defend the 11

Last month, eleven members of the independent comics community and one publisher were served with a defamation lawsuit because of concerns they raised about a fellow creator’s alleged pattern of sexual misconduct.

Whit Taylor, Laura Knetzger, Josh O’Neill, Tom Kaczynski, Hazel Newlevant, Emma Louthan, Ben Passmore, Emi Gennis, Jordan Shiveley, Morgan Pielli, and Rob Clough, as well as the indie comics publisher Uncivilized Books, all need our help to defend themselves against these charges!

SPX has established the Defend The 11 legal aid fund to help these members of our creative community in their time of need. SPX is organizing this fund in consultation with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which brings legal and fundraising experience to the effort.

Cases like this can be costly and drag out for years reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills. An amount of $20,000 was initially pledged to help with the defense and give these creators immediate access to legal representation. Most of that money has already been spent on legal bills.

SPX announced its intent to establish a legal aid fund in a September 1, 2018 joint statement with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s new President, Christina Merkler. SPX’s annual comic arts festival takes place this weekend in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, those wishing to donate to the #Defendthe11 legal aid fund can do so in-person at the festival.

Small Press Expo Announces the Debut Comics Making Their Way to the Show

Small Press Expo has announced that nearly 200 books and comics will debut at the 2018 festival. The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 15-16, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and will have over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables and 22 programming slots to introduce attendees to the amazing world of independent and small press comics.

A complete list of debuts, including cover images and publishing information, can be found on the SPX web site.

SPX 2018 is proud to list a highlighted selection of books debuting this year:

Bastard

After taking part in a historic heist — 52 simultaneous robberies at the same time, in the same city — May and Eugene are now on the run not only from the law and double-crossed former accomplices, but also their violent past. In a surprising twist, these criminals are the unlikely pairing of a young mother and her preteen son. Thus begins the intense, yet touching, Bastard, Max de RadiguèsFantagraphics debut.

The Nib Magazine #1

Acclaimed daily comic publisher focusing on current events, The Nib is launching their first ever printed works. With brand-new, original comics from over 20 top-notch artists, the Death issue shares intimate personal stories, dark humor and thought-provoking reporting on the facts of life and death. Compiled and edited by The Nib‘s Matt Bors

Space Academy 123

Surviving school is tough; now imagine peer pressure and midterms while hurtling through the vacuum of space. Mickey Zacchilli blends Starfleet with Degrassi to make a classroom saga that recalls manga, Sunday funnies and composition book epics scrawled while ignoring the periodic table.

Blame This on the Boogie

Blame this on the Boogie chronicles the adventures of a Filipino American girl born in the decade of disco who escapes life’s hardships and mundanity through the genre’s feel good song and dance numbers. Rina Ayuyang explores how the glowing charm of the silver screen can transform one’s reality, shaping their approach to childhood, relationships, sports, reality TV, and eventually politics, parenthood, and mortality.

120 Project Anthology

A collection of short stories by writers and artists from across the country, this timely and punchy anthology explores contemporary issues, conflicts, and dialogues about race, gender, politics, diversity, discrimination, equality, activism, police brutality, free speech, family values, protest, immigration, bans, legislation, fear, hope, dreams, and current American reality. All contributors lent their time and artistry to this endeavor, and all proceeds will go to the ACLU. Edited by Oliver Mertz and Sarah Beth Oppenheim.

Homebody

New from Ignatz-nominated cartoonist, Richie Pope. A recluse takes a tour of brand new luxury apartments with the help of The Manager to escape her monotonous life and the disturbing memory of a recent event that happened in her own apartment complex.

The Secret Voice Vol. 1

The first chapter in a grand fantasy epic filled with psychic warrior monks, magic battles, monsters, and romance from the mind of Zack Soto. Doctor Galapagos, famed warrior-monk and agent of the ineffable Red College, is on a desperate mission to unite the realms of magic and man in a last-ditch effort to stop the seemingly invincible forces of the Smog Emperor.

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