It was another great show, especially satisfying since I missed last year's. In no particular order, this was my day:
0) I was handing out free copies of my new three-page comic poem, The Subway Driver's Lament, illustrated by Leontine Greenberg, to anyone and everyone; however, if you were not one of the lucky 59 people who received a copy, please check it out here and let us know what you think!
1) It was hot as shit! Worse on the 7th floor, which was surrounded by windows and operated like a greenhouse, heating up the sweaty mass of enthusiastic comic geeks. I felt bad for a few of the creators and exhibitors stuck up there, who clearly seemed exasperated, despite trying to be cheerful. Although I wanted to spend more time, I gave up after a half hour or so and retreated back downstairs.
2) It was crowded! Obviously others will have more official numbers, but the show seems to have outgrown the Puck Building, and a new venue might be worth looking into.
3) It was impressive. Moreso than in past shows, there were a tremendous amount of new creators out there with a fair bit of talent. Between SVA, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and ambitious newbies, more and more artists are churning out quality mini-comics. Even though I picked up a fair number of them, at the end I felt like I missed out on a lot of things and wished I could have gone back on Sunday to grab up many of the hidden gems that I missed on my first pass.
4) I met up with fellow Sequart and CBR writer Tim Callahan and wandered around for a little while, checking out the wares on the first floor. At some point we got separated, but caught up again a couple times later in the day.
5) The first thing I bought was Hope Larson’s new book, Chiggers.
6) One of the coolest things I discovered was Sean Ford’s self published book, Only Skin. I got all three oversized issues and read them immediately. The story, subtitled, “tales from the slow apocalypse” is a wry, small town story of missing persons. It features a sardonic ghost which looks plucked right out of Pac Man, who pops up periodically to wax philosophical and seems to know a lot about what’s going on, but is reluctant to share this knowledge with anyone other Clay, one of the few children in the town. It’s a great looking book, with beautiful, full color wraparound covers.
7) I stopped by and chatted with Karl Stevens, who I interviewed back in my Comic Book Galaxy days, and picked up a copy of his new book, Whatever, which includes a bunch of short stories and single page strips, as well as a dozen or so full color paintings, most of which were serialized in the Phoenix, a Boston alternative newspaper. I’ve always liked Stevens’ insanely crosshatched, photo-inspired artwork, and in these short strips which mostly focus on the day-to-day lives of a group of twenty-somethings, Stevens’ seems comfortable and confident.
8) I also caught up with fellow Comic Book Galaxy writer, Diana Tamblyn, who had her own table this year. We chatted for a while and ended up trading minis, and since we are both relatively new parents, I grabbed The Rosie Stories, a mini-comic about her daughter.
9) I was a little overambitious about the signings, but didn’t want to waste too much of my limited time standing on line. So I was first in line to get my copy of Jason’s new book of old strips, A Pocketful of Rain, signed. Jason was also kind enough to do a little sketch for me, his signature dog character in a smoking jacket. I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but it’s interesting to see Jason’s early work, including actual human characters, and I’m told that this early stuff is among his best work so I’m eager to dive in.
10) I was third in line to get What It Is signed by Lynda Barry, and I was glad I was, because about 5 minutes after I got to the D&Q table, the line ballooned and there had to be at least 50 people waiting. I was amazed at the fact that Lynda looks exactly like she draws herself, and was even wearing the bandana in her hair. She could not have been sweeter or more gracious and we briefly bonded over the fact that we share the same birthday (Jan. 2) and that it is, without a doubt, the single worst day of the year to have a birthday. As for her new book, it’s a daunting, beautiful slab of ideas about the creative process. It’s the kind of thing I think I need to work myself up to reading, like a David Mack comic, but I’m sure it will be worth it when I do. I gave a copy of my mini-comic to her and then moved on.
11) I caught up with Greg Ruth, who is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the industry, and also one of my personal favorite illustrators. Greg had a ton of new pages from his highly anticipated The Woodland Chronicles and all I can say is that when this project is finally finished, it’s going to be amazing. Greg also mentioned that he’s planning to do an 8 issue mini-series for Vertigo sometime next year, but that right now it’s all very hush hush.
12) I caught up with Kevin Colden, author of the excellent Fishtown graphic novel, and his lovely wife, Miss Lasko-Gross, creator of Fantagraphics' Escape from Special, who caught me off guard when she mentioned that I looked like gay comedian, Mario Cantone. By the way, if you haven't checked out Smith Magazine's new web-comic, My Next Door Neighbor, you have to check out Kevin's awesome story here.
13) About a year ago I made an amazing discovery of a rare platinum age comic called Comics From Scribner’s Magazine, which was published in 1890. There is very little information about the book on the Internet; a Google search yielded almost no results, so I brought the book with me in hopes of finding out a little more about it from the comics scholars in residence. By far the most helpful and knowledgeable was Comic Arf editor, Craig Yoe, who gave me lots of info on each of the artists, and implied that this book, which is surprisingly modern in its size and format (it's saddle-stitched and even fits in a standard comic bag and board), may be the first known use of the term “comics.”
14) I stopped by the Blurred Books table and chatted with Kevin Mutch and Alex Rader for a while. I’ve always felt that Blurred Vision is one of the best and most underrated of the indie anthologies out there, and their fourth volume, which the guys were kind enough to give me a copy of, looks like one of the best yet (though I haven’t read it ). I also grabbed a copy of Kevin’s new comic, Fantastic Life.
15) I caught up with Stef Lenk, author of sublime serialized graphic novel, The Details, which is up to its fourth chapter. The fully painted series is looking much sharper and richer than earlier issues; check out fellow Sequart writer Rob Clough's review of Stef's new books, just posted today.
16) One of my wife’s favorite mini-comic creators is Daniel Spottswood, creator of Disquietville. Spottswood’s style is a combination of Chris Ware and Charles Schulz, but because of the small size of the panels, I’ve always preferred to read it in printed form than online, so I was thrilled to see that he had a new book. We chatted for a few minutes about the Midwest (he and my wife are both from the same suburn of Kansas City).
17) Speaking of the Midwest, I also had a good chat with Matt Kindt and his wife, who are from my hometown of St. Louis. We all agreed that the Cardinals are a great surprise this year, but that the old Busch Stadium was far better than the new one (even though they won the 2006 World Series in the new one). Matt also mentioned that he is working on a follow-up to Super Spy, which was one of my best books of 2007. Actually, I highly recommend reading Super Spy twice, first straight through and then second, in the coded order that is implied in the table of contents. It’s an amazingly intricate story structure.
18) I also caught up with yet another fellow St. Louisan, Comic Foundry editor Tim Leong. Comics Foundry is a unique publication which straddles the comics and magazine industries, applying the magazine design style to the comics scene. Its strength is its eclectic subject matter and Leong and friends’ incredible sense of humor.
19) I stopped by the Sparkplug Comics table and picked up the third and fourth issues of Elijah Brubaker’s Reich, but resisted buying any of their other books, thinking I would be coming back later. Unfortunately, I never made it back. By the way, Wilhelm Reich said one of the truest quotes ever about politics: “The fact that Hitler was a political genius unmasks the nature of politics in general as no other fact can.”
20) Rosemary Mosco had a few interesting books and I picked up one called 55 Words, which features illustrated short stories and poems all 55 words in lengths. It’s an intriguing boundary to draw around the creative process, and I’m looking forward to reading it.
21) I had a great chat with Adam Cadwell and Daniel Boyd about the greatness of Johnny Cash, and in particular, the American Recordings with Rick Rubin, and ended up getting each of their Johnny-inspired comics. Cadwell’s was a free one-pager called “Tales of Johnny Cash’ which adapted a bizarre story about the time Johnny apparently got into a fight with an ostrich, while Boyd did an excellent silent adaptation of the Cash song, “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” which we traded for.
22) I also had a nice chat with Matt Swanson and Robbi Behr of Idiot Books, who were there with their two-month old daughter. I was impressed by how many lushly produced, full color stories they had on display, and ended up getting Dawn of the Fats, which Matt described as an anti-capitalist parable.
23) Another book I wish I’d bought, but didn’t was the new hardcover collection of Skyscrapers of the Midwest from Adhouse Books. I’ve only read the third issue, which I found a little confusing but fascinating and richly illustrated. I did have a good chat with Chris Pitzer, who gave me a copy of Superior Showcase #3, which I was surprised to find out features the first published work by my old friend from way back, Dustin Harbin. By the way, the book also includes a new Street Angel story by Rugg and Maruca.
24) One of my more unusual finds of the show was the four page poster/illustrated poem by Alexander Rothman, called “Onions, Hopkins.” It's essentially a meditation on a man cooking with onions, but Rothman has an incredible sense of design, and the poem, which is four single pages taped together, each set against a heavy black background, is an interesting experiment in format. I like this sort of thing, and hope that Rothman can find an audience for it.
25) Someone must have handed me a free copy of the anthology Nerd Burglar and DC was giving out free copies of Janes in Love, the new Minx book by Cecil Castrellucci and Jim Rugg.
26) I’m not the first, or even the fiftieth person to point this out, but Kevin Huizenga’s brochure for the Center for Cartoon Studies is itself a work of art worth owning.
27) I was excited to see Dash Shaw (who, incidentally, has one of the best creator websites in comics) who I had spoken to several times over e-mail but had only met briefly in person. I picked up his new 700 page book, Bottomless Bellybutton but later regretted having to carry it around with me all show.
28) That’s about it. I left around 4:00 so I could get home and play with my son a little before he went to sleep. I had a lot of fun, as always, but wished I had more time.