SPX 2007
The Small Press Comics Expo Report



Well, in case there are any doubters out there, we're here to tell you that SPX 2007 provided clear evidence that the perky li'l ship of state of small press and self-published comics remains water-tight, afloat, and proceeding upon the sea of fate at a brisk clip (so, are you still with us or has that strained metaphor caused you to fall overboard?)  As per usual, we picked up a big batch of boxes of books (comics, that is).  We're going to do our best to list them here before they sell out, and to share our thoughts on as many of them as that old devil, Time, permits. Pittsburgh area customers are, of course, encouraged to stop in and explore our haul in person.


Cold Heat Special - The Chunky GnarsCold Heat Special #1
by John Vermilyea
The Chunky Gnars: A Chocolate Gun Tribute
by Chris Cornwell

 As you may or may not already know, the Cold Heat comic book series has, after four issues, been put on hold so that it may be transformed into a 200+ page graphic novel to be released in 2008.  Faced with the potential for a year long drought for Cold Heat fans after their being acculturated to a regular release schedule, CH creators BJ and Frank Santoro have commisioned several ancilliary Cold Heat books to tide readers over while they themselves toil away on the core text.  The first two of these have now been released, and premiered at SPX.  Each is 16 pages in length.  Chunky Gnars is digest issue with cardstock cover while the Special is an 11" x 14" newspaper.  Both focus on the music-as-spiritual-salvation aspect of the Cold Heat narrative, and do so with much graphic aplomb, but each has a very distinct approach to the task, with Vermilyea taking advantage of the grand page sizes to present an action packed adventure that doubles as a sweeping simile, while Cornwell's digest is densely packed with metaphor, analogue and allegory all of which are related to each other and, tangentially at least, to the Cold Heat narrative thus far.  Even if you're not a follwer of the Cold Heat series, you should consider checking these out as each can and does stand on its own merits, as well as providing a window onto one of the most innovative comics works currently being produced.
copacetic price - $3.00@

Looking for the Joke
Looking for the Jokeby Chris Cornwell
Looking for the Joke is Cornwell's follow-up to I Wanna Destroy You, released earlier this year at S.P.A.C.E.  Following the same format as its predecessor, this 20-page, 8 1/2" x 11" comics magazine sports a hand silk-screened cover.   While continuing to explore similar concerns, LftJ provides solid evidence that Cornwell's vision and skills are in the process of evolving and advancing.  Where IWDY  contained a churning osmosis of concepts, LftJ is obviously bipartate in structure, as it is split into two distinct, separate stories:  "Herbman and/versus Dog-Dude," and "They Took It with Them."  It appears that the artistic equivalent of cell-division has taken place.  The question is whether the division was meiotic or mitotic, or, perhaps, at least in part, some novel sort of zygotic hybrid, in that "They Took It with Them" is a murky collaboration with Bill Boichel.  It will have to suffice for now to say that the comics herein contained reach far down into the inner organic reaches of human being and bring up some interesting finds the likes of which you won't find elsewhere.  So, if you like adventurous, challenging comics experiences, this might be the book for you.
copacetic price - $4.00


How to Be EverywhereHow to Be Everywhere
by Warren Craghead III
How to Be Everywhere is a collection of drawings illuminating the poetry of Guillame Apollinaire.  Craghead is clearly inspired by Apollinaire's writings and his connection with them is self-evident in the works that fill this slim volume.  The poetry of Apollinaire is an ideal choice for bringing into the comics fold.  He was a contemporary and associate of Picasso, Alfred Jarry and other prominent modernists of the Paris of the 1910s. 
Tragically, after his tremendously influential service on the front lines of the Moderninst movement, Apollinaire died after being wounded on the front lines of the first world war -- but not before founding and naming one of the most important movements of the 20th century:  surréalisme.  He also pioneered an innovative, spatially oriented approach to poetry -- the "calligramme" --  that we can now see, with the benefit of  hindsight, shares some common ground with comics.  It is precisely this common ground which Craghead has occupied, and How to Be Everywhere is the spot where he has planted his flag, so to speak.  With a nod to the cubist fracturing of spatial representation in drawing, painting and collage, Craghead extends Apollinaire's concerns with the ebb and flow of automatic writing -- the first surreal works -- by taking up the challenge of employing the conventions of representing pictographic space in line to effect a demonstration of the parallels between the composition of objective space in drawing and the composition of subjective thought in writing.  This makes for a thoroughly engaging -- not to mention fascinating -- experience.  Simultaneously reading space and looking at words creates an experience that can perhaps be understood as a sort of formalized version of synæsthesia that well serves to forge fresh neural connections and to accomplish the goal closest to Apollinaire's heart:  breaking down arbitrary, artificial distinctions and championing intellectual freedom.  Learn more at Drawer, Mr. Craghead's blog. 
limited edition of 100 numbered copies
copacetic price - sold out! (we'll try to get our hands on some more)


Swell, Part One: Openfaced Sandwich
by Juliacks
Swell #1This 11" x 11", 20-page work is without any doubt the most intense work we came across at this year's SPX.  It is also, however, one of the more difficult and some readers may find it confusing.  Finally, this is not a work that was produced with entertainment in mind, as it takes us through the tormented psyche of its protagonist, Emmaline, who is haunted by past sufferings which she can't seem to shake.  Juliacks is another new, Pittsburgh-based comics artist.  She has produced several previous works -- which we also have in stock -- but has with Swell produced a clear step forward that stands out from the crowd.  It draws from the same well of savage primitivism as Rory Hayes and Mike Diana, and cross-breeds this quality with the suburban angst of Diane Noomin and Aline Kominsky to successfully communicate the emotional states of rage and pain in which Emmaline is trapped and from which she is desparately trying to escape.  Swell is clearly intended by its creator as a cathartic abreaction of trauma and shines in its artistic risk-taking as many experiments are conducted in characterization, text placement and, most successfully, page layout.  The mark making is heavily labored and obviously invested with strong personal feelings.  All in all this first installment of Swell is a unique piece that is well worth the modest  outlay.  We hope that future installments deliver on the promise of this initial foray. 
copacetic price - $2.00
It is also available in a limited edition with an additional silk-screened cover.

copacetic
price - $5.00


Bald Knob
untitled

by John Hankiewicz
Any new comics release by Mr. Hankiewicz is a cause for celebration here at Copacetic, and so, with the release of these two, we had a little party.  Bald Knob is a fine example of what the cognoscenti have come to associate with Hankiewicz:  obscure, densely allusive text accompanies a series of  careful pen & ink renderings of mundane midwestern settings through which traipse a pair of ordinary Joes and to which the text bears no direct -- or, in fact, any obvious -- connection.  "And?" you may very well ask at this point.  To which, we would reply, "Yes, exactly."  It is this uncanny other, this poetic evocation of present absence which Hankiewicz brings to his work that puts it -- while clearly allowing for a degree of connection to fellow Holy Consumption-eers, Anders Nilsen and Paul Hornschemeier, all of whom exploit the deliberately unexceptional in their own way -- in a class by itself.  Untitled is a bit of a divergence for Hankiewicz, and is perhaps his single most abstract work to date.  It consists entirely of 30 variations (two block print and 28 pen & ink) on the theme stated by the cover:  a synthesis of organic and geometric forms composed of two pairs of simple leaves, a stem connecting them to a triangular base, and two spheres (which are represented as simple circles in the variations); that's it.  While there are countless precedents in art, drawing and print-making, to say nothing of music, for theme and variations, it is rarely found -- except, of course, on the narrative level (think superheroes) -- in comics, which, once you stop and think about it, lends itself quite well to this sort of work.  Kudos to Mr. Hankiewicz for pointing it out.  And, finally, we can't sign off on these without mentioning the amazing fact that each sports a painstakingly lithographed wraparound cover.  It's not every day you see "mini-comics" employing fine lithography, which makes these quite a bargain.  Don't expect them to be around long at these prices. 
Bald Knob 
copacetic price - $5.00
untitled  copacetic price - $3.00


CLOSED CAPTION COMICS

Closed Caption Comics VI (aka CCC 666)
The highest energy level to be found at SPX is between the covers
(which, we can't help but add comes in 4 different versions!) of this anthology.  Affectionately known -- at least by some -- as "the MICA kids", as many of them attend or have attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, The Closed Caption Comics Group let their joy in creating comics shine through and the energy is infectious.   A dozen different artists are featured in this issue, which runs a whopping 72 pages printed on multicolored paper with hand silkscreened cardstock covers and is bargain priced, so don't delay -- order today!
copacetic price - sold out

other comics from the Closed Caption gang include:

Picnic at Tough Beach
by Ryan Cecil Smith
According to Ryan, this comic is "based" on the Peter Weir film, Picnic at Hanging Rock.  You'll have to decide for yourself what to make of this claim, but we can tell you that this is a 36 page horizontally formatted, 7" by 5" comic book with full color silkscreened covers (and inside covers, as well!) with plenty of heavily-inked, sweaty, musclebound dudes toughing it out.
copacetic price - sold out

Tree Crime
by Mollie Goldstrom
This 56 page comic book is also horizontally formatted and printed 8" x 5" on recycled paper with recycled cardstock covers and has a handsewn binding.  There's definitely a Big Questions feel about it, but Ms. Goldstrom is working through her own concerns here in a well-paced morality tale with a twist.
copacetic price - sold out

Toads 'n' Chodes 2
by Noel Troll Freibert
This mini-comic sized second issue of T'n'C sports an amazing flourescent-colored, fold-out, psychedelic cover that contains 68 lime green pages of pen and ink extravaganzas guaranteed to mess with your mind and get glib with your id.
copacetic price - $6.00

See these and other great Closed Caption comics and learn more about these crazy kids at:

http://closedcaptioncomics.blogspot.com/


TUGBOAT PRESSPapercutter 6

Papercutter #1 - 6
We've said it before and we're going to use the fact that Tugboat Press was set up at SPX promoting their wares to take the opportunity to say it again:  Papercutter is the best regularly published comic book format comics anthology currently being published in North America.  Each issue features three great short comics
stories that are well written, well drawn and professionally presented in an attractively designed package printed in crisp black and white on nice heavy gauge off white stock with full color covers printed on flat card stock; all for a quite reasonable price.  Artists featured so far in Papercutter's six-issue run include John Porcellino, Aaron Reiner, Alec Longstreth, Kazimir Strzepek, Vanessa Davis, Bwana Spoons, Liz Prince, and others all of whose work is worth reading.  Do yourself a favor and try one of these.  We're confident you won't be disappointed.
#1 - #5 - retail price - $3.00@
  copacetic price - $2.70@
#6 - retail price - $4.00
  copacetic price - $3.60

Sundays
by various
This isn't something you see everyday: a giant 11" x 17" self-published "maxi-comic."  Complete with hand silk-screened, heavy stock, front and back covers (inside and out!), Sundays contains 54 pages of comics that -- yes, you guessed it -- harken back to the good-old-days of full-page Sunday funnies.  The 22 contributors and editors of this anthology  -- most of whom are connected in some way with The  Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont --  each have their own approach to exploiting the possibilities of the large 11" x 17" and there's some really great work here:  funny animals, astronauts, folk tales, humor, pathos, it's all here -- but most of all is the will to experiment and try to see what wrks.  It's all worth reading, but we'd like to especially single out the outstanding contributions of Joseph Lambert and JP Coovert for special mention.  It takes a lot of work to put something like this out, so they don't come around too often, take this rare opportunity and grab a hold of one of these before they're gone for good.  Learn more at http://www.sundaysanthology.com
copacetic price - $9.00


Pizza Wizard
by Samuel C. Gaskin
This 24-page, tabloid newspaper comic book that is suitable for all ages is publishied by Faux-Pas Productions, was funded by a grant from the Xeric Foundation, features trolls, wizards, earth pigs, ghost dragons,aliens, and "the brilliant author"; and it's a lot of fun. More at http://www.secretacres.com
copacetic price - $3.00


Ivy:  Chapter One & Chapter Two
by Sarah Oleksyk
These two comics -- chapter one runs a big 48 pages; chapter two, a still considerable 32 -- are cover to cover high school angst, which we realize is something that everyone has seen quite a bit of in comics form lately, but let us be the first to tell you that Ms. Oleksyk's Ivy is extremely well drawn and of such a polished, professional quality that we feel confident that -- once the story is completed -- you will see it between the covers of a graphic novel put out by an established publisher, and sitting on the shelf of a bookstore near you.  Perhaps the contract's already been signed.  In any event, if tales of high school outsiderdom are your cup of tea, do yourself a favor and grab this pair.  More at: 
http://www.saraholeksyk.com
copacetic price - $4.00@


Magic Hour/Sketchbook
by Alex Holden
This digest size comic book features 20 B & W pages with a color xerox cover.  It mixes reminiscences of childhood in the neighborhood with sketches of what may be the same areas and spaces today; it's not clear what the connection is, but their proximity to each other between the covers implies a relation of some sort.  There's a lot of nice pen and ink work, some pretty good storytelling and some interesting ideas and will probably be of special interest to other artists.
copacetic price - $3.00


The Adventures of Toommy Atillo & Paul:
The Karaoke Encryption (1 of 4)

by Acorn Reindeer (Aaron Reiner)
If you're looking for a fun book, this is it.  Featuring a punk rock Mr. Tomato Head and a bike-riding poodle this book is all hi-jinx adventures and wackiness, expertly rendered and paced by Aaron Reiner, who, as many of you will recall, two years ago produced the very well received graphic novel, Spiral Bound, published by Top Shelf.  Please be aware that this time around the material is, while every bit as much fun -- actually, even more fun, truth be told -- as Spiral Bound, it is a bit more raunchy and so less suitable for younger readers. 
copacetic price - $3.00


End of History
by Panayiotis Terzis
Wow!  This one's a 12 page mind-blower that beggars description.  All we can say is that it riffs on the eternal love triangle of Archie, Betty and Veronica in a manner far, far beyond what anyone has attempted (although, please be aware that the characters herein depicted, while clearly drawing on the ABV archetype, are not in any way shape or form related to the actual copyrighted characters Archie™, Betty™ or Veronica™).  Suffice it to say that this perky pamphlet packs a punch and you're definitely going to get your money's worth as you will go back to again and again as you try to pry out the mysterious, hidden secrets that are there, somewhere in those scrathy pen and ink lines, somewhere...
Perhaps a clue is to be found at http://www.pengoat.com
copacetic price - $3.00


Well, we thought we'd manage to post more of our haul, but this is all we could manage.  Still, quite a nice batch, we'd say!

>>Also, if you're in the mood to keep exploring the wonderful world of small press and self-published comics, we especially recommend our 2005 SPX page, along with those for 2006, 2004, 2003 and our original small press and self-published comics page from way back in 2002.  And now you can also check out our SPX pages from 2008 and 2009 as well.


You can delve more deeply into SPX 2007 by checking out these blog posts by people who were there:

Comics Comics Blog, specifically this and this

Jog - The Blog

The Beat

There are dozens -- if not hundreds -- more posts on SPX 2007.  It seems possible that everyone who attended has written something online about it.  The mind reels...  If you want to keep to keep going, start here.


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prices and availability current as of 1 October 2009