SPX 2004 Bonanza of Comics!We went, we saw and we bought, and now we've brought it back to the shelves of Copacetic. As usual there was an overabundance of new material to choose from. We did out best to get it all -- and came pretty close. Here it is:
The most notable trend evident at this year's SPX was the migration of some of the best and brightest of previous years' self-publishers to the "majors" of indy publishing. Kevin Huizenga and Anders Nilsen were both in attendance and each had new books out -- Or Else #1 (retail price - $3.50 copacetic SPX special price - $2.75), the first in an ongoing quarterly series (check it out HERE; and there's a decent review of it HERE), and Dogs and Water (retail price - $9.95 copacetic SPX special price - $7.95), respectively -- but this year you could find them at the Drawn & Quarterly tables as this is who put the books out. (To learn more about the work of Kevin Huizenga read our reviews of D & Q Showcase #1 and Supermonster.) Andy Runton's Owly was out in book from from Top Shelf (although that didn't stop him from self-publishing two new minis! These are priced at $3 & $4 @).
Several other notable releases from the Big Four of indy comics publishing -- Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Top Shelf and Alternative Comics -- premiered at SPX: from D & Q, in addition to the aforementioned, there were David Collier's new magnum opus, The Frank Ritza Papers, is a 196 page melange of comics, sketches and notes that spans a decade (retail price - $19.95 copacetic SPX special price - $14.95), and Babel, an amazing graphic tour de force from France's David B. (retail price - $9.95 copacetic SPX special price - $7.95); from Top Shelf came the much anticipated new book from Jeffrey Brown, Big Head, which brings a new and heretofore unseen level of angst to super hero comics (retail price - $12.95 copacetic SPX special price - $9.95); from Alternative Comics we have -- finally! -- the second issue of Matt Madden's A Fine Mess, which, we must say, is a truly fine effort, wherein -- along with his exceptional contribution to Rosetta 2 -- Mr. Madden finally starts living up to his promise as an important comics formalist (retail price - $3.50 copacetic SPX special price - $3.00); also from AC are Josh Neufeld's A Few Perfrect Hours... and Other Stories from Southeast Asia & Central Europe (retail price - $12.95 copacetic price - $11.65), an insightful contribution to the burgeoning travel comics genre that is the culmination of many years work which falls midway between the work of Joe Sacco and that of Craig Thompson's latest, Carnet de Voyage, and Joel Orff's first foray into long form comics, Waterwise, a meditative fable on love and life (retail price - $14.95 copacetic price - $12.75); and, finally, from Fantagraphics come two of the year's biggest releases, the second volume of their much heralded Complete Peanuts series and Locas, the complete Maggie and Hopey saga from the original fifty-issue run of Love and Rockets.
Other important new releases include Return of the Elephant by Paul Hornschemeier from AdHouse Books (retail price - $6.00 copacetic SPX special price - $5.00); King-Cat #63 self-published by John Porcellino (copacetic price - $2.50): and The All-American USS Catastrophe Election 2004 Treasury, a collection of drawings by Kevin Huizenga, Ted May and Dan Zettwoch that raised $1600 for the Kerry campaign -- way to go guys (copacetic price - $3.00)!
And let's not forget the local crew. Pittsburgh was well represented at this year's SPX.
First off we saw the world premiere of Tom Scioli's latest work, The Myth of 8-Opus: Prologue graphic novel in which we at last learn the origin of this bearer of the great Kirby tradition of cosmic questing wayfarers (retail price - $10.00 copacetic SPX special price - $8.50). Neil Babra was on hand with a full color mini anthology titled, Tempus, Fugit, into which he managed to squeeze five short autobiographical pieces, one funny animal short, and a bunch of illustrations; not bad for only $2.00. Pat Lewis unveiled his latest mini, Hideous, A Monster Romance, which is full-on parody of Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown, also selling for $2.00. And, finally, Jim Rugg and Jasen Lex were on hand to promote their new and upcoming work. Jim had Street Angel #3 on hand, which we -- along with countless others -- have already highly praised. He also had proofs of his latest story which will soon appear in the upcoming Adhouse Books anthology, Superior. Jasen had proofs of the first two issues of his forthcoming full-color series from Antarctic Press. Pittsburgh is in the house!
Then, of course, there's the 2004 SPX Anthology. This year's theme is, surprise, WAR. The anthology runs 192 pages and contains 27 pieces by a self-publishing authors including Jeff Smith, Drew Weing, Justin Hall, Winston Rowntree, Bruce Mutard, Diana Yee, a one-pager by Megan Kelso & Ron Rege, and twenty more. The wars covered in this anthology include the Crusades, the first and second World Wars (and specifically the Holocaust), and the Vietnam War, as well as, of course, the current conflict. In addition, there are some pieces on war in general and some fables dealing with war as well. As per ususal, all proceeds from this book benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (retail price - $9.95 copacetic price - $7.95).
Perhaps our favorite find at this year's show are the five issues of It Felt Fine Just To Lose by Jeff LeVine, along with the two issues of his untitled sketchbook series. Jeff LeVine has been creating and producing comics (as well as four issues of an interesting magazine about comics, the ironically titled Destroy All Comics!) for nearly two decades. His work has continued to evolve on all fronts -- form, content and style -- throughout his career, and he really seems to have finally hit his stride over the last few years. Last year Sparkplug Comics released LeVine's excellent Watching Days Become Years, and these issues of It Felt Fine... reinforce as well as expand upon the advances he demonstrated in that work. LeVine has succeeded Harvey Pekar as the reigning comics laureate of the solitary life. In the pages of his comics, LeVine grapples with the emotions that he confronts on a daily basis; feelings ranging, on the one hand, from frustration at the repetitive nature of his chosen reality to existential despair that he has made a mistake in choosing this particular reality in the first place; and, on the other hand, from an exultation in the joys of movement -- whether it be the simple pleasure of an afternoon walk or the life-enhancing bliss of extended travel -- to an essential affirmation of the centrality of culture -- of art and literature, of movies and music (both live and recorded) and even professional sports. Though LeVine lives his life alone, he doesn't "bottle it up." Instead, he channels his instinctual communitarian needs through his comics work and we, his readers, are the beneficiaries.
The works in this series are, for the most part, in the one-page = one-day format popularized by James Kochalka, but while the majority of people doing work in this format are heavily influenced by Kochalka's example, LeVine's work couldn't be more different. He has developed a highly personal artistic voice that, while owing something to the examples of Raymond Pettibone and Frankie Sirk/Santoro, is original and ultimately entirely his own. Combining a highly disciplined eye for observed detail with a thoroughly developed ability to render space, depth and light in drawings limited to a palette of black, white and gray, LeVine presents the reader with a series of drawings that work -- and work well -- to simultaneously present his external surroundings and his internal response to them. This internal response is then joined by text that, while usually complementary to the image it shares the page with, can occasionally appear to be a rather cryptic accompaniment to or even a conflicting account of the reality that we seem to be presented with; but once the reader takes the time to reflect upon and/or digest the combination of image and text with which LeVine presents him or her, a new, synthetic meaning will emerge, and an expanded appreciation of our surroundings will result. Not bad for the copacetic price of just $3.00 an issue. It's only a matter of time until LeVine's work garners the larger audience it deserves. Check it out now, so you can say you knew him when... (Also, if you haven't already, check out LeVine's Watching Days Become Years, from Sparkplug Comics.)
And that's just the tip of the iceberg!!! There are dozens more self-published comics by the up and coming group of new comics creators that are now displayed on our shelves, comics like Clutch #10 & #12, 128 page square-bound minis that we're selling for the very copacetic price of $3.00 -- these collect the daily diary strips of one Clutch McBastard, whom, while emulating Kochalka's American Elf strips, offers an entirely different personality; Nothing Left To Lose, a 216 page (!) graphic novel by Josh Farkas that we're offering at the amazingly low SPX special price of merely $5.99; Phase 7 #s 1 - 5 a very well produced series by Alec Longstreth that has been released in a hand signed and numbered limited edition of 300 copies per 8 1/2" x 11" issue, yet sells for only $3.00 - $4.00 per issue; Catfight #s 1 - 4 by MK Brown which chronicles the travails of outsider high-school girls in 8 1/2 x 11 format that also sells for $3.00 - $4.00; Landscape of Possibilites/Net Result, a two-in-one book by Britain's Nick Abadzis and Paul Peart-Smith for $4.00; Service Industry, a collection of strips with a fine hand-silk screened cover that retails for $6.00 by T Edward Bak, who also produced the unique Firefly Waltz; The Intruder by Mark Burrier, a nice piece we're selling for only $3.00; Matter, a cool book for $2.00; and a whole stack of misanthropic books of varying shapes and sizes by Frederick Nolan (aka Fredo) that, while working in the vein of Dave Cooper and Al Columbia, are nevertheless not without originality, and are perhaps even more jaundiced in their view of human nature and range in price from $2.00 to $3.50.
In addition there are some exceptionally crafted books that we have stocked in extremely limited quantities (i.e. only one or two copies), such as Put On a Brave Face and Sex Rainbow by Hope Larson, and Don't Leave Home by Sara Edward Corbett.
Remember: many of these items we will not be able to restock, ever. This will be the only time that they will be offered for sale at Copacetic, so if you'd like to get the chance to look over all this work, come on down. We're confident that you'll be glad you did!
Interested in seeing what transpired at SPXs past? Check these out:
Small Press Comics (much of which originated at SPX 2002)
And, finally, here's a list of this year's Ignatz Award Winners:
Eighth Annual Ignatz Award Winners
Craig Thompson, Blankets (Top Shelf Productions)
Outstanding GN or Collection
Blankets, Craig Thompson (Top Shelf Productions)
“Glenn Ganges”, Drawn and Quarterly Showcase Book 1, Kevin Huizenga (Drawn and Quarterly)
Promising New Talent
Lauren Weinstein, Kramer’s Ergot #4
Finder, Carla Speed McNeil (Lightspeed Press)
Eightball #23, Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics Books)
Lucky #3, Gabrielle Bell, (Self-published)
Outstanding Online Comic
American Elf, James Kochalka, americanelf.com
Teen Boat #6: Vote Boat, Dave Roman and John Green (Cryptic Press)
prices and availability current as of 26 October 2004