The Small Press Expo is absolutely crawling with talent. Not only do attendees of the annual festival get a chance to hear from some of their independent comics heroes, but also writers and artists at any stage of their career get a chance to show their work in the exhibitor hall.
SPX holds a lottery each year in the spring for hopefuls to snag a table during the fall event in Bethesda, Maryland. The selection process includes two stages and combines creator and publisher invitations with the table lottery, so that even unknown comics have a chance to participate as an exhibitor and sell their work.
The exhibitor hall can be overwhelming with its huge array of gorgeous artwork and compelling comics on display. Each table can be crammed with two or three different artists’ work, and I usually have to make a number of laps around the place to get acclimated to the sheer volume of visual stimulation.
This year I was much better prepared and had compiled a list of artists and comics that I wanted to check out. I was fortunate to get copies of many of the works on my list and even meet and chat with some of these lovely and talented people. Here’s a sample of some of those comics:
Jen Bartel’s Chroma is 36 pages of cool monochromatic girls in cool clothes. I love how she gets so much detail into the fashions without ever making them feel too fussy. Bartel also has some fantastic cosmic witch art with three-eyed kitties.
Jessica Campbell’s Hot or Not: 20th Century Male Artists dares to ask the question art historians have long failed to answer: Were any of these famous dude artists actually hot? A hilarious “erotic romp through art history,” the print version even has a scratch off cover.
Sophie Goldstein’s House of Women is a Victorian, sci-fi, psycho-sexual tale of a group of women who travel to a distant planet and found a colony. The artwork is done in a streamlined art nouveau style that feels lush even in stark black and white.
Dustin Harbin’s Diary Comics #5 collects his newest run of diary comics since publishing a bigger edition that collected his comics from 2010-2012. He has a fine sketch style and captures funny and small personal moments beautifully.
Rachel Kahn’s By Crom chronicles her hilarious fictitious relationship with her barbarian spirit guide who deals out life advice on everything from shampoo selection to online dating. I love Kahn’s ability to administer tough love to herself through this joke-a-panel comic.
Esther Lui and Priscilla Boatwright’s The Living City collects seven short comics with stories from a magical city. The tales include curses, spirits, and drunk witches all rendered in red and purple with detailed risographed lines. The city feels equal parts magical and spooky.
April Malig’s I Didn’t Have Instagram When I Lived in Seoul is an intriguing pink square mini-comic. The title totally pulled me in and has photos and drawings capturing moments from Malig’s life in South Korea. It’s arty and cute, and leaves me wanting more.
Lily Padula’s The Museum of Earthly Transcendence takes us on a tour of artifacts from Earth and Earth colonies collected from the 22nd-25th centuries. Padula’s line drawings highlighted with bright colors gives us a peak into a future far weirder and more whimsical than expected.
Scott Roberts’ Happy Trails is a story about chemtrails, but told in the coolest way possible: animated flip book! The rainbow risographed colors give the comic a playful cheeriness undercut by the characters’ creepy plans to “save” the world.
And there were so many more amazing artists there. Be sure to and check out these artists’ work on their Tumblrs and websites and visit SPX for a full listing of every artist exhibitor who got to show their work. It will totally be worth your time.
I know if SPX continues to have talented people like these showing in their exhibitors’ hall, I’ll be coming back every year.