I will be at SPX, perhaps the premier alt-comics event, this Saturday, September 26th in Bethesda, MD. I'll be part of the Critics' Roundtable at 3:30pm in the Brookside Conference Room, along with Gary Groth, Douglas Wolk, Sean T. Collins, Chris Mautner, Tucker Stone and Joe "Jog" McCulloch and moderator Bill Kartalopolous. I really enjoyed last year's panel and I'm looking forward to having a discussion with so many esteemed critics. I'll also be hosting a Debut Cartoonists panel, spotlighting new work by Hans Rickheit (THE SQUIRREL MACHINE), Eleanor Davis (THE SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE), Ken Dahl (MONSTERS), and the great Zak Sally (LIKE A DOG).
Here's my annual list of artists to seek out at the con. This is obviously not any sort of exhaustive list of artists that I like or will seek out on my own. Consider it a survey of new artists, significant artists making their first appearance at SPX, artists with interesting new releases, artists deserving greater exposure and folks whose work I simply admire.
1. John Porcellino. One of the greatest exemplars of minicomics as a viable format of their own, separate from potential collections. He'll have not just a collection of KING-CAT out from Drawn & Quarterly called MAP OF MY HEART, he'll also have a brand-new issue of the series. SPX is one of the first stops on his extensive book tour of the country celebrating his 20th anniversary of his career. His extremely spare line is a testament to how one can be devastatingly expressive using a minimalist style. Porcellino will also have original art for sale. This is his first appearance at the con since 1997, and a generation of cartoonists has been strongly influenced by his approach. He will have a 2pm spotlight on Saturday in the White Flint Amphitheater and will be signing at the D&Q table on Saturday from 11:30-1pm and Sunday from 1-3pm. Sally will moderate the spotlight session, and I should note that he's most certainly another artist to seek out.
2. Colleen Frakes. One of my favorite graduates from the Center For Cartoon Studies (along with Chuck Forsman, Sean Ford and the rest of the Sundays gang), Frakes' recent WOMAN KING was simultaneously lovely and disturbing. I'd also seek out her older TRAGIC RELIEF minicomics.
3. Carol Tyler. One of the greatest working cartoonists makes her SPX debut. Her YOU'LL NEVER KNOW is my top comic of the year. She'll be signing at the Fantagraphics booth on Saturday from 12-2pm and Sunday from 2-4pm. Tyler is also a delightful storyteller, so be sure to check out her spotlight on Sunday at 1pm in the White Flint Amphitheater.
4. Josh Neufeld. This long-time SPX attendee is basking in the glow of the well-earned acclaim that his AD: NEW ORLEANS AFTER THE DELUGE has received. One of the best books of the year, Neufeld will have his own spotlight panel on Sunday at 2pm. Neufeld is a perfect example of a generation of cartoonists whose career dovetailed with SPX, going from self-published minis to illustrating Harvey Pekar to his own series with small publishers to a book deal with Pantheon.
5. Ken Dahl. Also known as Gabby Schulz, Ken Dahl has an acidic sense of humor and stunning chops. He will be debuting MONSTERS, a collection of stories about herpes, at the show, and will be on the panel I mentioned above. Simply put, Dahl is one of the best cartoonists to emerge from this decade.
6 Dina Kelberman. IMPORTANT COMICS was one of the weirder and more compelling minis I read this year. Her comics have a sort of absurdist quality that I admire, and the way she uses unusual page & panel compositions with a minimalist line is unusual. She'll be part of the Aesthetics of Mini-Comics panel on Sunday at 4:30pm.
7. Ed Piskor. Piskor is unusual in that he's a young artist heavily influenced by the underground generation (as opposed to the alt-cartoonists of the 80s and 90s). He's also had an opportunity to work with legends like Jay Lynch and Harvey Pekar, but his own voice is unique. He's taken his underground sensibilities to write about another underground culture: hackers. Seek out the first two volumes of his WIZZYWIG and watch him on his Source-Based Comics panel at 1:30pm on Saturday.
8. Eleanor Davis. Davis is another artist on my short list of "best emerging talents of the decade" thanks to her compelling minicomics and short stories in MOME. Her Toon Books entry, STINKY, was one of the best comics of last year. Her new book, THE SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE, is aimed at older kids, which makes sense given her style of art.
9. Jon Vermilyea. Eric Reynolds discovered his minicomics at San Diego a few years ago, and his subsequent comics for MOME have been simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. Like Dahl, Vermilyea has incredible chops and a flair for the grotesque.
10. Jeff Zwirek. His BURNING BUILDING COMIX, an Ivan Brunetti-inspired work, was one of the more clever comics I read last year. I'd recommend getting every issue to fully appreciate the level of detail he puts into his gag work.
11. Will Dinski. Dinski gets my vote for best currently self-published artist. His new comic, COVERED IN CONFUSION, is typical of his recent remarkable hot streak: funny, dark, tragic and uniquely formatted. Someone needs to give him a book deal.
12. Matthew Thurber. Thurber's 1-800-MICE is one of the best comics of the decade. That about sums it up. It's an exemplar of comics that have a lot of genre elements, humor, deeper themes, dense plots, absurdist elements and unforgettable characters. Seek him out at the Picturebox booth.