First, I wanted to note that I will be attending the Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda, MD, this upcoming weekend (Saturday 8/15 and Sunday 8/16). I will be moderating a panel on 8/15 at 11:30am called "British Comics: Does It Translate" featuring a number of UK creators and publishers, including Glyn Dillon (Shade The Changing Man, The Nao of Brown), Luke Pearson (Hildafolk, Everything We Miss), Sam Arthur (co-founder of NoBrow), Ellen Lindner (The Strumpet), and Nick Abadzis (Laika, Hugo Tate). Regular readers of my column will know that several of these artists have been long-time favorites of mine (I've been reading Lindner's comics for over a decade now) and others are new favorites.
There are any number of reasons to be excited by this year's iteration of SPX. Chris Ware, Dan Clowes and Adrian Tomine will make their first-ever appearances here. Mark Newgarden will be here screening some obscure animation. Francoise Mouly and the Hernandez Brothers will be making much-anticipated returns visits. There will be the usual exciting debuts from stalwarts like Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, NBM, Top Shelf and PictureBox (debuts from Sammy Harkham and Johnny Negron, among others) AdHouse (new books from Ethan Rilly AND Tom Herpich, among others). However, I wanted to shine a little light on several publishers who will be making their SPX debuts, as well as a couple of other important smaller publishers who continue to have a strong presence at the show. Their tables will be loaded with interesting books you may not have even heard of and will be jammed with representative artists.
1. Hic and Hoc. (Table H10) New Jersey's Matt Moses (at right, above, with Pat Aulisio) is the publisher of this relatively new outfit focusing on collecting minicomics and webcomics, as well as new material. I'll have a big piece on them and a number of other smaller publishers at tcj.com soon, but I've enjoyed Moses' focus on gag and humor work, an area often ignored in the world of small press publishing. Lauren Barnett (Me Likes You Very Much) will be at this table, and she's up for Promising New Talent at the Ignatz Awards. My favorite book of Hic and Hoc's to date is The Complete Talamaroo, by Alabaster. This has just gone into a second edition, so there should be plenty of copies available at the show.
2. Koyama Press. (Tables J7-J10) Toronto-based Anne Koyama finally comes to SPX after several years of publishing extremely well received and highly eclectic comics in a variety of formats. Her table will be jam-packed with her artists and new debuts. Comics wunderkind Michael DeForge will make his SPX debut with the anticipated fourth issue of his comedy-horror series Lose. Julia Wertz joins Koyama Press with the debut of her book on her experience with illness, moving, bad jobs, libraries and other issues, The Infinite Wait (full disclosure: I wrote a blurb for this book). Fellow Old North Stater Dustin Harbin will debut the fourth issue of his Diary series. The Team Society League collective (Aaron Costain, John Martz, Steve Wolfhard, and Zach Worton) will be their with their Book of Answers. Koyama has an eye for developing talent while giving her artists total freedom, not unlike the way Dylan Williams used to run Sparkplug. She also has the well-earned reputation as being one of the nicest people in comics.
3. Retrofit Comics. (Table H14) Philadelphia's Brian "Box" Brown took a well-funded Kickstarter campaign to resurrect the alternative comic book in the form of a subscription service and has turned it into a publishing concern with some impressive books under its belt. Josh Bayer's Raw Power may well be the best of the bunch (a profile I did of Bayer's comics will be featured in the upcoming Studygroup Magazine #2), and he will be at SPX with four new minicomics. Brown will be debuting Flocks #1 by the increasingly prolific and confident L.Nichols and New Sludge City by up-and-comer Brendan Leach, as well as a new comic by himself called The Mark. Tom Hart will also have a couple of heartfelt and personal comics at the Retrofit table but will be repping his own Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) table with his wife and fellow teacher Leela Corman, who will no doubt have copies of her excellent book Unterzakhn.
4. NoBrow. (Tables A1-A2) This is one of the top British publishers, making their US debut. They're bringing one of their best artists in Luke Pearson, author of Hildafolk, Hilda and the Midnight Giant and Everything We Miss. Known for their illustration books as well as their comics, each of the publications is an art object unto itself, each with impeccable design. In addition to several beautiful anthologies, they also have a number of shorter, affordable books in their 17x23 series (I strongly recommend books by Jon McNaught) and also publish Jesse Moynihan's excellent Forming. Co-publisher Sam Arthur and Pearson will both be part of my British comics panel while fellow co-publisher Alex Spiro tends to the table. Any fan of beautiful-looking comics owes it to themselves to give their table a look; their house anthology NoBrow #6 is up for an Ignatz award.
5. Oily Comics. (Table I12) Chuck Forsman (left, above, with Alex Kim) has ambitiously started to recruit fellow artists to publish serialized minicomics for his new publishing concern, and the results have been beautiful thus far. In addition to his excellent The End Of The Fucking World, he's publishing Melissa Mendes' poignantly sweet Lou, Max De Radigues' Moose, and new comics by Aaron Cockle, Dane Martin, James Hindle, Jessica Campbell and more. He'll be sharing a table with fellow Sundays editors/contributors Kim, Joseph Lambert and several others. Fans of quality minicomics should essentially buy the whole lot, because there's not a loser in the bunch he's chosen to publish.
6. 2D Cloud. (Table W61) This small outfit from Minneapolis begun by Raighne Hogan (above, with his wife Meghan) has been quietly publishing beautiful art objects and introducing new and exciting talent for a few years now. They will be out in force at SPX with new releases from co-publisher Justin Skarhus (RDCD Fist #1.5) and newcomer Christopher Adams' Period. Their table will also feature Nicholas Breutzman (Yearbooks, Motherlover), Sharon Lintz (Pornhounds, which includes personal, riveting stories drawn by the likes of Breutzman, Lindner and others), Meghan Hogan (debuting her new comic) Vincent Stall (with Things You Carry) and Will Dinski, whose 2D Cloud debut is a comic called Ablatio Penis. They also published Noah Van Sciver's excellent Igntaz-nominated comic The Death of Elijah Lovejoy. I would also strongly recommend picking up a copy of Good Minnesotan #4, which was one of the better anthologies of the last couple of years.
6. Secret Acres. (Table J11-J12) The Brooklyn-based publisher consisting of Leon Avelino and Barry Matthews (left to right above, with Gabby Schulz in the middle) have been showing at SPX for many years and have racked up a number of Igntatz awards, and for good reason. This year, they'll have Mike Dawson in contention for an Ignatz with his excellent Troop 142 and also have the debut of Theo Ellsworth's new hardcover, The Understanding Monster. Sean Ford will be at the show as well with his recent completed Only Skin. Eamon Espey will also be there, and I would urge you to check out some of his disturbing, intense minicomics that will soon be collected. This publisher has always combined a sterling design sense with cartoonists who have singular aesthetic senses.
7. Sparkplug Comic Books. (Table W59) Publisher Tom Neely (above) will be repping Sparkplug for SPX, the first after Dylan Williams' death last year. Katie Skelly will also be at their table with her recent complete Nurse Nurse, the first book Sparkplug has published since Dylan died. As always, Sparkplug always has a table full of marvelous minicomics discoveries thanks to their status as a major distributor of minis, and this year will be no exception. Be sure to check out Neely's own unique works, like The Blot, The Wolf, his anthology Bound & Gagged and his part in the amazing Henry and Glenn Forever. Tessa Brunton's Passage was nominated for an Ignatz, and she's also up for Promising New Talent.
8. Hidden Fortress Press. (Table C8) This is the name of Paul Lyons' (above, with Cheryl Kaminsky) publishing concern, and this former member of Fort Thunder will be debuting the new issue of Monster. This is one of the best of all alt-comics anthologies, pushing the line between fine arts and comics in a horror genre context. This will be one of the potential "book of the show" choices. Kaminsky, Roby Newton and possibly Brian Ralph will also be at this table.