Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Seventeen Creators and Publishers To See at SPX 2014

I've been doing SPX preview columns for a long time now, yet I never run out of new creators to spotlight. I don't need to tell readers to drop by Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, Sparkplug, Tugboat, Koyama (especially Koyama--all of their new debuts are excellent), 2D Cloud, Uncivilized Books, NoBrow, Self-Made Hero, Oily Comics, Revival House, AdHouse, Secret Acres, etc. Michael DeForge, Sam Alden, Josh Bayer, John Porcellino and Noah Van Sciver will be at the show; my list of cartoonists to seek out stands at over 200! Here are some highlights and some cartoonists you may not have heard of, plus a few plugs for projects I was involved in and the panel I'm moderating.

1. Press Gang. (Table J4) The combined forces of StudyGroup magazine (Zack Soto, above, middle), Floating World Comics (Jason Levian, above, left) and Francois Vigneault's (above, right) comics are represented at a single table. The big debut is that of StudyGroup Magazine #3D, in which I have an article about publisher/writer/editor Ryan Sands. This gorgeous art object will likely be one of the books of the show, my contributions aside. They'll be hot off the press and just in time for the show.

2. Pikitia Press. (Table B4) Located in Melbourne, Australia, Matt Emery's publishing concern features work from the most cutting-edge and avant garde of both Australian and New Zealand comics. At a minimum, I'd recommend Deep Park by David Mahler and Sarah Laing's comics.

3. Mari Naomi. (Table M9) I blurbed Mari's latest book, Dragon's Breath. It's a co-production of Minneapolis publishers Uncivilized Books and 2D Cloud. Here's what I had to say about it: "In Dragon's Breath and Other True Stories, MariNaomi weaves a crazy-quilt of despair, hope, lost loves, new beginnings, horrible regrets, hilarious memories, and above all else, survival. Her beautiful, spare line imparts the greatest possible emotional impact, creating a delicate storytelling rhythm built on restraint, subtlety and total vulnerability. Her short autobiographical anecdotes create a gestalt of a person who has lived and viewed life with a curious intellect and her heart on her sleeve." This about sums it up. I would that this book is an interesting mix of the people she's encountered in her life that have either hurt her or whom she may have inadvertently hurt, like in "What's New Pussycat?", a story about an awkward guy that she yelled at about his weird behavior who later killed himself. Another strip about hearing a violently abusive fight in a hotel room brought to mind her own past in abusive relationships and how the noise made must have affected (or not affected) others. This is a heartbreaking yet emotionally cathartic comic, and her stripped-down style is a beautiful fit for the keen focus of her emotional experiences. She'll be at the 2D Cloud table.

4. Drew Friedman. (Table 57-61) Friedman is a legend, and I feel like his first appearance at SPX isn't getting quite enough hype. I'll be moderating his Q&A panel on Saturday at 5pm in the White Oak Room. We'll be talking about his new book, Heroes of the Comics, as well as other highlights from his career and the new comics story he just had published. Friedman is a great storyteller as well as an amazing artist, so I expect this to be a witty, fast-moving panel. Friedman will also be at the Fantagraphics table.

5. Fremok. (Table W69) This Franco-Belgian publisher is also set to make their first appearance at SPX, repped by Yvan Alagbe (above, left) and Dominique Goblet (above, right). The former will debut his new book Ecole de la Misere and the latter Plus Si Entente. This is the cutting edge of Eurocomics.

6. Closed Caption Comics. (Table K4) Ryan Cecil Smith (above), Noel Freibert and Conor Stechschulte are all scheduled to appear for this group of former MICA students who banded together in the form of anthologies and individual works. These three artists offer their own bizarre takes on science-fiction, horror and other genre work, using a broad array of cultural influences to make these works personal while slyly and satirically commenting on their tropes.

7. Jason Shiga. (Table N1-2) One of my ten favorite cartoonists in the world, Shiga's Demon series just finished its fifth issue. Shiga's work is funny, frequently absurd, and deeply nihilistic at times. He finds ways to keep the reader engaged, whether it's through his choose-your-own-adventure books, his warped takes on genre comics or even his hilarious semi-autobiographical comics. There's no one quite like him.

8. Revista Larva. (Table M12) This Columbia-based anthology series has some of the most interesting work being published in South America. The international scope of SPX has always been one of its greatest strengths, and there's a large group of Latin American cartoonists who will be present at the show.

9. The CCS-oriented critical mass of Table L. The Center for Cartoon Studies has maintained a strong presence at SPX since its inception, and when they get to sit en masse, they make quite an impact. This year, Table L alone will feature Rachel Dukes, Laura Terry, Romey Benson, Josh Lees, Laurel Lynn Leake (above, right), Laurel Holden, Melanie Gillman, April Malig (above, left), Luke Howard, Sasha Steinberg, Adam Whittier, Allie Kleber, Joyana McDiarmid, Amelia Onorato, Alexis Cornell, Colleen Frakes and Carl Antonowicz. Table N will have a cluster featuring Beth Hetland, Josh Kramer, Dakota McFadzean, Pat Barrett, Ben Horak, and JP Coovert. There's also Oily Comics with Chuck Forsman and Melissa Mendes. Sean Ford will be with Secret Acres. There will undoubtedly be more not on the official list, and each of these artists is worthy of your attention.

10. Sophie Yanow. (Table M10-11--Uncivilized Books). One of my favorite young autobio cartoonists, Yanow's smart takes on politics and culture surround her own personal observations about protests and trying to make the political personal. Her sharp, sketchy and angular artwork is wonderful to behold.

11. Daryl Seitchik. (Table N7) Another outstanding young semi-autobio cartoonist, Seitchik's takes on growing up are funny, melancholy and pointed. Her minimalist style carries a surprising amount of power and impact. She'll have a new issue of her excellent Missy series, out from Oily Comics (Table J1)

12. Andrea Tsurumi, Alex Rothman and the Comics-as-Poetry table. (Table A13) I strongly recommend the Rothman-edited Inkbrick anthology, but these artists are among the few who actively engage in comics-as-poetry as the bulk of their work. The godfather of comics-as-poetry, Warren Craghead, will also be at the show.

13. Ed Luce. (Table K7) One of the premier young cartoonists, his Wuvable Oaf series is a spectacular take on music scenes, romance and cultural weirdness. It's one of several comics with queer themes that has a big crossover audience.

14. Marnie Galloway. (Table N12) Her beautiful and lyrical series In The Sounds And Seas, will see a second issue debut at the show. Galloway is a superb draftsman who creates hypnotic visual patterns that recapitulate the poetic themes of her work.

15. Sam Sharpe. (Table C7) His View-O-Tron #2 is a deserving Ignatz nominee and one of the best comics I read last year. It's an anthropomorphic comic (much like Jason's work) about his mom's mental illness and how it has affected him over the years.

16. Sophie Goldstein.  (Table C6) I wanted to single her out amongst the many other CCS cartoonists in part because she's up for an Ignatz award, but also because of the general excellence of her work. I've rarely seen a cartoonist make a huge leap from good to excellent in such a short span of time. Her use of sci-fi tropes to tell stories about women is fascinating and part of a larger movement to reclaim genre fiction and bend it in a more personal direction.

17. Cartozia. (Table C13-14) Editor Isaac Cates (above, with Bully) will have Shawn Cheng, Mike Wenthe, Lucy Bellwood and Lupi McGinty at his table. I imagine Jen Vaughn will make an appearance at some point as well. This all-ages fantasy series is beautifully conceived and executed and works as both a narrative and a fascinating example of the use of editing to create collaborative comics.

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