I went to the Small Press Expo, in Bethesda, for the first time this past Saturday, with my roommate Adam. Enough people seemed excited to hear my name after seeing it on the internet that I thought I should get back to blogging. The show is overwhelming, constant fluxes of people. There were moments when crowds would clear and I would see tables I'd completely missed, previously obscured by masses of people.
There were less people I had met before than I expected. (I think the only exhibitor I've talked to before was Eamon Espey.) I thought Secret Acres was hoping to debut a collection of Edie Fake's work, who I know from Baltimore, but that didn't happen. Luckily, Edie is in the new Monster, alongside Roby Newton, another friend/former Baltimore resident. Also in that comic: Nick Thorburn of Islands and The Unicorns, a big Mat Brinkman admirer. Also, a lot of the usual suspects/hitmakers, who do great comics. Chippendale, CF, Goldberg, etc. Jim Rugg is in there, and he is really drawing the shit out of things these days, as his Rambo comic also feels really fresh and modern in its choices.
There were a lot of people saying "take this, it's free" and they'd hand you a business card, or a flyer for their website. Some of these had terrible drawings on them, and I had no interest in seeing how their sense of web-design compared. I didn't see any crazy comics coming out of nowhere. There were some folks who were printmakers, but they were just selling prints and t-shirts, not books or zines. Those are things you can mark up higher, I suppose. Kate Beaton had a line that went out the door. Like, maybe she was the only person with a line. Everyone else just had a crowd, or a conversation.
An exhausting show. When I got home I had been so inundated with social stimuli I couldn't even really read the comics I'd picked up. The next day, though, I read Renee French's H Day. It is pretty abstract, with the back cover copy maybe giving you the biggest clue as to what it is about. It's a cool book: The left hand pages are drawn in a minimal line style, with smudges, and are probably best read as quickly as possible, as a flipbook. This story is an abstracted body horror about migraines, as a head swells and contracts and has taffy pulled from it. The right side of the book is drawn in the soft colored pencil look of The Ticking, but here there's only a panel a page, making it more of a storybook, and the compositions change more- You can't read it at the same pace you read the opposite side. There are also other elements going on, chapter breaks, a section that is just weird cages. It's cool, the farthest out Renee has gone. The narrative is diminished and the anxiety is turned way up. The title seems unrelated to the contents, and I wonder if this is the same thing as the book titles previously attributed to Renee French working with Picturebox: Towcester Lodge, 44 Vessels.
I also got a copy of the Paul Pope THB Comics From Mars 2. I missed out on tracking down a copy of the first one because it seemed like it would be collected in Total THB, if/when that comes out. I don't think that's going to happen, looking at the contents of the new issue: It seems like the branding of these comics is just as a catch-all for Paul Pope. Which is cool. Talking to Frank Santoro he said that the stuff in the Cold Heat zines he wants to not have in the collection, (if that ever comes out) because he doesn't like the ending anymore. The issue 7/8 that would be effected looks really fucking great to the eyes of me, someone who didn't draw it, though.
There were some Fantagraphics debuts that will apparently be in stores this Wednesday- My roommate bought Prison Pit 2 but it seems like the new Love And Rockets sold out. There was a new issue of The Acme Novelty Library that I will wait until it shows up in a library to read.
I picked up some minicomics that were kind of old- Rumbling Chapter Two (great), the Tom Kaczynski Trans comics (nothing to do with the Neil Young album, although thinking about it I think that record plays into a lot of Tom's themes) (more autobio than I was expecting, although still good, thoughtful work), Stay Away From Other People (apparently Lisa Hanawalt is doing a second issue of I Want You, which I didn't know at the time, having just learned it from her website- if I had known I would have asked her who was going to publish it), the aforementioned Rambo comic. Were there new people doing quarter-sized, black and white minicomics? I don't think there were, besides people at Ian Harker's table (but I sort of suspect Ian is more of a comics history buff than a lot of other people).
I went to the Jaime Hernandez panel and it was packed. Gary Groth pointed out that most of the attendees weren't even born when the first Love and Rockets came out, and that seemed true, and mindblowing. The Fort Thunder panel was less packed. Neither was non-stop insighful, but the latter had some good anecdotes/color-slides.