Michael Mason’s Thoughts on SPX

(Since this catagory has been replaced by the “SPX blog post”, I’m just putting this here to make sure.)


The Small Press Expo, or “SPX” for short, is the first ever “comic convention” that I’ve ever actually attended. I’ve seen videos from some of the larger, fancier, more mainstream conventions such as San Diego Comi-Con, New York Comi-Con, and even happened to be in Baltimore one year for their own Comi-Con, but it’s quite different to actually be inside, on the floor.


One thing that struck me as I entered the room was how packed together everything was. It sometimes seemed like the artists behind each table were packing together everything that they could on a single small space, stacking things on top of another in an effort to maximize space. It really made for each table to be a smorgasbord of information about the artists involved and the types of art styles and stories they used.


The artists ranged from the removed from the mainstream but relatively more well-known webcomics (Specifically under the Topatoco brand which featured the brilliantly written and highly experimental series Dinosaur Comics, A Softer World Homestuck, and Problem Sleuth, bu) to the much less well-known and independent, though still very good, such as The Draw Box (an artist/writer duo) and Shelli Paroline (an independent artist who has worked on various titles throughout her career). The sheer range of notability between the artists did a lot to help promote the goals of SPX; to showcase comics and artwork that are different from the mainstream works a person might find in the average comic or book store.


What actually surprised me was some of the trends that a lot of the artwork shared. When I had thought of “experimental” works, I assumed that there would be artwork along the lines of artists such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, or even Marcel Duchamp, who frequently used works that could be called bizarre and strange, with nearly unrecognizable caricatures of people, animals, and places to demonstrate emotions. Instead, several of the artists actually used very realistic depictions of human characters in their works (or humanoid, depending on the genre). While not necessarily being photo-realistic, a lot of art showed that a great attention to physical detail was taken, particularly with faces. While there were some more cartoonish and “traditionally experimental” comics out on the floor, most notably those under the “Blue Deliquanti” publishing table, a majority of the works at SPX demonstrated a more realistic feel to them.


The entire SPX experience was very interesting, mostly from a learning standpoint on my part. I had never actually considered how much of a narrow slice of comics were represented by what is considered “mainstream”. Even comic book publishers that I considered to be more independent, such as Image, Top Cow, Dark Horse, and IDW frequently use extremely similar styles and methods of storytelling and artwork to appeal to a broader audience. For those at the SPX, they were able to experiment and find an audience with what they had created, and each artist used a unique style to help promote their own abilities and to tell the story they wanted to tell. And even with those in attendance, it only represented a smaller part of a greater world of independent comic makers who each use an art and story style that could be radically different from anything I would be used to. SPX has really, if nothing else, made me want to go out and learn more about these artists and support their work.


(Note: If you’re interested in the three webcomics I mentioned, you can find Dinosaur Comics here: www.qwantz.com

And Homestuck and Problem Sleuth here: www.mspaintadventures.com

I will guarantee that you’ll like them)