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(Since this catagory has been replaced by the “SPX blog post”, I’m just putting this here to make sure.)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

ACME Review Collage


(Click on image to view larger)

Works from which this came:

Article on Our Generation–The Generational, Spring 2012

Prospectus on Final Article–The Generational, Spring 2012

Final Article (Sylvia Plath)–The Generational, Spring 2012

Close Reading: Paul’s Case–American Lives, Changing Contexts, Spring 2011

Final Article (Paul’s Case)–American Lives, Changing Contexts, Spring 2011

Final Article (Gustave Flaubert)–The Craft of the Short Story, Fall 2011

Close Reading: Auden–The Generational, Spring 2012

Sylvia Plath Annotated Bibliography–The Generational, Spring 2012




Narrative account of Chris Ware’s ACME Novelty Library


The non-narrative./ Engagement is key to its/ blossoming./ The freedom to interact./Not a/ ‘showing’ of ideas but an ‘engaging’./ To/see our multiplicity of consciousness,/that without the limited, false,/ expectation-filled vision/ of the narrative./ so that/ I,/ the audience/reader,/ sincerely affect how/ it resolves./ I/solicit/and/sustain/the/ability of this art./Where/ the answer is harnessing/the/visual design to support/the/overall vision. Otherwise/to capture this hidden human experience, which can only be achieved through an art form that is sung, seen tasted, written./The awakening.

Essays Used:

*Criticism and Theory of Art Analysis Paper#1

* The Age of Modern Dance, 1920-To Present

* Interview and Narrative of Doctor Sarlin, Psychiatrist and Dream Analyst


The one who gets the last laugh/ and is able to recreate/ an important aspect/ of lowering one’s self/ to be more personal/ is left only with his other senses for comfort./ Being a career driven woman/ is deemed as/desperate/ and/ weapons themselves./ A moment of joy is not attainable or capable of being controlled; it is something passing through, like the wind./ This/ successfully separates the/ evidence of passionate feelings/ from/ the emphasized importance of/ overshadowing/ success/ and/ is an essential part of/ serious/ and powerful/evaluation considering/the eroding of/ feelings connecting/ to the history of/ experience.

Works Used:

Woman of the Year, Surprised by Joy, The Last Laugh Indeed, Jane Eyre’s Class.

Chris Ware Review in Collage Form

GEEZ/ I had grown accustomed / to/ complain and worry/ when/  I felt no recognition/ of authors that are/ question-begging/ and challenging/ like/ Cecil Day Lewis/ and/ Judith Butler. But the reader/ job takes a vast amount of courage/ here. When initially evaluating/ This work/ seems to/ Disconcertingly/ float in the abyss. I could not help but feel incredibly cautious around/ the work/ as I wiped the feverish sweat/ and sheltered/ face in my hands. his ability to cloud the reception and comprehension of an image/ interspersed with photographs/ rich and compelling/ sinister images/ of vanity, popular culture, sexuality, and false divinity for religious devotion/ shows/ no/ authorial limits.  He/ demystifies ignoble characteristics/ loose morals/ to illuminate the inherent baseness of characters/ in American society. His/ rhetorical decision/ make readers feel as though they are privy to the inner workings of/ creative process/ in order to lure in/ the reader/  is akin to/ wandering down a dark alley/ of/  a perfect idea that is just out of reach. I felt/ flustered and a sense of urgency overwhelms/ me. However/ it is especially ironic/ my/ inherent desperation/ to continue reading/ I learned to embrace/ the/ majestic cluster/ of information. the author maintains/ the reader/ with a feeling of empathy, precariously balanced between commiseration and guilt. The author/ discussed/ the tension that arises from/ sexual involvement/ daily monotony / life’s spiteful demands/ and these themes/ function as little devils/ in the work.


Works used: “Questioning Authenticity Through the Convergence of Photographs and Narrative in Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project” ENG 370. “A Discussion of the Manifestation of Solidarity in Dearborn Preceding and Following the 9/11 Attacks.” SOC 230. “Nana After the Stroke” AMST 200. “The Absence of Religious Doctrine in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” ENG 101. “The Pervasion of Euphemism in Times of War” ENG 349. Villanelle Poem “Melancholia” ENG 218.

Ware Collage

This / book / is / an abstract / comic book / of / multi-faceted complexity / and ambiguity. / It is / different and sometimes /  its language is vulgar. / It would be easy to dismiss this book’s author as a complete lunatic, to point out the / extremely dense / , /complex and ambiguous nature of his / Works / is just / so upsetting / and / a hard thing to think about. / When a westerner first views / the book/ it is not unusual for them to be slightly confused. / this book / doesn’t follow the writing conventions that western audiences are used to. The Bible, the religious text that the western world is probably most familiar with, tends to move textually in a linear fashion. It follows a single train of thought, whether that is a story or a moral pronouncement, from start to finish. / this work / doesn’t do that. / In a single chapter of the / comic book / three or four topics may be covered at once, the narrative stream jumping back and forth between them as the chapter progresses. This makes total sense when one interprets / it as / a prophetically delivered collection of poetry. / Thus it / may be unpalatable for some readers / but there is so much / for curious outsiders / to see / in this rambunctious book. /

But if /the author / is to be considered a serious / writer and not just a crafter of popular fiction, what does he have to say? / He tries to / look at the life / the way that / it / really is / with all / its /existential / hardship / and alienation. / It is/ more/ honest / than other / comic book/ s /. It makes one / see the / these characters/ as/ real people, and not hypothetical farmers as a demographic but individual people. / He demonstrates that / comic book /s/ are not just / about / jeep chases, explosions, guns, beer, extra-marital sex, and conspiracy. They are not / only about/ a narrative that allows / men / to escape from the boundaries that society has placed on / them /.

Snippets from: Opening Locks and Slipping Restraints, Fatherhood and the Art of Being Manly, Jihad in Classical and Modern Contexts, A Shift in Power Relations, Trouble in Pastoral Paradise, Israeli Culture in Waltz with Bashir, A Guide to Good Living, Bruce’s Backyard Escape, Farm Reflection, Ecocriticism Research Paper, Chaucer and the Rise of the Churls, Suggestibility, Decision-making, A Strange Sort of Symbiosis, and Uncertainty in Diction Betrays Ambiguity of Identity