A Comic Review of the 2014 Small Press Expo

City Paper

Last weekend, I went to the Small Press Expo, an independent publishing convention that makes an annual destination of Bethesda, MD for comics artists, cartoonists, micro-publishers, zinesters, poster-sters, comics journalists, comics critics, comics felons, and anyone else who wants to go.

Programming this year was directed by Bill Kartolopolous, a comics writer, teacher, and publisher (Rebus Books, Brooklyn), who will also edit this year's Best American Comics anthology.

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Lynda Barry is a 90's alternative cartoonist and prose master bar none, but in the past decade her teaching practice has taken force. She was already a remarkable communicator and now she's become, if you'll excuse the cultural appropriation, a creative boddisatva. Here, read this 2011 NYTimes profile. Then read Cruddy. Then once you're properly invested,watch these Letterman clips.

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Robert Mankoff, in case you're not a jumpy east coast cartoonist, has been the editor of the New Yorker cartooning division since 1997. In my drawing and in life - right now probably - he's wearing a google glass.

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The haikus came from Making Art for the Internet. Panelists Rebecca Mock, Emily Carroll, Blaise Larmee, and Sam Alden vary a good deal. Actually their separate work of these artists - in style, politic, or genre - has almost nothing in common at all. Mock is an innovative editorial illustrator who uses gifs and loops, Carroll a maker of lush, inventive horror comics, and Alden is a comics storyteller of great range. Larmee is, I think, a social chemist who uses drawing and sequential art some of the time to do what he needs to do - the means to which is often very beautiful. He's not a supervillian, I will decide later that afternoon. Their common factor as artists and professionals is having come of age online. All of the work shows a clear reaction and continued adaptation to the web as environment.

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Katie Fricas, my friend with the specs who gets coughed on and then becomes illiterate, is an illustrator and the maker of lots of comics, most recently Cher Ami, the story of a British homing pigeon who goes to work for French nationals during WWI. The drawings inside this book are so appealing to me that I wish the comic itself were huge, like those giant novelty greeting cards you sometimes see.

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I walked around, saw far-flung friends, ate green courtesy apples, swapped little books for little books, closed the circuit on some internet acquaintanceships and, once fatigue entered the picture, snickered rowdily around the hotel like an eighth grader. Plus, I got some new comics.

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