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Invented by the Egyptians, comics—literally the co-mixing of words and pictures to tell stories—began as the highest form of art, carved tributes honoring the mighty Pharoahs. Thirty-two centuries later, it had largely degenerated into a trash medium, its landscape dominated by a greedy duck, a red-haired teenager, and a powerhouse from Krypton. Mercifully, in the 1960s, an underground comix scene—led by the misanthropic, self-loathing R. Crumb—emerged, revolting against the four-color tripe DC and Marvel Comics were churning out. Still inking in Spiderman’s shadow, Crumb’s inheritors include: self-appointed guru of sequential art Scott McCloud, inventor of the 24-hour comic challenge (artists must complete a 24-page comic in just one day) and author of Understanding Comics; Ted Rall, who collected true confessions from people across the country and illustrated them in The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done; and—”Holy Legend, Batman!”—Will Eisner, who created the hardboiled detective the Spirit (pictured) in 1940 and is still writing and drawing—now seriously themed graphic novels. Gathering for the Fifth Annual Small Press Expo, these artists—along with other indie creators like Evan Dorkin, James Kochalka, Alex Robinson, and Julie Doucet—will be peddling their wares in support of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (which benefits from admissions proceeds). Held in conjunction with the SPX, there’s also the free International Comics and Animation Festival, a conference of creators and academics looking at the medium not as kiddie art, but as a serious form of expression. Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot. From 1-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26; and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27 (Small Press Summit only) at the Holiday Inn, 8120 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda. $5-10. (703) 242-9412. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)