What’s going to be small about this weekend’s Small Press Expo? Most likely your bank account after you walk through the hundreds of cartoonists’ tables. Because when you say Small Press Expo, you need to link the first two words together—-it’s an expo for small presses, not just a diminutive expo. And it’s grown markedly over the years. SPX (as it’s lovingly known) is a convention set up two decades ago to highlight independent, alternative, and minicomic publishers and creators. This year’s edition is the hugest yet, as head poobah Warren Bernard has increased the table count by 33 percent, bringing the total to 280 tables.
Don’t expect costumes, but scheduled appearances from big-name cartoonists include Jeff Smith (whose Bone was the breakthrough graphic novel series for the tween crowd), the New Yorker’s feminist cartoonist Liza Donnelley, Israel’s Rutu Modan (whose new book The Property covers an elderly Jewish woman’s return to Warsaw), “high art” darling Gary Panter, Canada’s dapper man-out-of-time Seth, and even civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the autobiographical graphic novel March.
While Smith’s latest sci-fi graphic novel Rasl isn’t for kids, there will be plenty of other books for children. All-age favorites Frank Cammuso, Raina Telgemeier, and Gene Yang should appeal to the young crowd. One could even do a New Yorker-centric tour of the floor, collecting autographs from Jaime Hernandez, Adrian Tomine, Michael Kupperman, R. Sikoryak, Donnelly, Seth, and Panter.
That’s not even all the big-name guests, and there are still scores of other cartoonists eager to chat you up and sell you the next “big” comic. In the online exhibitor listing, local cartoonists such as members of the D.C. Conspiracy are highlighted with a D.C. flag.
There will also be some great globe-spanning educational talks to pull you away from the floor longer than you might want, including one by Argentina’s Liniers and another one from Australia and New Zealand that includes ex-pat Popeye and Muppets’ cartoonist Roger Langridge.
The Ignatz Awards are voted on at the con, and given out on Saturday night. And getting in is cheap! Entry may cost less than the Metro ride there and back.
The Small Press Expo runs Sept. 14 to 15 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, $10-$15.