A few weeks back two of our members Rich Barrett and Henry Eudy set up at the Small Press Expo (SPX). They took the time to answer a few questions about their first time behind the table at such a prestigious indy convention.
1. Since this was the first SPX for both of you sitting behind the table, what was your initial reaction when you got there?
HE: I had attended SPX once before as a customer and, at that time, I was blown away by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. So, I was kinda prepared for a big crowd and crowded conditions to ensue on this sojourn behind the table. Still, it’s kind of staggering to be in a large room with that many people who know and love indie and alt comics. It’s exhilarating and a little frightening to set up your puny little wares alongside people you admire and idolize. I had been straight out terrified of this show for weeks leading up to it but, much to my surprise, once I was on the floor I felt immediately at ease. Some of that has to do with tabling with good friends but also the entire vibe of the show this year was inclusive and supportive. I right away felt at home and energized about cartooning.
RB: I found it pretty mind-blowing early on. The night before the show they had a meet and greet for exhibitors and at one point Chris Ware walked in. The morning before the show we had breakfast in the hotel and Dan Clowes and Adrian Tomine were eating at the table next to us. And the Hernandez brothers were on the other side of the room. For a cartoonist this is like being an unknown musician and playing the same show as Keith Richards, Michael Stipe and Jack White or something.
Then once the show actually started it was all a whirlwind.
2. How was setting up and dealing with the SPX staff?
HE: The show staff were really fantastic the whole way through. They were quick to answer questions, give directions and advice to any puzzled people they saw wandering about. The aisles had been widened this year and the flow through the floor was pretty exceptional considering the mobs of people that pushed through the doors. I never saw a crowd control issue, the panels were timely and well run and every member of staff that I encountered was friendly and knowledgeable. I even got a hug from an SPX staffer after I crashed the Tumblr meet up in search of free croissants. It was a really, really well run show with an eye to appreciating and accommodating the creators and guests at every turn.
RB: Super easy. First of all, it was great having the show right in the hotel. Second of all, there was just this sense that these guys knew exactly what they’re doing. And I’m used to an expertly run show with HeroesCon being my only other real frame of reference. The only staff person I really interacted much with was Michael David Thomas but he was really nice and stopped by a couple of times to say hi and check in on how I was doing. Great guy.
3. What were sales like for you? Better or worse than expected?
HE: I did way better than I expected, honestly. In a room with that much talent, I was totally prepared to just have a good time and not worry so much about what ever small amount of pocket change I might manage to earn from the curious. But, you know, I made maybe double the amount of my previous most successful show. People were really buying this year and I had pretty steady business all the way through. I sold out of two minis, moved a lot of prints and even traded some original art for some of the cold, hard stuff. I came out with a stack of green that could gag a hippo.
RB: Again, the only other major convention I’ve done is HeroesCon and it’s a little “apples to oranges” to compare because I had a lot of new stuff at this show that I did not have at my last HeroesCon. That said, I sold 3x as much as my best previous show. I sold a good amount of Nathan Sorry volumes 1 and 2 and completely sold out of every AlphaBeasts postcard set that I brought. Those were a big hit at this show.
4. What did you sell the most of?
HE: I sold a lot of my Alphabeasts prints, especially the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle one. I even sold the original TMNT watercolor art at the show. I also moved a good number of Xenomorphs and Uncle Scrooges.
RB: Oops, guess I answered this question in the previous one.
5. If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
HE: I would probably strive to have some more professional looking books. My minis are just the old school, punk rock, DIY, steal some photocopies, fold and staple varieties. However, I see many of my fellows turning to professional print shops with good effect. The quality of self-published books has been making strides in the last several years anyhow, with silk screened and die cut covers abounding. It’s probably time I stepped up to a more appealing mode of presentation.
RB: I always end these shows full of regret but it’s usually about who I didn’t go see, what I didn’t buy and what panel I didn’t go too. I had a ton of those kinds of regrets with this show but it was just so busy it was hard to get away from the table. As far as my table set up and how I sold though I have no regrets whatsoever.
6. What event and panels did you attend?
HE: I originally intended to attend six panels over the two days. I only made one. But it was one with Dan Clowes so, good enough. The only reason I didn’t attend those other five panels was because I was doing too good of a business on the show flow. I decided to stay at my table and rake in the jack rather than gaze lovingly at my heroes. In several places it was a tough decision though.
RB: I’m really, really hoping they post the panels online because I didn’t go to one.
7. How were the after parties / festivities? What were some of your favorite conversations?
HE: I attended pretty much none of the parties or festivals. I did drop into the bar a few times and scout around but I didn’t remain long. I did manage to meet a guy with an amazing art collection who let me hold a Walt Kelly Christmas card from the 1960′s that he was inexplicably just carrying around in his wallet. That was pretty cool. I also enjoyed talking to Benjamin Marra who is one of my favorite new guys on the scene. Super nice dude who draws hookers getting cut up by psychos for a living.
RB: I missed the Ignatz Awards but stopped in afterwards where everyone was partying. Had a great time hanging out with Ben Towle and Seth and Heather Peagler for a while there. My old age kicks in at these things though so I turned in pretty soon.
8. Did you attend the Ignatz?
HE: Nah, I skipped it. My wife and I went into DC instead and had a fabulous meal at a place called Corduroy instead. I heard it was crowded and crazy though.
RB: Oops, did it again. Answered above. No, had dinner plans.
9. What other artists did you meet?
HE: I got to meet a few of my Alphabet Press buddies, both Sam Wolk and Isaac Cates are guys I had worked with online but meeting them in person was pretty great. Sam provided me with a pastrami sandwich so, whoa, that’s a good fella to know in person. I also got to meet the aforementioned Ben Marra who was right next to Tom Neely, a heavy block of rockers right there. I was briefly introduced to Jesse Reklaw and talked with him about a mini of his where he spray painted the cover. I met Pat Lewis for the first time, again briefly, and managed to see Charles Burns in the crowd. Really, I shoulda been more social.
RB: It was really cool to finally meet a number of people that I know through Twitter like Box Brown, Sean Ford, Annie Koyama (who was super nice as expected, even gave me a bunch of kid friendly comics to bring home to my daughters) and a brief hello to Mike Dawson whose work and whose podcast I really enjoy.
It was great to put faces to names for a lot of the alphabet crew that I hadn’t previously met like Isaac Cates and Sam Wolk.
I got to meet one of my favorite illustrators Kali Ciesemier who even recognized me from our conversations on Twitter which made me feel like a million bucks I guess.
I was really excited to meet Ethan Rilly at the Adhouse table who I didn’t even realize was going to be there.
In hindsight though I wish I got to meet more people and there were a few people whose work I really like such as Luke Pearson, Charles Forsman and Sam Wolfe Connelly who I just plain forgot were going to be there and never sought out. And I didn’t actually meet any of the big names but like I said above just being in the room with them was cool enough.
10. What were some of the purchases you made?
HE: At Ben Marra’s table I just asked for one of everything: all the Night Business issues, Lincoln Washington, Gangsta Rap Posse, the American Psycho drawings. From Tom Neely I picked up The Wolf, something I’ve been dying to read for months. I got Michael Deforge’s new issue of Lose, picked up an amazing Twin Peaks anthology that I saw going around and received an enormous glut of minis from Isaac Cates. I really bought very little which is a shame, really.
RB: I finally bought a Michael DeForge comic which I’ve been meaning to do forever. The same with Lisa Hanawalt and Domitille Collardey. I bought Sean Ford’s new Only Skin book. Jess Fink’s Chester 5000. Ethan Rilly’s Pope Hats #3. One discovery I made was the work of Laura Terry who was a Xeric winner and has a beautiful book called Overboard that I picked up. I picked up a few other odds and ends but I really wish I had gotten more.
11. What was your best experience from this year’s SPX?
HE: At the very end of the show on Sunday, the whole place burst into spontaneous applause. It was a genuine, good natured applause that moved an infectious feeling of fraternity from person to person all down the aisles. I felt really connected to my peers and to cartooning and I thought we all must have just moved through something great and something rare and we all knew it and experienced it together and were grateful. Really, the best cartoonists on the planet were there and I felt like I belonged with them on this convention floor. It’s not every day a comics convention makes you feel like part of a community. It was pretty special.
RB: Overall it was just a creatively fulfilling experience. I got a lot of great feedback from people that checked out my stuff. Sold a lot more than I expected. Plus I had a blast sharing a table with Henry Eudy and Christian Sager. I’m still riding the high from it a little.