Guest Post on SPX by Kate Nyland
Although Shawn and I have only been married for a few months, we have lived together for years and thus I’ve been subjected to his obsession with comics for quite some time. I grumbled under my breath about how his long white boxes detracted from the atmosphere of our college apartment. Last summer, when he ebayed most of his collection, I was pretty disgruntled at being the post office envoy by default (as a teacher, I had a few months off). Now, my spirits perk up when I see a package in the mail (a near-daily occurrence) – perhaps it’s a forgotten-about lipstick I had ordered or a care package from Mom - only to discover it’s a parcel of comics. Lest you think I negatively dwell on Shawn’s hobby, note that I took a course (The History of Comic Art) in college that was fascinating, and I sometimes incorporated graphic novels into my lesson plans as a social studies teacher. I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Hell, I came up with both of Shawn’s column titles. However, I’m not a full-fledged comic fan and can’t imagine I ever will be. I’m ambivalent about comics due to a lot of the issues Shawn often rants about in Past the Front Racks – the gaming tournaments in the back of the store, the costumes, the objectification of women on too many covers, the comic lovers who spend thousands of dollars a year collecting statues…I will address other (less superficial) reasons for my conflicting feelings about comics in a future post.
Our idea for my guest posts this week was this: take an outsider (me) to SPX with $30 to burn and see what I think about the expo and the mini-comics I picked up. Are my musings indicative of what the general public thinks of comics? No. Do they represent what women think of this art form? Of course not. They are my personal observations and should not be extrapolated. I picked up twenty-one minis in all, but in each post I am only going to review a few of the ones I found to be extraordinary.
First of all, SPX itself. I was impressed that most of the attendees looked and acted liked regulars from our local Punk Rock Night, not The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy. Although it was crowded, I was pleasantly surprised that, unlike my other comic con experience, I wasn’t “accidentally” felt up. It was difficult to visit a table without feeling (mostly self-induced) pressure to buy something, so as Shawn instructed, if the offerings of a table looked dubious, I didn’t make eye contact and just kept on walking. (If I didn’t visit a stall it may very well have been because Shawn had told me he already had everything from it and there was no need for me to buy it again.)
I picked up JP Coovert’s Blind because of the attractive packaging (100% recycled, acid-free paper in earth tones that complemented the story) and I enjoyed the short, sparse The Giving Tree-esque tale of a guy who loved a tree and the man responsible for its demise. The beauty of this mini lies in its simplicity.
the monkeynauts by Sarah Becan is also an attractively-produced mini. Bombo the Monkey relays the true accounts of simians who were employed by the US government to test space flight. The art is a breathtaking mix of Xeroxed silkscreen images and real pictures. Anyone who loves animals (not the “oh, I love cute cuddly puppies!” variety but the “how could these wonderful creatures be used for food/clothing/entertainment” kind of animal lover) would be moved by this mini, especially when reading the chilling last page. After reading this on Saturday, I’ve thought about it a lot since. It has stayed with me, a good test for any art form.
Kevin Huizenga’s Or Else is technically not a mini, but is so genius that I wanted to mention it here. Of the little vignettes, I particularly liked “I Stand Up For Zen” and “Al and Gertrude,” stories that really resonated with me. In the latter tale, Huizenga works in an understated manner to tell a very sad and human story. In the former, the author, at the time a graphic designer for a wholesale distributor, grappled with whether or not to help advertise “Power Bead” bracelets. The example below shows the creativity Huizenga uses with page layout in this comic.
In my next post I will review a few more minis and then give some general (nameless, title-less) thoughts on the minis I wasn’t as keen on.