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Posted at 4:05 PM ET, 09/28/2009

'Riffs Picks: Rall to Raina--Highlights From This Year's SPX

By Michael Cavna

Fantagraphics to the left of me! Top Shelf to the right of me! From friends to roamin' fans to cartoonists, the Small Press Expo (SPX) event over the weekend in Bethesda, Md., was thick was enthusiasm and talent -- and that distinct whiff of hope among some young booth-bound cartoonists who were eager to impress a publisher.

Comic Riffs attended both days of the event, which featured panel sessions about such topics as "The Aesthetics of Mini-Comics" and "The Future of the Comic Book," as well as the Ignatz Awards ceremony. Here, then, Six 'Riffs Highlights from the '09 SPX:

GARY GROTH @ SPX in 2007:

6. Chatting with the famed comics-industry critic/editor/publisher (and Virginia native) Gary Groth about -- among other things -- his memories of being an avid Washington Post reader during the Watergate years. Groth co-founded Fantagraphics Books and has long guided that granddaddy of tough-minded comics criticism, The Comics Journal. (Apropos to that: Groth has famously said that you judge someone by the quality of his enemies.)

5. Visiting the booth of the very talented Stephanie McMillan, who draws the editorial cartoon "Minimum Security." If you aren't familiar with her work, it's worth clicking through

4. Enjoying the presentation and Q&A session with Jeffrey Brown, the Midwestern cartoonist/author who broke through with the self-published "Clumsy." Brown, who writes deeply autibiographical work, said he's none too embarrassed by having his sexual confessions, etc., on the page for all to see -- perhaps, he said, because he's so focused on his self-expression and less on the reaction. (Also worth checking out, if you haven't already: His memoir "Funny Mishapen Body.)

3. Talking with alt-cartoonist Ted Rall about his very engaging new graphic novel, "The Year of Loving Dangerously," illustrated by Pablo Callejo. The work -- a little bit "Midnight Cowboy" in tone, and part "The Graduate" (except Rall does not graduate nor "charge" for his services) -- also deals in sexual autobiography, but more broadly about self-discovery through survival.

2. Hearing Raina Telgemeier discuss her work -- including her very successful "Baby-Sitter's Club" graphic novels (based on Anne M. White's books) -- at her booth. Speaking with Comic Riffs, Telgemeier talked up her upcoming autobiographical work: "Smile" (A Dental Drama). She says the graphic novel -- about when she had two front teeth knocked out at age 11 -- is a five-year labor of love.

The work of GAHAN WILSON:

1. Listening to the legendary macabre cartoonist Gahan Wilson discuss his work, his tools (crow quill pen!) and his meeting Orson Welles. (Meeting Wilson, you're impressed with just how much younger he seems than his nearly 80 years.) The artist also discussed his upcoming "Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons" -- a three-volume comprehensive record of all his work for the magazine. Fittingly enough, the 'toon tome is due out this Halloween.

NOTE: You can listen to audio of Gahan's SPX talk at Mike Rhode's ComicsDC blog.

ALSO: At SPX on Saturday night, the year's Ignatz Award winners were announced.

By Michael Cavna  | September 28, 2009; 4:05 PM ET
Categories:  General, The Comic Book, The Graphic Novel, The Political Cartoon  
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Next: The 'Riffs Picks: Tuesday's Cartoon Highlights (Convention Edition)


Apologies to those who have seen this already, but the link to the BBC radio item on "Calvin and Hobbes" is worth repeating here:
They did not get Watterson, but they did get a lot of other noteworthies to participate, and the audio link is valid for just about 2 more hours (it will EXPIRE somewhere around 6:30 am EDT today).

Posted by: kilby | September 29, 2009 4:38 AM | Report abuse

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