Don’t Die Just Yet

A DEAR FRIEND told us that we budgeted our sanity to last us until SPX. She said it last year, which we looked up in disbelief because it felt like a million years ago. Magical thinking sucks and makes losses pretty excruciating, for example: missing yet another Small Press Expo. For us, the restoration of Camp Comics qualifies as a magic trick, or time travel, since everyone behind the tables came out of the distant past or the near future. Megan Kelso and Matt Madden ran into each other at our table, like it was the punchbowl at the Highwater Books twenty-year reunion. Our veteran leader on the floor, Zak Sally, chatted up Ariel Bordeaux, for the first time in three decades. The rest of the time, we kept asking each other who everyone else was. Old blood, new blood, but none of the usual suspects, like Koyama Press, Tom Spurgeon, the CBLDF or D&Q. Of all the Ignatz winners, we count exactly one, R. Kikuo Johnson, with a previous nomination, and that nom goes all the way back to 2006. Maybe we should’ve held on to our sanity a little longer, but this kind of temporal displacement rings all the right bells.

 

 

The usual suspects lined up on the other side of the table. From Meg Lemke to Marc Sobel to hours and hours with the unsinkable Heidi MacDonald, we got caught up on everything. You gotta love the lifers who keep your history for you. Our publisher brethren bitched a bit about suppressed attendance, which we found a little ridiculous. Back in April, MoCCA counted enough showgoers for three shows worth, but we think TCAF makes a better comp for SPX in 2022. Eyeballs alone would tell you numbers shrank. Sales, however, tell a different story. Of course, Zak and Recidivist IV (redux) make a hot ticket, though we are particularly proud to have ditched every copy of Sammy the Mouse in the hope that it might get Zak to wrap that story up at last. Even in absentia, Gabe Howell moved many units of Forget Me Not, which got a nice write-up at PW, ICYMI. Speaking of high praise, our most awarded debut ever, Washington White, winner of the CAKE Cupcake Award and MoCCA Best of Show, made its way into the world after years of delays, shipping and otherwise, and, man, what an entrance. The weekend served as Adam‘s coming out party in many ways, including a sneak peek at his gallery, event and studio space, Dwight’s Mess, soft opening in Silver Springs momentarily. The crowd spent, and we were spent, with a couple, unexpected sellouts, no less. Not bad, considering at least two people told us they thought we were dead. Honestly, Secret Acres books don’t always make shopping lists, so a little breathing room in the aisles goes a long way for us, since folks like to kiss and cuddle our comics before taking them home.

 

 

The steady flow left us little room for shopping, and yet we lugged a backpack and gym bag of goodies home with us. The Told to Tell anthology, which was news to us and contained a lot of old friends, dropped by our place. Proud papa, Noah Van Sciver (whom we will always and forever believe is a teenager), landed one hell of a one-two punch with As a Cartoonist and Joseph Smith and the Mormons (which we were tempted to leave in the hotel bedside drawer), either of which could be the Book of the Show – and Noah claims to have gone two full weeks without drawing since the last SPX. Talk about fertility. Kevin Reilly also got busy during lockdown, showing up with a pair of spectacularly beautiful minis and prints. Kate Lacour, ‘toonist turned taxidermist, got us collectively laid with her Borgasm mini. Kilgore delivered with a gathering of all things Alex Graham. Sean Knickerbocker rolled out Rust Belt Review 4 and Alex Bullet‘s Bullet by Comparison, a Rust Belt Review Comic, because Sean keeps it rusty. Yael Levy gave us a copy of her gorgeous mini memoir, Fly. Parsifal Press put out their Ignatz winner, the Lover of Everyone and put Kit Anderson in the Weeds. G. Davis Cathcart‘s One Eight Hundred Ghosts claimed our table favorite. The incomparable Bred of Bred Press brought us Gabe Howell’s latest, Flash, and continued to make us feel bad with their best in the business printing skills. Az Sperry and MK Reed both handed out new minis and hung out at our table, for a while, like long enough for Az to qualify as a common-law Secret Acre, poached or not. Aeon Hand‘s Misfortune could have used Az’s batshit fortune cookie fortune from our family dinner; “Your IUD will make you proud after your lousy lays.”

 

 

Being in the family way, despite IUDs, was the running theme of our show. Every meal in Maryland was a family dinner, with old pals and new, big enough for the restaurants to auto add the tip. However, this meant no room for us at the table with Chris Pitzer and his considerable AdHouse gang. The only spare floor time we got, we spent at the AdHouse farewell panel. With legacy to burn, Chris can walk out head held high. Every artist in the room lamented the loss of AdHouse. Chris really broke in the new guys, and those chances are rare for artists without influencer moves. Chris leaves a lot of slack to take up (Looking at you, Parsifal.). But, seriously, fuck the arists: what about us? What about us, Chris? While we reminisced at dinner about ye olde publisher beefs of the late aughts (Where is evil genius Dan Nadel, anyway?), the talk turned to Chris. If we call Dylan Williams the high priest of comics, we call Chris our big brother. He carried a lot of us, sometimes literally, letting publishers piggyback on his distribution deal. Years went by when every Koyama Press book went through him to get to you. He walked us out of a couple of cartoonist beefs, Jimmy Carter style, with unlimited patience, even with AdHouse serving as a flagship feeder for the likes of Fanta and D&Q. We respect his choice to retire, but we need Chris Pitzer. We have a plan, or at least a desperate plea. If you’re reading this, Mr. Pitzer, and we know you are: keep your corner at SPX. Picking through long boxes and picking up barely legal rarities, sage advice and brotherly love is half the fun of hitting the AdHouse tables. Annie still has her retirement job, Chris. We bet Warren would let you keep yours forever. Give us something to look forward to. Pretty please.

 

 

We did promise a look ahead at next year. With 2022 in the books, 2023 brings us five newbies and the comeback of a classic. First up comes the wrap-up of Jokaim Drescher‘s Motel Universe trilogy. MU3, like the first two, might be out of this world sci-fi, but it reacts to the world around us, so expect a seismic shift and a twist ending the way only Joakim knows how. The party does not stop there, with Erik Kostiuk Williams2AM Eternal hot on those heels. 2AM Eternal captures a decade of nightlife in Toronto‚Äôs queer community, from basements to the backstage to back rooms, collecting comics, posters and firsthand accounts from the author, the organizers, the performers, and the crowd. From there, we head into Satan’s Kingdom with Robert Sergel. Rob will scare you with his special knowledge, making Freud proud by blurring the line between horror and comedy in this latest Eschew collection. Dropping the family friendly front for a minute, our very own L. Nichols goes deeper and darker with Fremdsprache. We love a mad, bad dad, and we speak German, so we love that title (which might be subject to change, but we hope not). Sean Ford returns with his extremely, somewhat preposterously long-awaited, Shadow Hills. We talked about this before, so you probably know all about Sean’s secret horror masterpiece, but he is done with it, and we have it, we shit you not. Finally, what would Secret Acres be with Theo Ellsworth‘s Capacity? Theo drops by the house he built with a new, slightly revised edition of his old favorite.

So there. See! We’re not dead yet. Thank you, beautiful people, for joining us on the way back to real life. We’re going to take a very long nap now. See you on the other side…

Your Pal,

Leon

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