The Fog

MAXIMALISM ruled our Small Press Expo. We put out four books a year like clockwork. Dropping books at once turned out not to be a terrible idea, big sales numbers considered. However, with Sean Ford stopping by with Shadow Hills, L. Nichols slinging I Am Only a Foreigner Because You Do Not Understand and Joakim Drescher belatedly bringing home Motel Universe 3, Robert Sergel may have had the right idea letting Satan’s Kingdom speak for itself while he stayed home with the kiddos. Rarely do we find equal numbers of people on each side of the Secret Acres tables. We neglect to mention Special Guest Nicholas Offerman and a reunion with Eamon Espey, plus Keren Katz, Gabriel Howell, Adam Griffiths, Glynnis Fawkes and MK Reed spreading out the Secret Acres satellite show. L. and Eamon brought a trio of kiddos with them, which meant a dinner party of eighteen under the world’s largest chandelier. Normies call this family style.



It takes a village to make it into every corner of the floor and get to your panels on time. We got to know our neighbors pretty good, picking up June Dao‘s mini, Utot (which means fart in Tagalog) Komiks and Ignatz nominee, I Owe It to My Parents to NOT Come Out, another book with a complete sentence for a title. We picked up the latest Ignatz-winning PeePee PooPoo from Gabe’s tablemate, Caroline Cash, our pick for Most Conspicuously Responsible Cartoonist. Andrew White’s gorgeous Together & Apart made its way into our tote bag as payback for too much Chinese food. We snatched an oldie but goodie, Iron Scars, from our old and seemingly ageless friend, Colleen Frakes. We traded for the latest Leo Fox. We stole the latest West, Cartoon Dialectics and our person, Az Sperry (again) from Tom K. We missed Keren’s puppet workshop, which seemed to anger the geese, circling our tables, looking for blood. However, Tom K’s narrative origami dinner theater kind of blew it away, culminating in the making of a catamaran from Az’s driver’s license.



Truly, between jet lag and overpopulation, we spent the entire weekend brain-fogged, walking along the patio with a caffeine and nicotine deprived Az, handing out donuts to burn victims with MK. The sure knowledge that Heidi Mac and Meg Lemke joined us for dinner contradicts the experience of debating all things Godzilla, and refereeing wrestling matches over crispy beef the whole time. This felt haunting in the moment, much like the brief encounters with the one and only Chris Pitzer, who, after surrendering the AdHouse SPX island to Tom K and Uncivilized, wandered the floor moaning and fruitlessly searching for back issues of Whisper, whatever the hell that even is. Spotty WiFi can’t account for the hundred or so still unread texts, sent in reply to the question: where are you? That alone embarrasses, but worse still is having no answer to the question: when will we see you again? It hurts when you can’t answer a nine-year-old.



We know we owe you guys a book. We fell short of our promise of a sixth book in 2023, namely Capacity, the redux. We admit to getting caught looking the wrong way, and getting hit by everything from major printing SNAFUs to cars. Normally, this is the blog post where we talk about next year’s books before heading into hibernation. This year, we go right into hibernation for a bit longer than usual, with no spoiling looks ahead, partly out of fear of more broken promises and partly because yours truly needs to stay home with the kids for a minute. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for showing up and eating up all our books all year. Thank you for coming up to our tables to tell L. how their books helped you come out. Thank you for telling me, personally, how much fun you’ve had making comics with me, and for telling me how warm and loving our comics family is. One last unanswered question: was it worth it? Duh. We do promise you there will be more Secret Acres books. Bet on that. See you in a few…

Your Pal,


Freedom of Choice

SECRET ACRES needs you! This Small Press Expo, we find ourselves with our first post-pandemic Ignatz Award nominee in Gabriel Howell for the unforgettable Forget Me Not. You have so much time to vote. Exercise your rights and demons and vote Forget Me Not. Vote all you want! Americans love democracy, supposedly. Our candidate rocks, and shows up, and is easily bored, so come say hello at camp Secret Acres, also known as tables N8-9. We count ourselves very lucky indeed to have two tables, because Gabe ain’t the only Acre in town.



Foremost, Joakim Drescher, proud maker of babies and Motel Universe, returns to our shores, finally, to celebrate the end of his sci-fi trilogy with Motel Universe 3 (assuming there’s no Motel Universe 4 Lyfe coming up). Now we think of it, Joakim dropped the first book at TCAF, and that is not even America, really, so this is a first as well as a foremost. MU3 weighs in at a pound and a half, so prepare for a big, fat book to add to your Secret Acres haul because we have another trio of show debuts to go.



Secondly, Sean Ford, gives everybody jitters with Shadow Hills, the follow-up to his perennial classic, Only Skin, and only a dozen years in-between books. Sean absolutely shattered our longest-delayed book record (previously held by Gabby Schulz with Sick), but somehow, and we swear this is true, it’s worth waiting for. After all, no one does horror/sci-fi/speculative fiction/family drama/humor the way Sean can, and Shadow Hills hits on all fronts. We can hardly believe it, but you better believe it and come get it.



Speaking of proud papas, Robert Sergel stays home this weekend with the wee one. We get it, it’s cool, because you get Satan’s Kingdom, anyway. The biggest, baddest Eschew collection of all time rolls into SPX like a bat out of hell. Featuring pretty much true stories, we think Satan’s Kingdom is the scariest book ever to sport an SA logo. Somehow, the laugh-out-loud funny stuff, and Napoleon and Nikola Tesla, just make the whole thing even more insidious and sinister – and relatable. Always relatable.



Finally, L. Nichols buries the longest title record with I Am Only a Foreigner Because You Do Not Understand, aka IAOAFBYDNU. They keep it autobio, so consider this one a direct sequel to L.’s beloved Flocks. However, IAOAFBYDNU turns the lights off, or at least down, so relate at your own risk, and good luck not relating, unless you are a heartless monster (Are you reading this in hell, Mama?). Like Flocks, we guarantee tears with this one. We would sticker it with a warning, but, spoiler alert: L. brings the hope and redemption.



Adding to the feeding frenzy, we give you Special Guest Nicholas Offerman (the other one from New Jersey), complete with a new Or_nge. Eamon Espey (now another badass dad) comes back from the dead and deals a limited edition tarot deck, Second Sight, that we want very, very badly. Glynnis Fawkes gets paneled. Keren Katz appears live on stage in her own panel, and even more, she’s teaching one of those workshop things. If we can find a way to attend, we promise to be good students for Keren, who promises to be a very bad teacher in a very good way. We can always send hometown hero, Adam Griffiths, over to chaperone. Overwhelmed? Us, too. We still have to pack. See you at the thing…

Your Pal,



AS QUEERS, we pick our people more often than we are born into a people. We say it all the time, but it bears repeating: if you want people, find comics people, especially if you want people to do stupid shit with. For example, as a comics person, and possibly as a queer person, you might find yourself pulling an all-nighter ahead of a twelve hour drive into Chicago, because you want everything to be just right for CAKE, aka the Chicago Alternative (K)omics Expo. Be warned, this behavior might also get you divorced. Anyway, books and bags packed, we arrived at the Broadway Armory, parked in the lot and hopped out to be read by at least a dozen topless, flawless men wearing tiny shorts and thong jocks. We expected as much from the Center on Halsted, but in the new CAKE digs? We had to check, and Pride time or not, it turns out Chicago turned completely queer since the last CAKE, presenting excellent evidence that queers are indeed shoving it in your face. Sorry. You’re welcome.



Spend enough time around cartoonists and you learn quickly that these are the clusters of people standing on the corner discussing where they want to get dinner for an hour because there are no alphas. After a solid three-plus hours of cross-messaging over a half-dozen apps, we managed to get nearly our entire gang together in time for a quick drink at a deafening bar replete with gravity-defying pole dancers, and a midnight run to White Castle. We showed up right as the doors opened at the Armory, but nobody else did. We sat in the farthest corner from the door and wondered if everyone thought we were dead, or if that was just Bayer. Our little table barely held up under the stacks of 2AM Eternal, Washington White and Forget Me Not, all three of which ought to be proof of life enough. We cop to being completely paranoid, since sometime after lunch, we got bum-rushed, and stayed that way through closing time on Sunday, to the point that yours truly had no time to walk the room, and we had to get creative filling in the blank spots after random sellouts.



No floor time does not mean no haul. Tom K. gifted us the Sickness, which sounds like a terrible thing to do, but really, if Wrightson is your jam, you will love Cha. Also at the Uncivilized table: Museum of Mistakes by Julia Wertz, which we never, ever expected to put on a shelf. As payback, we stole Az Sperry and also she gave us her mini mini. Talk about a time warp, we found the latest from Ariel Bordeaux and Leela Corman (both still going at it and def not dead), courtesy of the Fieldmouse folks. Adding to the surrealism of things we never expected to see, a new mini from old pal Penina Gal, and the fucking third issue of Sammy the Mouse, from our very own (or possibly also stolen from Uncivilized) Zak Sally. Sooner or later, Tom K. is gonna call a cop. We should probably include our very only Gabe Howell‘s new thingy from Cold Cube, My Body Count is Higher Than Your IQ, but we got that at the Secret Acres table. After stealing Gabe from Caroline Cash. What is wrong with us?



We still think putting a ton of comics kids on a roof, post-show, is a bad idea, but damn was the light of the strawberry moon worth it. Two thirds of the CAKE OGs met us up there in the forms of Max Morris and Grace Tran, minus the third fest founder, our man, Edie Fake, who really should have been there to see CAKE thawed out after four years on ice. So CAKE: not dead at all. We stuck around for Sunday dinner at Big Chicks with a table for ten, sharing taters with our previously online-only D&D gang before retiring to trade shit stories, hot takes on vagina-held camera work and exchanges of the L word. If you want to ask, or if you wonder, why we do this, it’s the people. And we need to thank all the people coming to say to hello to us and take away all our books. We love you, too. On that note, we are coming home to the Big Apple, tonight, with Eric Kostiuk Williams making another stop on the 2AM Eternal tour at BGSQD, and then again, tomorrow night, at Topos. The party never stops. Until it does, because it’s summer break for us. See you in September…

Your Pal,


If I Could Turn Back Time

BUILD BRIDGES, not walls, or something to that effect. We last went to CAKE back in the last decade, so bridging this gap requires a way, wayback machine. Rubbernecking back to our 2019 CAKE write-up revealed that we were then Sean Knickerbocker, L. Nichols and CupCAKE Award winner, Adam Griffiths, then a Special Guest, at ye olde Center on Halsted, where we were still flirting with Gabe Howell, and the car was packed with leftover crap from the move out of NYC to the Best Coast. Jesus. When you get divorced, and there is oddly a coincidental Divorce Derby to go with the Baby Boom here at Secret Acres, you basically step out of a time warp into an unrecognizable self and world. Here we go again with the Chicago Alternative (K)omics Expo, without painful breakups and fumbling dating apps, but still with no idea of what to expect. Let us learn to live and love again, shall we?



The game changes but the players remain half the same. Washington White, the newspaper chapter, picked up the CupCAKE Award back in 2017, courtesy of juror Edie Fake, no less. Edie, Chicagoland’s own hometown hero, insisted that we pin Adam down for a book. For the first time ever, and this is really hard to believe, Adam Griffiths brings the actual book, Washington White, to CAKE. This feels like a victory to us, and, damn it, it should! Another sort of homecoming finds Gabe Howell back in Chicago, as a resident and with a Secret Acres book, too, the unforgettable Forget Me Not. Really and truly, Gabe belongs in the Windy City, so chalk up another win for the team, brining Gabe home to the Secret Acres CAKE table. Blowing our minds a little further out, Zak Sally and his Recidivist IV finally, finally come to CAKE after the better part of a decade since we first talked to Zak about the book – at CAKE. Talk about closure.



Previously, on the last episode of Scuttlebutt, we gave you the run-up to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, better known as TCAF, for the big, fat debut of Eric Kostiuk Williams‘s big, fat 2AM Eternal – and then yours truly missed the whole thing. A literal wreck cockblocked our first shot at partying behind the table with Eric. For those wondering, the spouse recovered, at least for now, and we made the trip back stateside safely, even if the baby bites everyone. Which means, at long last, we roll into CAKE a complete gang with Eric and 2AM Eternal both. We could not ask for a better way to christen the new CAKE digs. Moves make us nervous, normally, being the number one cause of divorces, but sometimes you just got to move on.



L. Nichols, who kept the show going in Toronto, sits this CAKE out. Yes, we owe you an apology, since you never got the TCAF rundown from them. Supposedly, you will get yours in communal property. CAKE may be the first stop for Eric on his tour out of Toronto, but we swear it will not be the last. In fact, a week from today, Eric comes to New York for a reading at BGQSD, and then another one at Topos, performance included, before he heads west (and before we head west before heading back to the Fatherland ahead of SPX, where we will meet up with Eric yet again). More on all that later, when we come back with our CAKE rundown – and you will get your CAKE rundown and it eat it, too. Who knows? Maybe L. will make it a double Scuttlebutt. Everyone needs hope. See you in a few…

Your Pal,


They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

EVERYTHING happens for a reason, they say. This Scuttlebutt comes to you from Germany because of a catastrophic car accident. Your pal here packed up and split back to the fatherland to care for his still-woozy-and-in-stitches better half, who somehow escaped a total wreck without any permanent damage. That guy ain’t going anywhere for a bit, and neither is yours truly. On the heels of a record no-showing at MoCCA, guess who’s the only no-show for this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival? Good guess! Good thing we have an all-star gang of four to hold down the proverbial Secret Acres fort.



First, foremost and forever, Eric Kostiuk Williams, hometown hero of Toronto, sets the alarm for 2AM Eternal. We really do owe Eric our big, gay gratitude for this book. It hits us hard, in so many ways. As city-dwellers, we watched entire neighborhoods, our friends and families, chosen and otherwise, get priced out of town. Queers and artists serve as the avantgarde of gentrification, harbingers of our own displacement. Of course, the broke, the queer and the artsy must be homesteaders; when nobody wants you around, you go where nobody wants to go – and then you make a scene. Lest you think we get too hyperbolic to take our word for it, here’s Jillian Tamaki on 2AM Eternal: “I’m so happy this book exists. Toronto is a city that seems hellbent on scrubbing itself of everything interesting about itself, I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that this is an incredibly important document and will probably change a few lives too.” See.



We present yet another queer comics compadre, the one and only L. Nichols, filling in as captain of the good ship Secret Acres ahead of their big fall debut, I Am Only Foreign Because You Do Not Understand, or IAOFBYDNU if you prefer a catchy acronym. We guarantee IAOFBYDNU reduces everyone to tears, but more on that later. Please land some birthday punches on L. in our absence. To keep the queer coming, you get Adam Griffiths, returning to the scene of the crime of last year’s TCAF where we managed to sneak a couple advance copies of his Washington White over the border. 2AM Eternal and Washington White function as fabulous bookends on all things queer gentrification. Those guys ought to take it on tour (and they will, come CAKE). Finally, Zak Sally, believe it or not, hits TCAF with Recidivist IV for the first time ever, considering COVID cancelled TCAF in 2020, and again in 2021, and then cancelled Zak in 2022. Hell, for all we know, Zak could be queer, too. A little wishful thinking never hurts. And, if you are the lucky person who keeps hounding us about Shadow Hills, there’s a little something waiting for you at the Secret Acres table.



We will miss TCAF more than you, whoever you are, reading this. We swear by all that is holy, if there were a way to go with the will, we’d have found it by now. Unless you are saddled with a hobbled spouse and a jetlagged toddler on a different continent or worse, quit making excuses and get yourself up north. You can skip worrying about the TCAF Scuttlebutt rundown because L.’s got that covered. L. returns a week from today with all things TCAF. We swear. We promise even a look ahead to the aforementioned Chicago Alternative (K)omics Expo, because, goddammit, we want to do a show with Eric behind the table. Oh, the injustice.

Your Pal,


I Feel Better

WELP. You may be wondering what the hell happened with us at MoCCA. That makes all of us. For the second year in a row, the fucking ‘rona stopped us dead, or sick. Our man with a party plan, the one and only Eric Kostiuk Williams, failed his COVID test, leaving him stuck at home in bed and us without anything to do on Saturday night. 2AM Eternal made its way to the big apple, at least. We admit to being a little bit star struck meeting OK Fox IRL. The original Sonic 2006 Clubkid drops one of the best (OK, maybe the best of all the) essays in Eric’s 2AM Eternal. OK, the person, compared 2AM Eternal to the Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, the highest of compliments ever, so say us. Eventually, for the love of God, we swear to party with OK and Eric in NYC. When is Flame Con, anyway? Meanwhile, TCAF is coming right up, so you better get better, Eric Kostiuk Williams.



2AM Eternal sat pretty on the table, but we never found Satan’s Kingdom. Robert Sergel‘s immaculate collection kept to itself after a last minute paper stock issue prevented a timely MoCCA delivery. Unlike Eric, Rob spent the weekend with us, and with at least a quartet of his comics occupying a corner of our spread and making a real dent in our sales. We are grateful to all the MoCCA peoples picking up Rob’s comics, and for never complaining even once. You guys and Rob may be troopers, but this one hurt. We owe it to Rob, and you all, to get him and his book at the same show at the same time, some time this year. When is MICE, anyway? Now that we think of it, maybe MICE would be a good homecoming for Rob since he can pretty much walk on over.



Then came strike three: Sean Ford and L. Nichols added insult to injury, being no-shows both, for reasons. L. takes the cake for excuses, though, claiming to need the time to work on the last details of their forthcoming I Am Only Foreign Because You Do Not Understand. You know who came through? Gabriel Howell. Again. Forget Me Not wins our Biggest Seller Award for the second time, following its TCAF debut. We bet he does it again at CAKE. Speaking of homecomings, by the time CAKE happens, Gabe’s going to be a Chicagoan, so he oughta know where the party’s at. Gabe made the point that MoCCA needs a Saturday night Thing. God bless Austin English for making it happen on Sunday, but some of us had to hit the road. Le sigh.



MoCCA lacks a party but packs ’em in, to the tune of record crowds for NYC’s finest comics show. Day one saw something like five thousand people, who trapped us way in back, where we boiled. The heat, or lack of AC, really fogs our memory of Saturday, but we did play catch-up with J.T. Yost, before he escapes from his own Birdcage Bottom and hands the reins over to some young whippersnapper. We feel you, man. Our stablemate, Uncivilized, won this year’s Best of Show for Pete Rostovsky’s Damnation Diaries, and gave us an essay to read so we can feel even dumberer. Congrats, y’all! There’s no show without Mr. Phil and the Beat‘s Heidi Mac, which is about as New York as it gets. Heidi, if you’re reading, you have to come to TCAF. Don’t be silly now. We even managed a real conversation with Nicholas Offerman, who is pretty much a Nick Offerman character. We think that’s a good thing, as we are big stans of Offerman. We swapped baby pics at the Fanta table, and boy, oh, boy does the little Hanselmann look the part. Speaking of Fanta, Grayson Bear‘s upcoming book for the Fanta flagship caught the buzz Heidi was looking for – or maybe the buzz book belongs to Nate Garcia, slinging comics on the street since the poor fucker didn’t even have a table and is apparently twenty and has no phone (or so we were told by our table neighbor, taxidermist Kate Lacour, who had a book of her originals, all out of our price range, but inspiring grand theft charges).

So there. Keep on truckin’, as they say, and we will see you at TCAF, this time with L. Nichols, Zak Sally (!) and yes, finally, Eric Kostiuk Williams. You, too, Heidi. Till then…

Your Pal,


Look Who’s Talking

WE PLANNED very carefully for this year’s Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Festival. However, as they say, if you want to make God laugh, make a baby. Every couple years or so, our gang catches baby fever all at once, but so far, at least, not from one another. Call it a coincidence, but in the past year and change, we have cranked out, and/or expect, a whopping half-dozen little bundles of joy. We speak of actual babies, not books. You can plan parenthood, but babies tend to change up everything else, like a publishing schedule, for example. With great joy and regret, we hereby inform you that Joakim Drescher’s Motel Universe 3, which we had hoped and planned to have for you this very MoCCA weekend, will remain in the oven until, say, SPX. Take heart; we promise you the spectacular conclusion of Joakim’s epic Motel Universe trilogy delivers on every conceivable count. We could have a copy or two on hand this weekend for some very lucky people. Or not. You’ll just have to show up and find out.



To make things even more interesting, Robert Sergel‘s Satan’s Kingdom, once due at SPX, actually does arrive this very MoCCA weekend. Technically, this book qualifies as an Eschew collection. Eschew, as a series, includes some of the best comics of all time, so the burden of expectations rests squarely on Rob’s latest. Go ahead and expect the best because Mr. Sergel never disappoints. As the author of SPACE and Bald Knobber describes it, Satan’s Kingdom contains “eight disquieting stories about the hells we construct for ourselves and others.” We concur, but we must add that these stories, as you’d expect, are excruciatingly hilarious, with equal emphasis on excruciating and hilarious. This one takes a tour of real horrors, from the spite houses of New England to Napoleon in New Jersey, all the way to Desolation Bay. You can even visit Satan’s Kingdom. Not a joke. Better yet, stay safe and read it.



For giggles, Eric Kostiuk Williams crashes our MoCCA party. Eric returns to New York by way of pre-gaming for his big, upcoming TCAF debut of 2AM Eternal. Trust us, after reading Eric’s magnum opus, you will want to party like your life depended on it. Your life may, in fact, depend on it. 2AM Eternal serves as both a historical document and monument to the endangered queer nightlife of Eric’s hometown Toronto. We beam with pride that New York worms its way into the book, too. Between gentrification, mainstreaming, pandemics and relentless attacks, both political and actual, we queers owe Eric many thanks for this service. Drop by and say hello, and maybe catch a sneak peek, hidden cam style, of 2AM Eternal this MoCCA. Who knows? Maybe Eric will tell you where all the good parties are this weekend.



Of course, we don’t go anywhere without backup. Backing up to last year’s TCAF debut, Forget Me Not, we have the one and only Gabe Howell. Now that we think about it, Gabe bridges the gap between queer and horror pretty good. If you missed him in Toronto, now’s the time to get caught up. Coming up from the Hudson Valley is none other than L. Nichols. L.’s got some rust to knock off ahead of their long-awaited follow-up to Flocks, the succinctly entitled, I Am Only Foreign Because You Do Not Understand. Try saying that ten times fast. Sean Ford never dies, and even comes back to haunt you at MoCCA. His somehow even-longer-awaited follow-up to Only Skin, namely, Shadow Hills, descends on SPX this fall, too. We never thought we’d see the day. We shall return, a week from today, with our rundown of everything that happened at MoCCA. Assuming we remember. Till then, we got mouths to feed. See you in a few…

Your Pal,


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’s 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,


Destroy All Monsters

ALL THE MONSTERS descend on comics island this weekend. No one can resist the siren call to the Small Press Expo. The artist headcount officially crept over 500, with nowhere to go. SPX makes the most of one-stop shopping, keeping everyone together because everything is on site. So much for suburban sprawl. Speaking of large, indoor gatherings, the SPX gang kept the safety on for all the big guns, with everyone tested, vaxxed and masked, with a max occupancy of two per table. At least we can breathe a little easier after seeing some seriously stupid bullshit going on at comics shows. Like SPX, Secret Acres lives to serve our comics community, and we are proud of our people at MoCCA, at TCAF and SPX for sparing us the super spreader part of our main events.



The main event at the Secret Acres tables took a decade to make. Adam Griffths brings Washington White home to the District (or pretty close, anyway). More than a few of you got lucky and picked yours up early. After picking up the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo’s Cupcake Award and MoCCA’s Best of Show, Washington White goes super spreader at SPX ahead of going viral everywhere. The viral metaphor fits the world of Washington White, where the President authorizes covert testing of a mind-control disease, a greedy developer is gentrifying the universe within the disease, and the black owner of a local tabloid, Washington White, threatens to expose the corruption—because his evil, white tycoon dad is the one behind it. If it sounds to you like it’s ripped from the headlines, you’re right. Washington White is also the true story of Adam Griffiths’ grandmother, Peggy Griffiths, a lawyer for the U.S. Civil Service Commission’s Appeals Review Board, best known for winning a landmark bias lawsuit against the federal government in 1977 for wrongfully being denied a promotion. Does this count as futurism?



The other part of our two-top table duo takes the shape of none other than Zak Sally. Speaking of a decade in the making, Recidivist IV returns to IRL, printed in a six-color, metallic process, with some text and figures are only visible in light, some only in shadow (and there’s a bunch of hand-stamped pages, too, because we get it right, dammit). This comic literally makes you wrestle with it, but form follows function. Part resignation letter, part manifesto, the stories in here comprise a medium-defying visual experience of the freedom in obscurity. As old pal Chris Mautner puts it, Recidivist IV “rewards you with its tightrope act as the reading experience and the content cohere into a breathtaking whole.” Buckle up!



Where’s everybody else, you ask? This SPX, the Secret Acres gang’s omnipresence constitutes a veritable mini-fest of its own. The satellite show includes the “Trans Identities in Fantasy and Fictional Storytelling” panel, moderated by they who brought you Flocks, our very own L. Nichols. Sean Knickerbocker, of Rust Belt fame, totes the new issue of Rust Belt Review, which even we need to catch up with. Supergenius Keren Katz grabbed a pair of Ignatz Award nominations for Outstanding Series and Outstanding Story with her issue of Ley Lines, co-published by the aforementioned L. Nichols. Palefire powerhouse MK Reed moved out of the Secret Acres table and got her own place. They grow up so fast. Finally, on a related note, it appears Chris Pitzer and AdHouse Books are moving on. If Chris actually makes good on his threat to bounce forever, you kind of have to come to the show.

If you require more of an invitation, we got nothing for you. How much do you people need, anyway? If you skip school, you can come right back here for the Cliffs Notes Scuttlebutt on all things SPX, possibly a tearful goodbye to Mr. Pitzer, plus a sneak peek at next year. See you in a few…

Your Pal,


Money Machine

IT TURNS OUT that rolling over the border beats flying. Do we blame Father’s Day? Juneteenth? Pride week? Whatever that music festival was that Miles was talking about at Tranzac? We loved the CBSA for getting us through customs in record time, but we spent hours waiting for planes parked on the runway, being brought into the terminal one by one. We kept busy with Eric Kostiuk Williams serving as tour guide, for which we are super grateful since it seems Toronto has been entirely torn down and relocated in these intervening years. Mostly, we explored the maze at the Black Eagle. Seems like Canadians like a challenge since the glory holes looked like credit card slots, but there you go. Our debut superstar, Gabriel Howell, arrived in time to check in at the lovely library, and we woke Adam Griffiths up for midnight snacks on TCAF eve. After a two year delay, all was right with the world.



TCAF put us right back where we were, on our little island across from Koyama Press, so we could flip each other off and have a weekend-long candy foodfight. Instead, our old island neighbors, Conundrum Press, in true Toronto style, took over Annie’s old spot, and we must say, that made for a pretty damn good re-fit. Once upon a time, during Fantagraphics 25th anniversary celebration, Sean T. Collins wrote (someplace we can’t find), that once D&Q got to their 25th, that would be the last 25th anniversary in indie comics publishing. Well, Conundrum can call it, too, being around longer than Tillie Walden. They didn’t throw any chocolate at us, but they gave us plenty of eye-candy with DILF Joe Ollman at the table – and they had our vote for Book of Show with Sami Alwani’s the Pleasure of the Text. We made it rain for Sami and spent a small, personal fortune on stuff from Genvieve LeBleu, Stanley Wany, et al. So we offer our sincere, belated congrats to Conundrum on a quarter century in the books.



TCAF switched in our distro labelmate, Uncivilized Books, as our table bunkies. We fell madly in love with A.Z. Terry (Jordan who? Tom what?) and her comics, on the way to breaking some records with our haul, picking up stuff we missed with the comic show circuit on pause all this time. We picked up the semi-latest from Max Morris and Perfectly Acceptable, who, along with Bred Press, make us feel bad about our printing skills. We went full French at the Pow Pow table, with new stuff from Cathon and Sophie Bédard. Whatever the hell that little, yellow Peow book is, it gave us headaches, in a good way. We even made it upstairs, where our latest comics crush, Nicole Rodriguez, was hiding. Take note that we could only make it upstairs since this TCAF was far less congested – but don’t think it was empty. Forget Me Not launched like a rocket. We could have packed our leftovers in a backpack and had room to spare. We thank the beautiful people of TCAF for a pillaging of books so total, we had to break into artist copies of Forget Me Not and Washington White both. And we managed all this without a Wowee Zonk room, another victim of Toronto reconstruction. We miss the Wowee Zonk room.



We missed everybody. TCAF feels like a family reunion most of the time, but this year got eyes watering. Tom and Peggy popped up after taking Gigi on a campus tour of the University of Toronto. Gigi. College. Seriously. Michael DeForge leveled up from healthy to swole. Patrick Kyle studied up on French for Fremok. We dragged faux Canadian Dustin Harbin away from his stacked table. John Martz brought over our very own, lone Canadian, Aaron Costain, to talk farm life. Peter Birkemoe stole the last of our Forget Me Nots, and Miles Baker is a full-grown adult holding the reins of this post-pandemic TCAF. Our old co-worker from our days at the Distinguished Competition, Heidi MacDonald, showed up at the after party. We sobered up after a night of bar-hopping with a secret, deluxe breakfast with soul-sister Annie Koyama herself, eating poached eggs and poaching the aforementioned Eric Kostiuk Williams. So now we’ve got two Canadians. We stifled quite a lot of tears on our way home between the feels and cancelled flights which damn near stranded Adam Griffiths in Toronto. But wouldn’t you be okay being stuck in TCAF forever?

Should we survive our separation anxiety, we promise to return here ahead of our last show of the year, the ginormous Small Press Expo. Good thing Adam made it home, because the real deal Washington White finally makes its official way to you this SPX. We can’t wait, either.

Your Pal,




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