Last weekend’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland was a record-setting event! Wall-to-wall attendance filled the exhibit hall on both days with some of the world’s greatest cartoonists and their readers who came out en masse. The CBLDF’s team was busy meeting supporters from doors open to tear down, raising nearly $15,000 over the course of the convention’s two days!
SPX is a non-profit organization whose mission includes making charitable grants to organizations, including the CBLDF, area libraries, and community projects, on top of organizing the premiere art comics festival in the United States. This year’s event saw the graphic novel gift program aid the Enoch Pratt library in Baltimore, while the Library of Congress’ SPX collection expanded to include the show offerings, curated by Rob Clough, as well as Dean Haspiel’s donated collection of mini-comics. While official attendance figures aren’t yet in, anecdotal evidence shows that the 2012 show set new records for attendance, which is part of the equation that factors into the organization’s contribution to CBLDF’s work.
Deputy Director Alex Cox curated a killer booth for the Fund, where we hosted signings by Francoise Mouly on Saturday and Sunday. We were also lucky enough to have early copies of Chris Ware’s Building Stories available for contributors on Saturday. That limited quantity was gone by mid-day. Signed graphic novels and prints, including vintage SPX posters, rounded out our table offerings. Saturday evening brought the second annual Jeff Alexander Memorial Auction, where we raised $1700 with original art from creators including Peter Bagge, Gilbert Shelton, Jeffrey Brown, and many more.
Once again the Ignatz Awards were a standing-room-only affair. It was terrific to see Tom Spurgeon’s classy acceptance of Richard Thompson’s special Ignatz Award. Watching Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez earn their prizes, and more directly, experience the high esteem they’re held in by this community, was also moving. My favorite Ignatz moment was when Jaime accepted the award for Promising New Talent on behalf of Lale Westvind, who missed the awards. In a high pitched voice, Jaime held up the prize brick and said, “Hi this is Lale. Thank you so much. I’m going to make comics forever!”
“Make comics forever,” certainly seems to be the mantra for SPX. I remember when a highly emotional Alec Longstreth, beard long and amber like a young Dumbledore, accepted his Ignatz several years ago and uttered that phrase. Year over year, the place fills with generations of art comics devotees who come to the show to compare offerings in their personal races to forever and to share in the community for which comics is more a calling than it is a job. This year everyone made more money than usual, which certainly elevated the mood, but the money was icing. The cake was the work, and the community of people making it.
The CBLDF is grateful to our community of supporters who made this show possible, including volunteers Brett Estey, Alison Garguilo, Elizabeth Gordon, JessicaLee, Cash Lone, and Andrew Neal. Special acknowledgment to Retail Members Dan & Katie Merritt of Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan whose conversation and support made this an extraordinary show, and also to Jacq Cohen, Jen Vaughn and the team at Fantagraphics, and Annie Koyama for their overall generosity to us during the event.
Charles Brownstein is the Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.