SPX 2005

Sun 9/25/2005

I got back from the Small Press Expo tonight, where I was awarded the 2005 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Minicomic! It is an incredible honor and I am so grateful to have received it!!!

Even besides winning an Ignatz though, I had an AWESOME weekend seeing old Comics friends, making NEW Comics friends and trading for a whole SLEW of totally rad Comics.

So READ ON to hear ALLLLL about my awesome weekend at SPX! (quite possibly the longest blog entry EVER!--not including when I was in Australia ;)

I had not been getting much sleep for the whole week leading up to SPX. See, SPX was on Friday and Saturday this year. So I had to skip my two Friday classes, which meant that I had to do all of my Friday CLASSWORK in addition to my REGULAR homework. ALSO, I had to print a BUNCH of minicomics. So on Wednesday night I pulled an all-nighter--finishing my schoolwork by about 6am and then spending the rest of the morning printing and packing. UGGGGH!

I went to class on Thursday like a total zombie, handed off my Friday work to my new Pratt friend Ajani (THANKS Ajani!) and then dashed back to my apartment to meet Aaron (Get used to the links--there are going to be A LOT of them!!!) We departed immediately for the infamous CHINATOWN BUS.

The concept is simple: $35 round trip from New York to Philly, Boston, Baltimore or Washington D.C. --Chinatown to Chinatown. "HOW do they keep it so cheap" you ask? Well, mostly by being TOTALLY SKETCHY and COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE (more on this later!) Luckily the trip down was uneventful. The bus was even pretty empty so that Aaron and I each got two full seats. I got a few uncomfortable hours of sleep while Aaron worked on a Comics story he's scripting.

In D.C. we split up, with me wandering out to find my old high school friend Isaac's place and Aaron going out to Bethesda where SPX was going to be. I eventually found Isaac (who lives across the street from a GIANT, super-creepy Freemason library--brrrr!) who was letting me crash with him. We stayed up for a while, catching up on old times, which was really nice.

The next morning I got up bright and early and headed out to Bethesda for Day One of SPX!!! I was going to meet Aaron and Greg (AKA Clutch McBastard) for lunch and then we were all going to go set up for the show. As I was walking out to the hotel though, I happened to see Greg and Aaron walking right up the street! Hooray!

We exchanged big hugs and then Greg said, "So Alec, we have a suprise for you..." I was a bit taken aback--I noticed that Aaron and Greg were both smiling very excitedly... And then they presented me with the very first copy of "VOTE LONGSTRETH!" a minicomic that they had put together just for SPX. (pictured above) It's a 16-page minicomic containing comics and art by Greg, Aaron, Bwana, JP Coovert and Nate all about how crazy I am and how much I love Comics. "I made 400 of them" said Greg. "We're going to give them away at the show if that's okay with you" said Aaron. I read the comic and was choking back tears because it was so moving (I'm a TOTAL CRYBABY as you will see later on!) A stranger reading the Comic would still get something out of it, but for ME it was like a giant birthday present filled with inside jokes and beautiful Comics by my friends just for me!

In other words, I HAVE THE BEST FRIENDS IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

The first day was pretty slow in terms of SPX-goers, but even if I hadn't sold ANY Comics I still would have had fun! Early on this guy walked by my table and he had an AWESOME beard. I said, "Hey! Great beard!" and then we ended up talking for like half an hour about all kinds of stuff. We were already fast becoming friends when I found out that he was actually Kevin, the boyfriend of Liz Prince who I had been emailing with a bit before SPX (her SWEET new book "Will You Still Love Me if I Wet The Bed?" debuted at SPX this year!) They are both super-cool people who I was really glad to get to know. New friends! WOO!!!

I saw the familiar faces of the AWP crowd, who had also all trekked down from New York; the SCAD kids up from Georgia including David, Joey and JP and Stephen and Robyn who had made it down from Vermont where she is helping out with the Center For Cartoon Studies.

A BUNCH of us went out to dinner that night and then I hung out at the hotel for a little bit before heading back to Isaac's place for some more SLEEP which I still needed. I wanted to have lots of energy for SATURDAY, which promised to be a crazy day full of SPX fun...

Saturday actually started out a bit slow, but that gave me a chance to chat it up with Matt Delight, who had the table next to me. I've seen him a few years in a row at the Portland Zine Symposium but we never really talked--he's such a friendly guy!

The big horrible tragedy of SPX was that Robyn and Kelli were supposed to get True Porn 2 shipped to them by the printer, but the FedEx shipment got screwed up, so their books never arrived on Saturday. :( They were so bummed out (UNDERSTANDABLY--so much work! And to not be able to share it with everyone--AGH!) So look for that when it hits stores soon...

On the other end of the spectrum, Aaron and Liz both SOLD OUT all of the copies of their books that Top Shelf brought to SPX! It got really busy, but I still managed to make a huge lap around the convention floor, trading with TONS of people and gathering probably about 100 minicomics for FREE! I was even able to trade for some really great "out of my league" stuff that I didn't think I'd be able to trade for in a million years. So thanks to everyone who traded with me!

Greg and Aaron (and a few other people who helped out) had handed out ALL 400 copies of the "Vote Longstreth!" mini. Aaron and Liz had also started a "VOTE ALEC" knuckle campaign (like the Blues Brothers tatoos, only with a sharpie) so lots of people were coming up to my table going, "Hey--I just got this mini comic about you--I really want to check out your comics!" It was at once flattering and a little embarrassing!

After the show an ARMY of people tried to go get dinner, but we had to be back for the Ignatz Awards in only an hour, so Robyn, Greg, Aaron and I all split off and just went to a walk-in pizza place. (picture taken by Robyn!) We ate quickly and then headed up to the awards room. I was starting to get REALLY nervous!

To my suprise, Isaac had showed up, which was really nice of him. He and my Comics friends and I all took a seat. Aaron was teasing me, saying we'd have to sit in the very back so it would be "more dramatic" when I went up to receive my award. "Shut up!!!" I said.

But then Liz appeared, and said that the nominees had to sit up FRONT at the special round tables... ??? So I gave hugs to all my friends and then went and sat with Liz in the front of the room. Mikhaela was up there too (since she was going to present one of the awards) so I made nervous small talk with her, while waiting for everything to get started.

Harvey Pekar was the guest of honor at SPX this year. He gave a real short speech and then a guy from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund talked a bit about how much money SPX had raised for the organization (all of the proceeds from SPX go to the CBLDF to protect the first ammendment rights of Comics creators, publishers and retailers). And then they started handing out awards!

I was REALLY getting nervous, which I didn't think was going to happen... I figured that since minicomics was like the SMALLEST award that it would be first (and then they would end it with "Best Artist" or whatever) but it was actually quite a ways through. So after each award I got more and more nervous. Liz TOTALLY WON the Ignatz for Outstanding Debut comic, so she came back to the table grinning widely with her new brick!!! High-Fives and hugs were doled out.

When it was finally time to hand out the Outstanding Minicomic award, MATT FEAZELL took the stage, dressed in his trademark fidora and a special bow tie! (It should be noted that Matt is probably one of my ALL TIME minicomics/self-publishing heroes. There was NO ONE at SPX I would rather receive a minicomics award from). I totally panicked at this point, thinking "WHAT AM I GOING TO SAY IF I WIN???" I took out my pen, thinking that I should write down the names of the other nominees (on my hand) so that I could tell them that they deserve the award just as much as I do. Especially Jesse Reklaw, who I know from previous conventions and is such a talented, awesome guy and Sarah Becan who I met at this year's SPX and is SUPER nice and is coincidently has been hanging out with my friend Ezra in Chicago!?! John Hankiewicz and Andy Hartzell weren't at SPX this year, but both of their stuff is SUPER amazing too. It really could have gone to any of us!

ANYWAYS, I scribbled down all the names, then crossed out my OWN name thinking "Wait--that's MY name!" when Matt Feazell suddenly said "PHASE NUMBER SEVEN" and everyone started cheering. (????!)

I stumbled up to the stage, blushing HARD and trying to think of what I should say. There was some stupid thing where you were supposed to do a shot of tequilla if you won, but I passed and Keith Knight (the MC) drank it for me. I somehow had a microphone in my hand and then Matt Feazell handed me my brick. AND THEN THIS HUGE, UNEXPECTED WAVE OF EMOTION CRASHED OVER ME.

I started crying, which was pretty embarrassing, considering that I was standing in front of 300+ people, who make up a LARGE portion of the small press community, but I tried to keep it under control and started talking. I don't remember exactly what I said, but the main points were THANK YOU TO MY AMAZING FRIENDS for being so supportive (I totally forgot to thank the other nominees!--AGGGH! ), I LOVE my comic book and it really meant a lot to me to be recognized for that, and then I started rambling about how SPX is awesome because it's a chance for us all to get together and see what we've all been working on. I think about that a lot when I am drawing, because with Comics you spend so much time by yourself, sitting at your drawing board. So it's great to all come together, because no one can appreciate the hard work you do as a Comics artist more than OTHER Comics artists. Then I gave Matt Feazell a GIGANTIC bear-hug and dashed back to my table blushing and crying. Jeez!

*sigh* So anyways. It was SUCH an honor, but kind of embarrassing! After the awards were done EVERYONE was coming up to me saying, "Awesome speech!" and "I'm so glad you won!" and all that kind of stuff. Lots of people who hadn't bought my comics wanted my business card (so they could check out this site) and I was given a lot of cards and had my picture taken, etc. etc. It was kind of crazy!

I really couldn't stop blushing for almost an hour though and I started to feel really hot and lightheaded, so I borrowed Aaron's cell phone and went outside to call a bunch of people to thank them for working on the mini, or supporting me, or just to tell them the good news!

Isaac asked, as some of you might be wondering, "Why is the award a BRICK?" Because really, it is simply a nice wooden stand with a BRICK on it (they are going to mail me a plaque with "PHASE 7" on it, I think). Well, for those of you who don't know, George Herriman drew the incredible comic strip "Krazy Kat" for about 30 years. And in almost EVERY comic Ignatz the mouse beans Krazy Kat in the head with a BRICK (much to her(?) delight!) Hence the brick.

I spent the rest of the night hanging out with my friends and talking to a BUNCH of people, including Ryan Estrada, the crazy maniac who did the 175-hour Comic (175 pages in 175 hours???!!!?!), who is actually just a really nice guy. I ended up crashing in Greg's room that night (thanks Greg!!!) and we laid there in the dark talking, like when you are 12 years old and having a sleep-over party. Not only is Greg a super talented artist and a generous, hard working self-publisher AND a killer Zine-Librarian, he is also a STAND-UP GUY and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. I consider it one of the main highlights of this trip that I got to spend more time getting to know him. There is nothing better than having really amazing friends.

So as I said in a previous comment, Saturday was one of the best days of my life. And Sunday was one of the WORST. After about 4 hours of sleep I forced myself to wake up and head back to Isaac's place out in D.C. proper. I collected the stuff I had left there and then woke Isaac up. We WERE going to go get breakfast or lunch or something, but in the end, the timing just didn't work out. So we talked for a bit and then I trekked BACK out to Bethesda to collect Aaron and hit the road!

UNBEKNOWNST to us, there was also a GIGANTIC anti-war protest in Washington D.C. that same weekend (my Mom said there were 100,000 people there???) So Aaron and I really darted out of Bethesda, to try and catch the earliest Chinatown Bus back to New York. The schedule said there were 12:00, 1:00 and 5:00 busses. So we showed up at about 11:30 and there were already probably 100+ people standing there, waiting for the 12:00 bus. (GULP)

Needless to say, the bus was a half hour late and a total mob scene ensued, complete with pushing, shoving, screaming and unfortuantely, with a large group of people who did not make it on to the bus (including US). That bus left at 12:30 or so. And the 1:00 bus was supposidly not going to come until 3:00. You can imagine how the New Yorkers loved this information. "I need to get back to New York by EIGHT O'CLOCK. I have an appointment!"

So Aaron and I stayed put, not wanting to lose our place at the front of the line. Finally at 3:30 the bus pulled up, by which point another angry mob had assembled. Some crazy old lady with no authority whatsoever tried to hand out tickets to determine order, which was a HORRIBLE idea because she did it with no rhyme or reason. After some more yelling and shoving we all got on the bus--BUT there were still five empty seats. And the psychotic Chinatown Bus people REFUSED to leave until the seats were filled (even though the bus was now more than THREE HOURS late!) More drama than you can shake a stick at commenced, including a BABY that had to have its seat paid for, and by 4:30 or so we were FINALLY rolling.

The ride back was HORRIBLE. The bus was totally crowded, everytime someone went to use the bathroom the ENTIRE bus filled with the stench of shit and Aaron and I were stuck behind this INCREDIBLY OBNOXIOUS group of like ten protesters who were playing camp games and talking loudly to eachother and CONSTANTLY GOING TO THE BATHROOM (see above) which made for a really unpleasant trip. Poor Aaron was feeling carsick through most of it too. I barely slept at all.

Of course in New York the subways were screwed up too (Sunday night construction! Hooray!) so I think it was about 11pm when I got back to the apartment... I recapped some of the weekend for Kelly and Ilana, checked my email and took a shower. It was MIDNIGHT when I finally sat down to start my homework...

So, yeah. I basically pulled ANOTHER all-nighter (2.5 hours of sleep) getting my homework done for Monday. So just to recap: a week of very little sleep (5 hours max) getting ready for SPX; an all-nighter to finish my work and print the final comics; one night of good sleep at SPX and then one night of 4 hours of sleep; then another all-nighter. It's a good thing I did so many all-nighters in college, because I really have the technique worked out--but JESUS. I need to get some sleep! It's gotten to the point where I've stopped saying "I'll sleep when I'm dead" because I almost WANT to die, just so I can get some goddamned sleep!

And in that vein, I should wrap up this monster of a blog entry...

I really had a great time at SPX (duh). I was able to share my Comics with a BUNCH of new people (IE the best feeling in the world), I got some really awesome comics FOR FREE to read, I got to see my friends, I got to make some NEW friends and it was such a good feeling to be recognized for all the work I put into PHASE 7. Thanks for everyone involved for making it such an awesome event for me! Zzzzzzzz...

25 comments on this entry

Dude, congrats!! Now I can proudly boast about my AWARD WINNER COMIC ARTIST BUDDY when comic shopping this weekend.

I'm so happy for you!

Asher Sep26

Congrats on the Ignatz. It could not have happened to a nicer guy. It was a pleasure to share a table with you at SPX!

Way to go! Seeing your acceptance speech made the whole trip worth going and then there was so much other cool stuff that happened too! I have way too many comics I have to go read now.

Asher- glad to give you some bragging rights!

Duane- thanks man! It was fun sharing a table with you. Good luck with everything and I will see you at SPX NEXT year!

David- I know what you mean. I'm still trying to get through my pile of stuff from the Portland Zine Symposium and now I have ANOTHER huge stack of stuff to read. Luckily I'm riding the subway A LOT these days. Hooray for mass transit!

Alec Sep27

I'm looking forward to the sequel, Vote Longstreth for President minicomics!

Hey Alec!

I found this link for you:

http://209.198.111.165/thebeat/archives/2005/09/spx_headline_ne_2.html

Liz Prince Sep27

Well deserved, my man. We deserved.

Ryan Sep27

Ha ha ha! Thanks Liz. That headline made me laugh. And a picture of me CRYING on the internet! Just what the world needs.... :D

Alec Sep27

Alec, you're the best! I'm so happy for you!
Hey, your talk about not sleeping got me thinking... is there a way we can cheat sleep? Sleep less, work more? Stay-up late, drink tea and meditate? Are there some (drug-free) ways to turn your body into a comics-making machine? Does anyone have any suggestions, techniques that work for them? I know Alec is going probably do a zine about this someday, but I'd like to get a discussion going. Let's share our knowledge! Email me if you're interested: robyn@un-pop.com. Maybe we could start a message board or something.

robyn Sep27

Robyn, have you read my 24-hour comic "SLEEP-LESS"? Although sleep can be bothersome, I think it's more important to make the most of your waking hours, instead of trying to cheat sleep! Even if you can NOT-SLEEP for a while, it's been my experience that it will eventually catch up with you.

I've found that you can get a lot more done if you take breaks (including sleep) and are well rested and energized and focused. If you try to push yourself too hard then you are working at a reduced energy level and your efficency will definitely drop!

You're right--I AM planning on drawing up some of my theories and first-hand experience on work habits and sleep, but I need to get BASEWOOD chapter two out the door first!

Alec Sep27

No, Alec, I haven't read that one yet. I will!
Ok, so cheating sleep isn't a good idea. But there are good ideas out there. Let's share them! Join the discussion on makecomicsforever.blogspot.com

robyn Sep27

Seriously dude, your speech was easily one of the best ever uttered by a cartoonist. It was poignant and inspiring, and a real motivator for someone such as myself (a guy who entertains the idea of doing comics but is reluctant to commit due to time and energy levels) to take the serious plunge.

I can't think of person who deserved that award more.

Matt Sep28

Congradulations Alec! Oddly, I had just found my copy of People, Places, and Things and was going to show my dad his picture. He just had surgery on his hip (he's doing fine) and so I thought what with the "sans legs" element, he would find it particularly topical.

Phil Sep28

Very awesome Alec! And the picture of you on the internet is excellent!

Christina Sep28

Great job, Alec! I've been spreading the word about you over on Newsarama.com.

That bus ride sounds a lot like traveling in the military.

Chris Sep29

Thanks Chris! STAY SAFE over there in Iraq, okay?

Alec Sep29

I'll try to keep safe, as I'm getting to be a short-timer. Less than a month left!

Stay safe in NYC, that place is scary.

Chris Sep29

Yay Alec! Congrats on your Ignatz... My wife and I stopped by your table, and your winning personality convinced me to pick up PHASE 7, #5. Little did I know that I'd be taking home an IGNATZ winner... I have to add that I was really touched by Aaron Renier's steadfast support of you during the SPX, that in itself says alot about you. HOORAY for you, now go get a 'regular' coffee and a bagel from the cart by the subway entrance.

Scott Sep29

Yay! Alec, I'm thrilled to hear about this. I wish I could see the speech - did anyone video it and post it to the web? Love and warm thoughts from Alaska.

jim Sep29

ACK! Is it stupid to reply to comments? Here goes anyways!

Matt- (from way up) Comics DO take a lot of time and energy, but they are SO WORTH IT. No other visual storytelling medium gives the artist SUCH an amazing ammount of control!

Phil/Christina- THANKS!

Scott- Yeah, I am lucky to have Aaron in my corner. If there's anything I learned at SPX it's that I have AMAZING friends.

JIM!!! I'm sure someone was taping it, but it hasn't surfaced yet (thank goodness!) If it DOES I'll let you know. Also--I'm going to the dance show with your music in it tomorrow night in New York. I was hoping against hope that you would be there in the flesh. :( Ah well... Say hi to Alaska for me! Are you growing your beard out??? (Jim has my favorite beard EVER)

Alec Sep29

Congratulations on your award! I enjoyed the first part of Basewood that you sent me very much.

Where can I find out if there's a comics/small press convention/expo near me? I want to go after reading this... :-D

Mindy Sep30

Mindy-WHERE ARE YOU??? Then I can help you out with info about small press shows! ;)

Some good ones though, are SPX (WA D.C.), APE (San Fran), MoCCA (New York), SPACE (Ohio), Stumptown Comics Fest (Portland, OR) and... YEAH. There are bigger ones and smaller ones, but I've had super-positive experiences at all of those. Sorry for the lack of links. Hit google!

Alec Sep30

Alec, you rock. *love* the photo and quote from your speech, I wish I could have been there.

Alec's always been an amazing public speaker- you should see what he can do to an intramural soccer team. I'd love to get a recording of his acceptance if anyone can find it.

Makers of the vote-longstreth mini also rock, and I really look forward to reading it.

love from London,
gcb

ps. sleep-cheaters should ask Alec about the 5-hour theory

gcb Oct02

I'm in Houston now. I just moved. I'll try Google, thanks for the info.

Mindy Oct07

Houston, eh? Hmmm...

There were a few people at SPX that were trying to convince me to go to the Fluke Mini-Comics Festival in Athens Georgia. I know that's still a couple of STATES away...

Sorry I don't know of any closer ones! It might be more worth it to just save up your money and then go to the San Diego Comic-Con. It can be TOTALLY OVERWHELMING (the biggest comic convention in the WORLD, I think?) but A TON of really amazing small-press people DO go every year...

Also, if you can afford it, small press shows can be great excuses to visit cities you wouldn't otherwise visit. Anyways, good luck! And hopefully we'll see you at one of the upcoming shows. :)

Alec Oct09

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