Too many damn comix.
Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24 were spent pretty much in the confines of the Holiday Inn Select of Bethesda, Maryland for SPX, short for Small Press Expo, one of the largest alternative comix events in the country. I first visited SPX in Sept 1997 with my friend Mike, and we drove down from New Haven with a bunch of our own comix (I had the first issue of TEN FOOT RULE, just two months old, plus TFR 1 1/2, the ultra-rare convention special--scour eBay for it!) and a fistful of money. That first event was inspiring, making me more excited about this stuff and causing me to "get serious about comics". SPX, along with the cross-country trip to visit APE (Alternative Press Expo) in San Jose, California in February of 1998, were the events that jump-started my life from the doldrums of the mid-90s. They've drove my life in the direction it's been headed over the last eight years. I doubt I would be where I'm at now, living on the West Coast, taking crazy road trips, being involved as I am in "alternative culture" (for want of a better term), without SPX.
Unfortunately SPX today doesn't do the same thing it did for my 22-year old self. Maybe it's my jadeness, or maybe it's rejection, or maybe it's my failure to make the great American comic book, I don't know. While there's plenty of cool and inspiring comix to be found, I end up getting more discouraged than encouraged. There is so much great stuff out there nowadays I can't keep up, even if I spent both days looking at every table. And looking at all this stuff feeds my inferiority complex. I think to myself, "There's no way I can compete. I can never reach that level of quality. My stuff sucks."
It was a funny space to be in. After the two week bike tour I was on a high, feeling fearless, like I could do anything. I survived a 300 plus trip through unknown territory on my own power, with no one else. At SPX, however, I was on a low. I feel like a do-nothing at SPX, a faker. The last comic I put out was almost a year and a half ago. One of my long-time supporters reviewed it and commented that "it didn't seem like I was trying as hard anymore". Ouch. At SPX I was surrounded by people who slept, breathed, and ate comix. People who would work 10 hours a day on their craft. I'm lucky if I do 10 hours of comix over three months these days. What happened to me? Is it that I'm so busy with all these other projects that comics take the backseat? Is it because I have more fun drawing illustrations these days than comix? Is it because I feel that the next thing I do has to be "important" and I've got stage fright? It's probably a combo of all three.
Nevertheless, there's always a bright side to these things. I get to hang out with people I don't see otherwise. I sell a couple more comix and pick up a few more good ones. I get drunk with all the other alcoholic cartoonists (does it make me an alcoholic to admit drinking during the day at SPX helps make the day go smoother?) and the escapades might get mentioned in the Comics Journal, or at least in the Ignatz Awards ceremony (thanks, Keith!)
Saturday night found me in the hotel room party with too many people, too much beer (kept cold in the bathtub with ice), and a too loud stereo. At 1am the party gets shut down by hotel security. No sweat for me, I have to catch a train.