I just got back from Bethesda, Maryland and the 2013 Small Press Expo. This was my first SPX after having done the Alternative Press Expo for years. Since the APE is my only point of reference I couldn’t help but compare the two shows.
In many ways, the SPX and the APE are very similar. Similar types of work, similar experience of standing behind a table and watching people walk by. And yet there are differences. Size is the obvious one. The APE has gotten huge. One cannot take in the whole show from any vantage point on the floor. The SPX is all in one room. Sure, it’s a big room, but you can see from end to end. I think the intimacy adds to the atmosphere. Beyond that though, I wanted to point out some key differences to the SPX that adds to it having a nicer feeling overall.
- The SPX has its own awards. I didn’t really understand the significance of this until I did the show. Basically, everyone exhibiting at the show gets a ballot and everyone gets to cast it by 5 o’clock the first day. That means that you and everyone else in the room get to choose who you think is doing the best work that year. It keeps the focus on the creators and creates a sense of community.
- The SPX lists new books debuting at the show on its site. Because the SPX supports comics and comics artists, it promotes the new books appearing at the show on its site. This seems like a no-brainer, but the APE doesn’t do this.
- The SPX has its own Tumblr. This seems like such a simple idea, but such a great one. The SPX releases images of books by artists who will be at the show.
- The SPX puts tables with signings next to the doors. What this means is that when a line of people wanting their books signed forms, the line can go out a door instead of in front of the rest of us trying to show off what we do.
- The SPX is run by people. Of course, the APE is as well, but all my emails from the APE are of the form letter variety with no individual person signing the correspondence. With the SPX, I was emailing with an actual person, namely Sam Marx. He actually came up to me on the first day to make sure I was doing okay. I’ve never had anything like that even remotely happen at the APE.
In general, the SPX feels like a convention by and for comics artists. The APE is like a trade show where comics just seem to be the current variable plugged into the “trade” category. The SPX is run by people who contact you and whom you can speak with. The APE is run by the nameless face of Comic-con. The APE is fine and I’ve met great people there, but I found the SPX to have a much more collegial feel.
I’ll write more about what I got and did later. I need some sleep now…