Comics conventions are cropping up all over the place, so it's silly to talk about any given time being "convention season," but here in Baltimore September means Small Press Expo and Baltimore Comic-Con. I spent last weekend in Bethesda at SPX and have tickets to all three days of BCC next weekend, so right now I'm caught in a whirlwind of purchases, thoughts and emotions about comics.
SPX is a great show in a lot of ways, but for me it's an escape from the ugly parts of comics culture. I spend a lot of my time reading about, talking about, and thinking about not just the ugly politics of the comics industry in general (welcome to the site! enjoy?), but also the constant stream of bullshit from comics fans and pros. They're currently organized under the #comicsgate banner, but there's always something. Seeing what they're putting creators and fans through with their hateful nonsense right now is difficult, but it's not that different from the long-term stew of toxic masculinity that has been a constant in the comics community for decades.
SPX is the opposite of all of that. I don't have exact stats, but after spending two days on the convention floor, I'd say that most of the attendees and most of the exhibitors this year did not identify as men. (You know you're at a good convention when they provide pronoun stickers and people use them.) The comics, zines, sketchbooks and prints on sale covered an incredibly wide spectrum of genres and topics, and far more of them centered women's experiences in ways that you'll never get from the superhero comics industry. I bought too many comics and haven't been able to read all of them yet, but here's a smattering of what I've been enjoying:
I met Gale Galligan and got to tell her how angry I was that her comics about JonArbuckle made me cry. I also bought Farang, the story of her trip to a family wedding in Thailand and the difficulty she and her sister had connecting with their Thai heritage and culture while often being seen as foreigners by the locals.
Celine Loup sold me Honey, her story of sisterhood and terror with extremely anthropomorphized bees, and Mother, a beautiful story that reminds me of a creation myth.
I was looking at another table and noticed the name Madeline McGrane beside me and thought, "didn't I see her name mentioned in a superhero comic this week?" And I did! She drew the mini-comics in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #36, giving them a much-needed thumbs-up. I got 4 different vampire comics from her that were funny and delightful and surprisingly horse-based.
I finally got The Witch Boy by the incomparable Ignatz-winner Molly Knox Ostertag. It's an adventure story about magic and friendship with a message about harmful gender roles. For kids!
Sophie Goldstein sold me the most beautiful book I saw at SPX, House of Women, a gothic sci-fi adventure story about jealousy, a love triangle, and murder on an alien world.
The funniest book I got was Kate Leth'sSIMPO + CLEAN which is not affiliated with anyone or anything else. In other good news, I managed to have an interaction with Kate that was entirely neutral instead of seeming to enrage her with my attempts to ask her to sign comics she wrote or drew that I love. Progress!
I got 2 comics and a zine from Catie Donnelly, among my favorite cartoonists, only two of which are available on her gumroad page. The third, Not Good Comics, made me laugh out loud, so find Catie at a show and get your own copy!
Whit Taylor has a new Fizzle out that she printed just for the show, but it's not in her store yet. I don't know where the series is going, but the characters are fun and nobody does slice of life comics like Whit.
Last but not least, the Baltimore Design School had a table, and when I asked the two young women running it which were the zines to get, they pointed at the 4 they had made. I asked them if there were any others that were good and they both pointed to one called TITTIES. I think they may have been fucking with me, but I bought it as well. One of the others by Trinaya Spriggs was a contemplation on nihilism that ends with a call for acceptance and positivity, in case you were wondering why I love the people of Baltimore so much.
If it isn't obvious, I prioritized buying comics from women at SPX. I did buy a handful of things from men and felt properly bad about it.
With all that said, there's a bit of ugliness going on at the moment as a major douchebag is suing folks in the indie comics community for telling the truth about his sexual misconduct. For more info and a chance to help, check out the #DefendThe11 GoFundMe.
On to this week's books! High points:
Once again we're blessed with 2 books from the reigning intercontinental champion of comics, Kelly Thompson: West Coast Avengers #2 and Mr. & Mrs. X #3.
Tini Howard's first work for Marvel hits the stands with Captain America Annual #1, hopefully the first of many.
Lumberjanes. Always Lumberjanes.
And low points:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 12 ends at #4 with the license moving from Dark Horse to Boom. The lack of women on a creative team telling stories about women has been a sore spot for a while, so let's hope Boom does something about that (and their crappy page rates).
I was hoping that Sara Pichelli was going to be a regular on Jason Aaron's run of Avengers after her stunning work in the previous issue, but we're back to the all-male crew that we've come to expect with Aaron's work.
Marvel has had one woman letterer in one book of the comics I've bought this year, and I heard that there was exactly one last year. What is the deal with all of that?
Next weekend in Baltimore Comic-Con, so if you plan to be there let me know!
This Week's Books
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 - Marvel - (0+4)
Avengers #8 - Marvel - (0+4)
Batman #55 - DC Comics - (0+5)
Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5 - Marvel - (0+4)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 12 #4 - Dark Horse - (0+8)
By Night #4 - Boom - (2+2)
Captain America Annual #1 - Marvel - (1+9)
Crude #6 - Image - (0+4)
Curse Words #16 - Image - (0+4)
Death or Glory #5 - Image - (0+3)
Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1 - IDW - (1+4)
Doctor Strange #5 - Marvel - (0+3)
Edge of Spider-Geddon #3 - Marvel - (0+5)
Ether: The Copper Golems #5 - Dark Horse - (0+2)
Flavor #5 - Image - (2+2)
Franklin Richards: A Fantastic Year #1 - Marvel - (1+4)