NEXT MONTH, the popular and ever-burgeoning Small Press Expo will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an eye-catching blend of cartooning legends and rising talent. This year’s theme centers on a celebration of alt-weekly cartoonists, so the festival has managed to lure such stars as Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Ben Katchor and Tom Tomorrow, as well as that godfather of the form, Jules Feiffer. Side by side, and room by room, with those greats will be gifted young cartoonists like Michael DeForge, Eleanor Davis and Sam Alden.
Where else can you so readily see New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff, graphic novelist Mimi Pond, King Cat’s John Porcellino and once-imprisoned Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyesteni in one weekend?
This year’s festival — which includes the ceremony to present this year’s esteemed Ignatz Awards — will be Sept. 13-14 at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center in North Bethesda, Md. (aka suburban Washington, D.C.). Here is the just-announced slate of programming:
SATURDAY’S PROGRAMMING (SEPT. 13)
Alt-Weekly Comics Roundtable (noon-1 p.m.)
Until recently, the media landscape has been augmented by alternative weekly newspapers. Beginning with the Village Voice in the 1950s and including a wave of papers in the 1980s and 1990s, alt-weekly newspapers used a mass-media format to provide readers with an independent voice—and independent comics. In a historic panel conversation, cartoonist and Seattle Stranger co-founder James Sturm will discuss the phenomenon of comics in alternative weekly newspapers with a panel of the form’s most important practitioners: Jules Feiffer, Lynda Barry, Ben Katchor, Charles Burns and Tom Tomorrow.
Sex, Humor and the Grotesque (12:30-1:30 p.m.)
Eleanor Davis (How to Be Happy), Julia Gfrörer (Black Is the Color) and Meghan Turbitt (#foodporn) have all produced comics that touch upon events, experiences, sensations and feelings that contemporary social discourse often fails to engage in meaningful or productive terms. This group of artists will discuss the intersections of humor, anxiety, sexuality and parody in their work in a panel discussion moderated by Katie Skelly (Operation Margarine).
Raina Telgemeier Q+A (1-2 p.m.)
Raina Telgemeier has distinguished herself among the leading American artists producing graphic novels for younger readers. Her autobiographical graphic novel Smile has spent more than two years on the New York Times Graphic Books bestseller list, and her follow-up, Drama, won the Stonewall Book Award, among other distinctions. She has just published a sequel to Smile titled Sisters. Telgemeier will discuss her work and her process with moderator Isaac Cates (Cartozia Tales, University of Vermont) in this special spotlight session.
The Roots of Frémok: Yvan Alagbé and Dominique Goblet (1:30-2:30 p.m.)
Yvan Alagbé and Dominique Goblet are foundational figures in the poetic comics movement represented by the the avant-garde publishing house Frémok. Alagbé’s work expresses in harsh lines and soft tones his narratives of mysterious desire and explosive cultural conflict, as in his most recent book, École de la misère. Goblet’s work troubles the distinctions between fiction and autobiography, and between narrative comics and poetic image-making. Her new graphic novel Plus si entente was produced collaboratively with Kai Pfeiffer to test the possibilities of narrative within the comics form. Moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos.
Pro Tips: How Comics Get Reviewed (2-3 p.m.)
How do comics get reviewed? What role do publicists, pitching and marketing plans play in determining coverage? What kind of coverage do editors prefer? To what extent is it possible to get a reviewer’s attention, and how is that best accomplished? And how do individual critics evaluate work? Johanna Draper Carlson (Comics Worth Reading) will investigate these questions and more with Brigid Alverson (School Library Journal), Michael Cavna (The Washington Post), Dan Kois (Slate), Heidi MacDonald (Publishers Weekly/The Beat) and Douglas Wolk (“Reading Comics” and The New York Times).
The Closed Caption Comics Legacy (2:30-3:30 p.m.)
In 2004, a group of students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) formed the loosely defined art group Closed Caption Comics, their collective activity centered on an eponymous comics anthology that ran for nine increasingly ambitious issues. Ten years later, the members of the group are productively focused on individual projects. Several of them will discuss their common roots and current work, including Ryan Cecil Smith (S.F. #3), Molly Colleen O’Connell (Strip Mall, Poety Unlimited), Noel Freibert (Weird Magazine) and Conor Stechschulte (The Amateurs). Moderated by Brian Nicholson.
Micro-Press and Beyond (3-4 p.m.)
For the past year, Robyn Chapman has been documenting the movement in comics toward very small publishing, otherwise know as micro-publishing. Robyn will briefly share findings from her upcoming publication (The Tiny Report: Micro-Press Yearbook 2013) before speaking with a range of publishers—from the micro-press to traditional small press—to discuss how they print, sell, and distribute their comics. Panelists will include Chuck Forsman (Oily Comics), Keenan Marshall Keller (Drippy Bone Books), Justin Skarhus and Raighne Hogan (2D Cloud) and Anne Koyama (Koyama Press).
Comics Workshop presented by the Sequential Artists Workshop (3:30-4:30 p.m.)
Comics educators Josh Bayer and Sally Cantirino from the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) in Gainesville, Fla., will guide the audience through a complete cartooning exercise. Everyone — from experienced cartoonists to those who have never drawn a panel of comics — is welcome to attend this fun, educational, creative workshop. No matter what your age or experience level, you will leave this workshop having drawn your own comic!
Lynda Barry Q+A (4-5 p.m.)
Lynda Barry changed the face of North American comics with her pioneering comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, which ran in alternative weekly newspapers for more than 20 years. Her many celebrated books include One Hundred Demons! and What It Is, as well as the illustrated novel Cruddy. Barry is currently an assistant professor of art and Discovery Fellow at University of Wisconsin Madison. Her latest book is “Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor.” Barry will discuss her current work and her career in conversation with Slate Culture Editor Dan Kois.
Jules Feiffer Q+A (4:30-5:30 p.m.)
Jules Feiffer has reinvented the comics form multiple times in his diverse and storied career. In 1956 Feiffer broke new ground with a truly modern comic strip intended for an adult audience in the pages of The Village Voice. In addition to his incisive comics, Feiffer has distinguished himself as a playwright, screenwriter, children’s book author, and more. His most recent books are the graphic novel Kill My Mother and the picture book Rupert Can Dance. He will discuss these and more in conversation with Bill Kartalopoulos (Series Editor, The Best American Comics).
Drew Friedman’s Heroes and Vaudevillians (5-6 p.m.)
Drew Friedman is an iconic cartoonist and illustrator whose intensely rendered, caricatural work has appeared in RAW, Spy, The New Yorker, the New York Observer, and countless other venues. His Old Jewish Comedians trilogy of books celebrated entertainers who have attracted Friedman’s fascination in a series of lush portraits. His new book, Heroes of the Comics, features 84 portraits of landmark figures from the history of comic books. Friedman will discuss his work in this special spotlight session moderated by Rob Clough (The Comics Journal).
John Porcellino: Root Hog or Die / Film Screening and Conversation (5:30-6:30 p.m.)
For 25 years, John Porcellino has been writing, drawing and self-publishing his minicomics series King-Cat. The DIY ethic underlying Porcellino’s life’s work resonates with the sublime authenticity of his comics as he chronicles the events and rhythms of his life. Porcellino is now the subject of the documentary film Root Hog or Die, debuting at this year’s SPX with Porcellino and director Dan Stafford in attendance. After this debut screening, Porcellino and Stafford will discuss the film and Porcellino’s new book, The Hospital Suite, with moderator Jared Gardner (Ohio State University)
Inkstuds Live: Michael DeForge, Simon Hanselmann and Patrick Kyle (6-7 p.m.)
At this year’s SPX, two cross-country tours explosively collide! Inkstuds host Robin McConnell has taken his popular comics-focused radio show on the road with special guest co-host Brandon Graham in tow, in a series of live Inkstuds programs. In Bethesda, Michael DeForge (Lose #6), Simon Hanselmann (Megahex) and Patrick Kyle (Distance Mover) will kick off their own book tour live on stage as McConnell and Graham’s special guests.
SUNDAY’S PROGRAMMING (SEPT. 14):
Stories of Girlhood (12:30-1:30 p.m.)
What is the difference between writing about girlhood and writing for young girls? What can we generalize about the experience of girlhood in Western culture? And how do we express that in words and images? Moderator Ellen Lindner (The Black Feather Falls) will consider these questions and more with artists Jillian Tamaki (Skim, This One Summer), Aisha Franz (Earthling) and Melissa Mendes (Freddy Stories, Lou).
Bob Mankoff: The Past, Present and Future of The New Yorker Cartoons (1-2 p.m.)
Bob Mankoff is a cartoonist and has been the Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker since 1997. He has written and edited many books including The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, The Naked Cartoonist and his new memoir, How About Never — Is Never Good for You? In this special presentation, Mankoff will discuss the historical development and evolution of the iconic single panel cartoon form and the magazine that perfected and popularized it — with an eye toward the future.
Spanish-Language Comics (1:30-2:30 p.m.)
This essential panel will examine a world of Spanish-language comics from South America to Europe, which share a common language, and, sadly, low awareness in North America. Colombian comics editor Daniel Jiménez Quiroz (Revista Larva) will discuss Colombian and South American comics, and will lead a discussion including Spanish comics critic Santiago Garcia, Colombian comics critic Pablo Guerra and North American editor Scott Brown, who is working to bring Argentine comics by Hector Oesterheld and others into English-language translation.
Charles Burns Q+A (2-3 p.m.)
Charles Burns is among the world’s most distinguished cartoonists. His work first gained notice in the pages of RAW Magazine in the 1980s. His meticulously drawn early stories reflected upon and transformed the tropes of historical genre comics. Burns then spent 10 years drawing his graphic-novel masterpiece Black Hole, which dissolved literal horror into the true horror of everyday life. At SPX, he will debut Sugar Skull, which concludes the serialized narrative in his new trilogy of full-color comics albums. Burns will discuss his work in a spotlight session moderated by Alvin Buenaventura.
Eleanor Davis: How to Be Happy (2:30-3:30 p.m.)
Eleanor Davis (How to be Happy) will share an autobiographical presentation that will have something to do with finding truth in fiction and the strange passions inside an author/reader relationship. Moderator Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter) will follow Davis’s presentations with questions about her work, and will also take questions from the audience.
Making Art for the Internet (3-4 p.m.)
This panel will consider different aspects of the process, problems and possibilities of making art for Internet-based platforms. This will include questions of art-media, digital medium specificity, online platforms, audience, culture, and content. Bill Kartalopoulos will lead a discussion featuring Sam Alden (It Never Happened Again), Emily Carroll (Through the Woods), Blaise Larmee (altcomics.tumblr.com) and Rebecca Mock (rebeccamock.tumblr.com).
Mana Neyestani Q+A (3:30-4:30 p.m.)
Mana Neyesteni is an Iranian cartoonist and illustrator. A 2006 political cartoon by Neyesteni prompted riots among the oppressed Azeri minority in Iran; the paper in which the cartoon appeared was promptly closed and Neyestani was imprisoned. He was the 2010 recipient of the Cartoonists Rights Network International award for courage in editorial cartooning. His graphic novel An Iranian Metamorphosis will debut in an English-language edition from Uncivilized Books at SPX. He will discuss his work in a spotlight session moderated by Alex Dueben (Comic Book Resources).
Mimi Pond Q+A (4-5 p.m.)
Mimi Pond has a long and diverse career in cartooning that includes work for such venues as National Lampoon, The Village Voice, and Seventeen. Pond’s work in television includes the screenplay for the first full-length Simpsons episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” Her recent graphic novel, Over Easy, is an autobiographically-based narrative based on her time working as a waitress in a California diner in the late 1970s. Pond will discuss her work and career with moderator Heidi MacDonald (The Beat).
Renée French and Jesse Jacobs in Conversation (4:30-5:30 p.m.)
Renée French first made her mark with the intensely drawn, troubling comic-book series Grit Bath in the 1990s and has produced a diverse array of works including The Ticking, H Day and her new book, Baby Bjornstrand. Jesse Jacobs has worked on the animated series “Adventure Time” and his books of comics include By This You Shall Know Him and his new book, Safari Honeymoon. These artists share a commitment to intense visual explorations of unsettled and unsettling narratives and will discuss their work in a special conversation moderated by Marc Sobel.