photo by Ted Haycraft
It's April, the pear trees are in bloom and it's time for Bob Corby's annual Small Press Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE). Joined by stalwart SPACE enthusiast Ted Haycraft, I journeyed to Columbus in search of undiscovered graphic treasures. While lacking the marquee guest of the past Dave Sim years, SPACE draws me in with the promise of finding new work that doesn't typically reach the comic shops. Here were the highlights for me:
All of the exhibitors hope you stop and check out their comics. Some have a rehearsed pitch, which usually consists of "[familiar movie] meets [familiar movie]." One guy had "Lord of the Rings" meets "Battlestar Galactica." Not so Zarmina Sulaiman, editor for "Villains Galore" from King Ink Comics. Her outgoing personality and straightforward pitch - 'a superhero comic from the point of view of the villains' - convinced me to part with $3. It's a nice effort, but I was hoping for a self-contained story and not the beginning of a planned epic that introduces me to 10 characters in 32 pages. Unless she's there next year with issue 2, I'm likely never to see it.
Sam Spina (above) does a daily web comic at Spinadoodles. It's autobiographical, putting a little spin on the mundaneness of everyday life. Kind of like Harvey Pekar, if he had been friendly and super easygoing. He's currently in his 5th year of doing the comic, which you can read on his site. I bought a collection of the 2nd year, which he is signing for me in the picture.
Lee Smith is filling quite a niche, a line of comics about the history of Ohio. The goal of Smith's Ohio Chronicles is to use comics as a teaching tool. The comic above focused on comic strip pioneer R. F. Outcault, creator of the Yellow Kid and Buster Brown. Outcault was from Lancaster, Ohio. His story is followed by one page tributes to other Ohio cartoonists, notably Hillsboro's Milton Caniff.
I walked by this gentleman's table a couple of times before stopping. Every time I walked by, he'd call out, "You got a dollar?" His table was covered with his crudely drawn, four page comics. On the third time, I thought, "Why not?" His name is Parisel, and he writes about super heroes in Detroit. Probably the main thing you need to know about Parisel is that he is not from the Detroit Tourism Board. He has nothing good to say about Detroit. "The fire hydrants don't work. If you want the police, you have to make an appointment. Our EMS people aren't even trained in CPR," he told me. His comics were four for a dollar. There were so many to choose from, I left it to him to pick them out for me. In the comic above, the Joker has just robbed an armored car. This panel is typical of Parisel's brand of art, humor and take on Detroit. If you think I'm kidding, Sam Spina did this comic about him. If you'd like to see more of Parisel, some of his comics are set to music on his YouTube channel.
Here I am at the end of the show with pal Ted Haycraft. I'm wearing a Milton Caniff Burma shirt, which got a lot of compliments. Ted was wearing a Trotsky shirt, which got a lot of puzzlement.
While it's more of an artists show, there was one dealer there specializing in underground comix. However, their disorganization and lack of pricing along with the yellowed, gritty plastic bags they shlep their comics in was a big turn off. I don't know if this represents a plan to open up the show to more dealers in the future, or if that runs contrary to the spirit of SPACE. To sum up, an eclectic mix of comics and creators which will keep us interested to come back in 2014.