SPX 2009 with your hero, Noah Van Sciver.
October 13, 2009
Okay Okay…. Here is my post about my trip that I wrote when I got back, but have been too busy catchin’ up with things to post. So, for anyone who still cares here is my trip and some more good stuff!
Today I got back from my road trip with John Porcellino.
It was the first time (aside from a convention in Florida with Ethan) that I’ve gone out of my comfort zone (Denver) to meet people and sell Blammo.
The drive was immensely painful for us! John was nearly a day late in picking me up, so we lost a day’s worth of driving and had to rush. Meaning no sleep allowed! But, after driving through “Nowhere USA” for 8 or 9 hours your body will black out to cease to blankness of it all. And even though John and I wore tough attitudes about “just getting it done,man” and driving until we reached Ohio, we noticed our dreams kept creeping into our real lives. With no other options (besides death by falling asleep behind the wheel of a car) we pulled in behind a gas station and tried to get “like 2 hours of sleep.”
Something I should mention is that the little car that John rented to make this trip was in fact “little” and John is a cartoonist with 20 years of King-Cat publications and products behind him. And these products (as well as mine) were literally behind us! The car was so crammed full of comics that we couldn’t have reclined our seats with God’s help! Actually, if anything our seats were on an incline, folding each of us nearly in half as we rambled across the country like two mad paper salesmen, with machine guns pressed up against their heads.
This car became our very own pillory on wheels. Sleeping in the seat that night while the rain sprinkled on our tortured flesh I looked at the sky and saw a star. I wondered if maybe, perhaps my mother was looking at that same star. And was glad she didn’t have to witness her dear son possibly developing scoliosis in the seat of Chevy Malibu in a Kansas gas station parking lot.
After our frugal nap time, we drove again into the darkness and uncertainty. We had to pull over into rest areas for 5 minute intervals of sleep. I would literally set my alarm 5 for minutes, and John would rest his head in his arms on the steering wheel, while I put my head down on a bag of King-Cat t-shirts that protruded in between the two seats, and for 5 minutes we were allowed to rest our road weary minds. Minds that had painted road lines burned into them,and had gone red and soft, like so much meat loaf.
Eventually we made it to Cincinnati for our first signing at a record store called Shake it!
We didn’t know what to expect, and at first it seemed like it wouldn’t go so hot. But eventually the night turned itself around in a favorable way. Cincinnati is a beautiful city! We could barely believe it when we got there! All original architecture has remained intact and besides a little wear, was a lot like stepping back in time and being able to walk down any American street circa 1920. That night we rested our heads in an unbelievable old building that was being rented out by one of Shake it! store owners. A tall brick now defunct Masonic lodge with many floors. We slept in an old ballroom on couches that lined the walls.
The next morning in Cincinnati, we stopped into a little “diner” so I could get a bowl of chili. The waitress had two black eyes, and didn’t like our western ways. John and I ordered water and I only wanted a small bowl of chili. “That’s it?!” she replied. “Yeah, sorry that’s it.” we said. She grumbled and walked away. After I ate my delicious chili, I payed with a tip. The man behind the counter said, “this is too much money!” We told him it was her tip and got out of there and out of that town.
Our next stop was a record store in Akron, Ohio. Akron seemed like my kind of place. It had a low-key kind of cool! Beautiful once again. The signing was at a store called Square records and man, they had a great selection of music. We bought some CDs and commenced with the reading and signing, before once again jumping into that heavy machine of burden and roaring away. Stopping on a foggy night to once again sleep in a dangerous place fully exposed to any kind of danger that found us.
We traveled my friends. We traveled and traveled, all across this land. Through nothingness and nothing towns. Through big skies and small roads, we drove our lives away. Through the big, big woods and green grass and the muddy, muggy distances. We drove, drove drove.
We made it to Maryland where we stopped for a while to take a gander at a Civil War battlefield. It was now the home of a wide range of insects of all kinds. All fighting each other for a chance to enter any bed sores that may have appeared on my body as a result of the aforementioned long stretches of seat sitting. Luckily John and I made it through the searing battlefield without (as far as I currently know) taking any of those insects with us, snug under our flesh.
It was onward then to Baltimore where we stayed with a friend of John’s and were finally were able to lay our crucified bodies in real beds. Stretching out our legs and taking off our socks!
During that night, as I lay awake on an air mattress in Baltimore, I could hear the crickets outside of my window. I was far away from home. A twenty five year old. A man. I thought about my hopes and dreams as a young man that night. About all the other nights in my life I had lay awake, thinking and wishing I could be somebody. To make something of myself. And the deep fear I’ve felt that I would never make it. Never accomplish anything. And now, here I was, in Baltimore, one of many cities that I had never been in, on a tour. As an artist. And, I thought, Maybe those Crickets were talking about me out there!
I’d sell them each a copy of Blammo.
While in Baltimore, I attended a party at Atomic books. When we pulled up I felt a sudden shock of fear hit me! I was standing right in front of a bookstore that about four years ago I found out about, and wished I could be a part of somehow. It’s a GREAT shop! I walked in a little shaky and introduced myself to the owners who I’ve only talked to through e-mail. Benn Ray, a part owner and I have collaborated on a few comic strips in the past and I was pretty excited to meet him! I knew we’d hit it off just fine, and I think we did! Below is the photographic proof:
John Porcellino had to do a reading of his newly released book at this party, and it was no big deal. He had been doing this same reading at every stop, prefaced with a small reading from one of my mini comics. This reading from my mini comic always killed at every shop. Everyone laughed and it loosened up John for his of his reading. Sort of an ice breaker. So, when I told him to do it here as well, he didn’t think twice about it. Well…. This time it didn’t work out so good. The crowd in Baltimore was so quite I could hear those crickets talking again. Only now they were laughing at us. It was pretty rough, and I hid behind somebody the whole time, with my head down, beet red!
After all of that I talked to some people and found that most already were aware of me and my work. This was delightful.
John and I returned to the home we were staying in, and went to bed, awaking in the morning to pack up our belongings and head out to SPX. We started driving, thinking that we could make it to the hotel with time to spare. Setting up our table and maybe having a chance to walk around for a while and talk to some of the other artists. This was not to be. We got lost on our way there and it took a little while and a few tears and rage to figure out where the hell this place was!
Anyway, we found it and set up our table a little late. I remember being freaked out at first, and I thought “oh man, what if I don’t sell anything at all??” Luckily after a half an hour I felt more comfortable and sold a lot. I worked hard!
The first night, was the Ignatz awards and I sat there and wondered why I wasn’t nominated for one. Why not, man? Maybe next year, or something… Maybe Blammo isn’t the kind of comic that wins Ignatz awards.
After the awards came a great time of free drinks with Jeffrey Brown, Zak Sally, Julia Wertz, Tom Neely and a bunch of other dudes. Everybody was out in the hotel halls laughing and having a good time. Nearly the entire industry was there and you could literally go from group of people to group of people and talk and it was just great!
I’m trying to remember what happened next, because I was really drunk by this point, but I think I stumbled up to my room (which was shared by Julia Wertz, Sam Gaskin, Grant Reynolds, John Porcellino and Nate Doyle.). I heard the next morning that it got a little loud in there, but I slept through it.
The next day was another good one, in which I met Dustin Harbin. I knew him from the internet and was glad to meet him. We hit it off pretty fast like everybody else I met. I also took part in a panel on the future of comics. I can’t find the audio anywhere online though… Maybe somebody will post it…
That second night is when everybody hung out in our room and did Mad Libs together. It was bittersweet. I knew it was the end of my trip, and I didn’t know what to look forward to next. I still am looking for something…
Me with Gary Groth of Fantagraphics.
I met a lot of people during this weekend whom I respect very highly. Whom I was a big fan and had to hide it, so as not to embarrass myself. I had a great time. SPX made me feel like I had a tribe. I met cartoonists who I’ve never even talked to before in my life, and we were like old friends from the start. Comfortable and ready to go get Mcdonald’s together….That’s great to have that, and I’m lucky. I’m so lucky.
Me and my pen pal, Jeffrey Brown:
Below: Me, John Porcellino, Joe Kuth, and Carol Tyler in Ohio.
Here is a podcast interview with me recorded during SPX (you may have you skip past a good portion of it to hear me):
And here is a comic I did about my trip:
And also here is a mixtape I did fro INKSTUDS!: