Tuesday, April 06, 2021

PR: The State of Small Press Expo

For Immediate Release

Contact: Warren Bernard

Bethesda, Maryland – April 6, 2021

Dear SPXers,

Earlier this year, we reached out to SPX's creative community and attendees to provide a status update on the fate of SPX 2021. In a nutshell, should we elect to proactively cancel our show (versus the event being cancelled by an external body, like the local health department), SPX would incur a devastating cancellation fee that would, essentially, wipe us out permanently. 

We want nothing more than to see all your beautiful faces, your amazing artwork, and everything else that comes with creating our annual festival together, with you. We also want to make sure the return of SPX is both safe and economically viable: for your travel, for your stay, and for the exhibition itself.

We promised an update on our status around the end of March. So, along with some specifics about where we stand with regard to SPX 2021, we're including in this note a deeper look into where SPX is as an organization and what you can expect in the coming year. Needless to say, the pandemic has touched and changed us all. 

As there are some long-term impacts to the show, we want to let everyone know what those are and what they mean for the community.


At this point, not much has changed with our situation regarding SPX 2021. We are actively engaged with various entities within the Montgomery County government about whether or not a show of the size and scale of SPX could (or should) be held in September. 

We are also negotiating directly with the Marriott regarding the potential cancellation fee as well as the terms of future contract years. We will give everyone a status update by the end of this month at the latest, while we push for a final resolution, one way or the other. 

In the absence of an in-person festival, we anticipate continuing, and perhaps expanding, aspects of the virtual events held by SPX in 2020, including programming and, of course, the annual Ignatz Awards presentation.


Given the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, we have made the decision to once again have the Ignatz Awards submissions submitted digitally (we do ask that you retain one copy of all works for potential submission to the Library of Congress). 

We will be sending out the submission process details within a few days. The publication window of eligibility for the 2021 Ignatz Awards is June 1, 2020 through May 30, 2021, with a submission deadline of June 1, 2021.

SPX is a volunteer, non-profit organization. Everything we do goes toward a range of initiatives devoted to promoting the visibility and success of creators in the independent comics community. About 95% of festival revenues and sponsorships goes towards operating the show, with the remaining going towards these programs:

  • The Graphic Novel Gift Program - Since its inception in 2011, our Graphic Novel Gift Program has provided over 2,500 copies of works by members of the SPX community to libraries serving under-privileged patrons. Besides supplementing their constrained budgets, these gifts expose both library collection managers and patrons to titles that better reflect the diverse make-up of their communities.

  • The Library of Congress National Book Festival - As the sponsor of graphic novel programming at the Library of Congress National Book Festival, SPX provides financial support to indie comics creators to support their appearance as special guests of the festival, the largest such show in the United States. This allows a few SPX creators to share "The Big Stage" every year with the most esteemed authors in the country, and have their works promoted to the over 200,000 people who attend the NBF every year.

  • The SPX Collection at the Library of Congress - The Small Press Expo Collection at the Library of Congress was established in 2011 with the express purpose of preserving the works of SPX creators for future generations. In the 9 years of its existence, over 10,000 mini-comics, graphic novels, posters, prints, original art, and ephemera have been preserved as part of the cultural, artistic, and social history of the United States at the preeminent Library of Congress.

With the impact of the pandemic on future SPX events and its revenues still uncertain, neither the Graphic Novel Gift Program nor the NBF sponsorships (nor any other non-festival related initiatives) will be funded until 2024 at the earliest. 

We will need at least 2 years of attendance to ascertain whether we have the cash flow to either re-start these programs, or create new programs to support the SPX creator community. When we are in a position to do so, you'll be the first to know. 

The same goes for the small stipend SPX provides for our Executive Director. This stipend was suspended in June 2020, and will not be reinstated until 2024 at the earliest, if approved by a vote of the Executive Committee.

The pandemic has also impeded our ability to capture the history and legacy of SPX creators for preservation and study in the decades to come as a part of our Library of Congress collection. It has been a truly momentous period in so many ways and your work has often been an essential commentary to these events. We are committed to working with you, as well as with the Library of Congress, to ensure the preservation of material from this "lost" time. 


When SPX was created in 1994, one of its primary non-profit purposes was to be a fundraiser for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. When our corporate charter was rewritten in 2011, this explicit language was removed in support of a broader mandate that has allowed us more flexibility to expand into other initiatives, with our Graphic Novel Gift Program and Library of Congress Collection being notable new programs that resulted.

SPX no longer has any relationship with the CBLDF, our last collaborative effort with that organization being the initial fundraising for the "Defend the 11" campaign, in 2018, which saw SPX divert 100% of its funds budgeted for the CBLDF to defray the legal defense costs of members of our creative community who faced a defamation lawsuit. Proceeds from all sales at the CBLDF's table at that year's show also went to the Defend the 11 fund.

SPX has not contributed any funds to the CBLDF since 2017 and going forward has no intention of supporting them in any way.


SPX is a labor of love for our team. We are volunteers, with about 20 of us contributing our time year-round as a part of the Executive Committee. As SPX has grown, so has the crew that supports it, resulting in an ever-more diverse, multi-generational range of perspectives about who we are today as an organization and how we should accomplish the mission set out in our charter. One thing that has not changed is that we are here to support you.

Along with the work we put into our year-round initiatives, when you are here with us at SPX, whether it be by providing coffee in the morning, hosting a reception in the evening, or being your advocate with the hotel when it comes to shipping, parking, etc., we strive to care for our creative community, the attendees, and the 100+ volunteers that support SPX, so that you can focus on what you've joined us to do, be it reconnecting with friends, moving merch, or singing your heart out at karaoke. 

SPX aims to be a place where you can be your best self, to find acceptance and joy amongst the family you choose, while also finding the creative challenge and insight that forces you to grow as an artist, and the professional opportunities that help you build a successful career. We are always eager for your feedback on how well we hit this mark, year-after-year.

Thanks SO Much,
The SPX Executive Committee
Small Press Expo (SPX) is the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comics, graphic novels, and alternative political cartoons. SPX is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings together more than 650 artists and publishers to meet their readers, booksellers, and distributors each year. Graphic novels, mini comics, and alternative comics will all be on display and for sale by their authors and illustrators. The expo includes a series of panel discussions and interviews with this year's guests.

The Ignatz Award is a festival prize held every year at SPX recognizing outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning, with the winners chosen by attendees at the show. The SPX Collection at the United States Library of Congress is dedicated to preserving the works of the SPX community for future generations.
Small Press Expo
P.O. Box 5704
Bethesda, Maryland

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