See more photos in Shannon Cottrell's gallery, "San Diego Comic-Con 2011 Preview Night."
"Small Press almost like a mini-con within the Con," said Jenn of justJENN Designs when we interviewed her recently.
San Diego Comic-Con's Small Press section is dedicated to independent artists, comic creators who self-publish their work, people with their own stationary and jewelry lines. It's also a physically small section of the convention, consisting of a few aisles tucked away in the back of the exhibit hall near the food court. If you're spending the con rushing towards the biggest displays in the hall, you'll likely miss Small Press. That would be a shame because it is one of the most interesting aspects of SDCC.
On Preview Night, we met Jean Kang and Rachel Young, two comic creators who were sharing a booth in Small Press. This was their first year exhibiting at the convention. Kang had brought her new comic Ranunculus and merchandise, including necklaces and cell phone charms, related to it. Young was stocked up with four issues of her self-published effort, Witchman.
"I started exhibiting at cons last year and moved my way up to Comic Con and it turned out to be a really good experience," says Kang. "You get to see friends and cool artists. You get to meet new people."
Getting into Small Press isn't easy.
"There's a lot of competition to get a spot," says Kang.
"At the end of this show, we'll fill out an application," says Sherri Smith, who has been exhibiting for six years as part of Tired Girl Collective. " It's a juried show, you have to send samples of your products."
The waiting period is long. Smith says that, even though they apply at the end of San Diego Comic-Con in July, they won't find out if they have a booth until November.
The select group of people who have made it into Small Press have formed a community removed from a lot of the glitz of the exhibit hall.
"We are our own happy little ghetto of people here," says Smith. "We strike up these once a year friendships and renew that every year."
Many people return to Small Press year after year. Paul Horn, creator of the comic Cool Jerk, has been part of this community since 2003. He said, "it's the people" that keep him coming back.
"I know a lot of the people that come by the table by name," he says. "I know what they have bought in the past. I know if they are going to be going for new shirt or if they're excited about a new book or if they just want to shoot the breeze or whatever."
First-time exhibitors aren't left out of the community.
"I'm friends with the person next to me, I'm friends with someone down there," says Kang, pointing down her aisle. "I'm friends with the person across from me."
The exhibitors in Small Press all have one common link, high quality work, from Tired Girl Collective's "super-empowerment jewelry" featuring superhero-styled art, to justJENN's ninja stationary to comics like Cool Jerk, Ranunculus and Witchman. Make sure you check out Small Press before the end of the convention.
For more from SDCC, follow @lizohanesian @ShannonCottrell.
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