The following interview appears in Expo 2001 available from the CBLDF www.cbldf.org
EXPO: When did you start attending SPX and where were you with Finder at that pint?
CARLA SPEED McNEIL: That was '95, I think, and I wasn't anywhere with Finder then. The next year, though, I had about half the pages done for my first issue, and I went specifically to meet Dave Sim.
EXPO: What was the status of self-publishing at that point?
McNEIL: Dave Sim was doing his how-to stuff on the inside front covers of Cerebus, so I think it must have been during the Spirits of Independents thing, but I'm not sure. Apart from SPX, I wasn't going to cons or signings at all.
EXPO: What members of the self-published comics community were at that show?
McNEIL: Can't remember the whole list. I did meet Dave Sim and Gerhard, I met Michael Cohen, that's when he was doing Strange Attractors. He was really interested in Finder, asked if I was planning to go to San Diego. We made plans to meet there, and he introduced me to folks at Diamond and Capital City.
EXPO: What role has SPX played for self-published cartoonists and how has that role changed since you’ve been attending the show?
McNEIL: SPX has always been my 'new year'. I live within driving distance, so it's always been my home-town con. Every year I take stock of how I did with Finder, assess my progress, hold my board-meeting-of-one. In '95 I was a walk-in; in '96 I had half a book drawn. In '97 I had three ashcans, full-sized issues. Late in '97 I started reprinting the ashcans as 'real' books, and went from there, so by SPX '98 I had a pile of issues. In '99 I had my first trade paperback collection and was selling the art contained in it. Last year I had the second trade in the works, and about sixteen issues. This year I'll have a third trade in production if not printed, and I'll be perilously close to having a viable career. So I don't know what role it has played for everybody else, but I have made it my bench-mark.
EXPO: How has the self-published comics community changed?
McNEIL: Not a clue. I stay in my room and draw. Most of my immediate circle are computer bull-geeks, not comics people.
EXPO: What kindred creative spirits have you met at the show? Who's doing work you find to be in the same vein as yours?
McNEIL: "Kindred creative spirits" lets out all the cool folks who don't do comics of their own, like the Sequential Tarts, but among the comics folks there's Rich Henn, Vince Sneed, John Peters, Dave Napoliello and all his merry minions; Charles Vess, Rachel Hartman, Wally Crane, Steve Conley, Scott McCloud, Tara Tallan (nee Jenkins), Roberta Gregory, Sean Bieri, Pam Bliss, Matt Feazell, Mark Oakley, Linda Medley, Scott Roberts, and the inimitable Colleen Doran. There are plenty more; and plenty more that I've met but not really sat around a dinner table and drawn on placemats with.
Whose work have I found to be in the same vein as mine, I dunno. My stuff's pretty weird. There isn't much that comes to mind as being the same genre. There are, however, a few books that share the same novelistic approach: Rachel Hartman's Amy Unbounded minis, Donna Barr's Desert Peach and Stinz (and whatever else that woman's been pouring out), Linda Medley's Castle Waiting, Gary Spencer Millidge's Strangehaven.
EXPO: What kind of atmosphere does the show have that makes it distinctive among conventions?
McNEIL: At SPX you'll hear people talking about their own personal business problems, telling their psycho-stories, but you usually don't have to listen to the same tired old this-industry-sucks whine. Listening to people in the business won't make you want to go home and put your head in the oven. SPX and APE are both like that. People are more interested in what's actually going on, what new books they've seen, what they're getting up to, rather than ranting about potential train wrecks. Ah, and there are no Spawnmobiles to distract them. Nothing makes a gripe-node in the conversation like a Spawnmobile.