This week, I’m doing something a little different. In advance of this weekend’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland—one of the most important comic book shows of the year for independent creators and home of the prestigious Ignatz Awards—I’m turning my usual Top 5 list into a Top 10 of new books that will be debuting at the show. Unfortunately, I will not be making it to the show myself this year, but if you are, here are the books I’d check out if I were you (or simply order them online or from your local comic book store).

1. Shoplifter

By Michael Cho
Pantheon/Random House

Before I decided to do an SPX-focused list, I had already planned to highlight Michael Cho’s new graphic novel Shoplifter, which hits comic shops and bookstores this week. Yes, I realize Random House is not exactly a small press publisher and Cho is not officially on the guest list, but he will be at the show selling copies of this book with a special SPX bookplate at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth (W84-87).

Cho is a successful magazine and book illustrator whose work has always worn its comics influence very well, calling to mind Darwyn Cooke and Adrian Tomine. While he’s produced some shorter comics in the past, this is his first graphic novel, and it reads like a major work from a veteran writer. It is about a 20-something professional copywriter in New York named Corinna who becomes disillusioned with her job.

Cho succeeds in breathing life into his protagonist, making her a flawed, sympathetic, and interesting character.

As a fan of his illustration work, it’s great to see Cho make such a seamless move to sequential art without sacrificing any of the polish that he is known for. Read more about it here.

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2. (In a Sense) Lost and Found

By Roman Muradov
Nobrow Press

Roman Muradov is another award-winning illustrator who is releasing his first graphic novel this week, which he will have on hand at SPX. (In a Sense) Lost and Found depicts a journey through imagination and ideas by a young woman who wakes up one day having “lost her innocence”—what this implies may be left up to the reader’s own interpretation.

Muradov’s style is fluid and whimsical, bringing to mind the colors and graphic aesthetics of the Jazz Age. In a PR coup, Muradov happened to have illustrated yesterday’s Google Doodle (for Tolstoy’s birthday), bringing his work to the attention of the entire web the week his book is released. This is sure to be one of the best looking books of the year. 

Roman will be at the Nobrow booth (W34-35). You can see a preview here.

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3. Dear Amanda

By Cathy G. Johnson
Self-published

Cathy G. Johnson is one of the Ignatz nominees for Outstanding New Talent for her mini comics like Jeremiah (which I highly recommend—you can read it online or purchase it here). She makes emotionally stunning and surprising comics that are done in beautifully spontaneous and natural watercolors and pencils. She is debuting her latest, Dear Amanda, at SPX. It is about a romance between a writer and her coworker.

Johnson will be located at table W50. You can buy her previous comics here.

Other new talent nominees Luke Howard, Daryl Seitchek and Nick Offerman (not that Nick Offerman, I don't think) will also be in attendance.

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4. Frontier #5

By Sam Alden
Youth in Decline

Meanwhile, last year’s Outstanding New Talent winner has not been resting on his laurels. Sam Alden has been nominated for Outstanding Comic again this year for his excellent Wicked Chicken Queen, published by Retrofit. His newest release is a contribution to Youth in Decline’s monograph anthology series Frontier, which is becoming a bit of a tastemaker for showcasing new comics talent (previous issues have featured up-and-coming names like Hellen Jo and Sascha Hommer).

Alden’s story is about a summer vacation involving a sinkhole. It’s 36 pages and features Alden’s signature loose pencils printed with high quality risograph in two colors (red and purple). Alden will be at table N7B and Youth in Decline will be at table J5. Here’s more info on the book.

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5. An Iranian Metamorphosis

By Mana Neyestani
Uncivilized Books

In 2006, Iranian newspaper cartoonist Mana Neyestani made a cartoon for children in which a cockroach spoke in the language of the Azerbaijani. It sparked riots by ethnic Azerbaijanis and led to Neyestani’s arrest. After time spent in solitary confinement, Neyestani was forced to flee the country with his wife. In An Iranian Metamorphosis he describes his Kafkaesque prison experience in detail.

Neyestani will be at SPX to promote the book at the Uncivilized Books table (M10-M11A). Here’s a preview.

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6. Beauty

By Hubert and Kerascoët
NBM

One of my favorite graphic novels of the year was Beautiful Darkness drawn by the French husband and wife art team known as Kerascoët. Their latest book is a second collaboration with the French writer known as Hubert (their previous book was the racy 1930s Parisian murder mystery Miss Don’t Touch Me). Like Beautiful Darkness, this is another dark fairy tale for adults about a young woman who is granted a wish to be seen as beautiful but what comes with that wish is far more complicated than she expected.

NBM Publishing will be at tables F1 and F2 with fresh copies of the English translation of this book as well as Miss Don’t Touch Me. This book looks stunning. Here’s a review with some great sample images.

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7. Cat Dad, King of the Goblins

By Britt Wilson
Koyama Press

A Cat Named Tim

By John Martz
Koyama Press

While SPX may be filled with mostly adult fare (even comics that may look like they’re for kids more likely are very much not), there are a number of great kid-friendly comics debuting at the show and two of them are coming from Koyama Press and their new kid comic line.

Cat Dad, King of the Goblins is about two sisters (and their friend Phil the frog) who venture into their goblin-filled closet to try to help their dad who has been turned into a cat. This is Britt Wilson’s first full-length book. She has a really fun and exaggerated style and a great sense of comic timing which will make this book a lot of fun for kids of any age.

A Cat Named Tim is John Martz’ latest foray into (mostly) wordless comics (his webcomic Machine Gum is a wonderful example of that). Each page is a mini-story featuring cats, pigs, ducks and other animals painting their house, eating pizza and going on various adventures. Martz’ illustrations are crisp and candy-colored and a joy to look at.

The Koyama folks will be situated at tables J12-J14. You can peruse the books online here.

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8. Rav

By Mickey Zacchilli
Youth In Decline

Rav is a collection of the first 5 issues of Mickey Zacchilli’s popular self-published comic. It’s described as an "action-adventure romance drone comic,” and it is very punk in its aesthetic and freeform storytelling. What starts as something of a fight comic turns into a surreal Wonderland-like journey drawn with crazy, primitive, and kinetic visuals.

Youth in Decline will be selling copies at their table J5. You can also order a copy online.

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9. Dragon’s Breath And Other True Stories

By Mari Naomi
2D Cloud/Uncivilized Books

Mari Naomi is a comic book memoirist who looks back on both her childhood and adulthood with refreshing honesty. Her comics are funny, insightful, and sometimes heartbreaking. Dragon’s Breath collects a bunch of her black and white short stories about subjects like mortality, youthful rebellion, teenage crushes, and Duran Duran.

She’ll be at the 2D Cloud table M9. You can also order the book here.

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10. Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream

By Various
Locust Moon Press

Philadelphia comic shop Locust Moon ran an astoundingly successful Kickstarter for Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, an anthology tribute to Winsor McKay’s groundbreaking early 20th century newspaper strip. It boasts one of the most amazing lineups of artists ever seen in one book–100 in all–including Bill Sienkiewicz, P. Craig Russell, Mike Allred, Farel Dalrymple, Charles Forsman, Dean Haspiel, J.G. Jones, Cliff Chiang, Roger Langridge, Peter Bagge, Ramon Perez, Craig Thompson, Paul Pope, Maris Wicks, J.H. Williams III, Charles Vess, Jim Rugg, Jill Thompson, and so many more.

The book is printed newspaper size to showcase all the amazing artwork and, at over $100, is going to be a luxury purchase next to a lot of the minicomics on display at this show. The actual release date is not until the end of this year, but Locust Moon will be selling copies at their table G2.

Here’s a page with some preview images and the option to pre-order.

There is so much more. Seriously just look at this list of debut books on the SPX website. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention a few more:
• Last year’s big Ignatz winner Michael DeForge is back with another amazing issue of his one-man anthology comic Lose.
• Noah Van Sciver has another painfully honest collection of autobio comics called I Don’t Hate Your Guts.
• Patrick Kyle’s new graphic novel Distance Mover is what would happen if Spanish surrealist painter Joan Miró made a comic about Dr. Who.
• Isaac Cates unveils the latest issues of Cartozia Tales.
• Box Brown and his publishing company Retrofit Comics will have a number of their latest books.
• Simon Hanselmann will have the Megahex collection of his popular stoner witch comic.
• And, although not a comic, Dustin Harbin's Behold! Dinosaurs! accordian-style foldout print looks incredible.

And I haven't even mentioned some of the cartoonists that will be at the show whose new books I've already written about here in recent weeks like Farel Dalrymple, Eleanor Davis, Emily Carroll, and Raina Tegelmeier.