Went to the PIX 2014 this weekend. PIX is Pittsburgh’s indy press expo of creator-owned, self-published, small-press, and handmade comics. Not the biggest expo I’ve seen, but I had a blast.

Chris Pitzer manning AdHouse books table at PIX.

Chris Pitzer manning AdHouse books table at PIX.

One of the first people I met at PIX was graphic designer and publisher Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books. Chris told me he launched his critically acclaimed press with a single title in 2002 at a similar type event called SPX in the Washington, D.C. area. This was his first PIX. He was invited by Jim Rugg, creator of Afrodisiac and SUPERMAG, and one of the Pittsburgh artists published by AdHouse.

JIm Rugg's SUPERMAG is published by Adhouse.

Jim Rugg’s SUPERMAG is published by Adhouse.

Asked why he chose the name AdHouse for his business name, Chris had two smart reasons. A.D. stands for Art Director, his full-time job, and since it begins with the letter “A,” AdHouse rises to the top of alphabetically ordered catalogs and rosters.

images-1 The press’s stylish logo looked familiar to me. The illustration is the work of my SVA classmate Doug Fraser. Chris is a longtime Fraser fan. He said each year when he got hardbound illustration annuals, he’d just rip out the Doug Fraser pages as keepers and toss the rest of the book. I was happy to learn Doug has done a graphic novella, Mort Grim, a road rage tale.  Chris pointed to the page below and noted how Fraser’s illustration style owes a debt to the landscapes of Thomas Hart Benton.

From Mort Grim © Doug Fraser, an AdHouse Book.

From Mort Grim © Doug Fraser, an AdHouse Book.

Chris told me that AdHouse did a few anthologies, but now is concentrating of single-artist books of the high artistic caliber, like Gregory Benton’s B+F. One of the cool things about the AdHouse website is that many of the books have free downloadable pdf samplers.

Oddly enough, not long after my visit to Chris’s table I found myself at the Copacetic Comics table. Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics is the best indy comics bookstore I know. Bill Boichel, Copacetic’s proprietor, has been a mentor to a generation of Pittsburgh comics artists and he has a truly prodigious scholarly knowledge of the field. Really. To get a sense of the elevated discussion of comics that (sometimes) occurs in Pittsburgh check this podcast at Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, where Boichel talks with artists Jason Lex and Jim Rugg.

Pope Hats #3 © Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats #3 © Ethan Rilly

I digress. At the Copacetic table, I was drawn to a book I’d never seen before called Pope Hats. Bill looks over and says to me, “You’ll love that.” Though I have only bought a handful of comics at Copacetic, he was absolutely right. Bill Boichel is like a comics preference app, the comics equivalent of Pandora radio. Pope Hats by Canadian artist Ethan Rilly is one amazing book. The drawing is fluid, the story is compelling, the characters are intriguing. And guess what? It is an AdHouse book, too.

Next week, I will post about other folks I encountered at PIX including (in alphabetical order) Theo Ellsworth and Trina Robbins.

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