I'M JUST A DUDE
The Alternative Press Expo was held last Saturday and Sunday in San
Francisco. This year's show was to be a pretty big one for us… as you'll
recall, I write and publish comics under the AiT/Planet Lar banner… and at
this year's APE not only were we going to have thirty trade paperbacks
to offer up to the discerning crowd that attends APE… not only were we
hosting Rob G. and Rick Spears of Teenagers From Mars fame (Rob
did the art on The Couriers out February 19th)… not only is it
held pretty much down the street from the AiT/Planet Lar World
Headquarters, so I can sleep in my own bed at night and only lug stuff
across town instead of across the country…
… but APE is professionally run by Fae Desmond and David Glanzer and the
fine crew who stage the San Diego Comicon International, so all the
various strata of the comic book landscape are optimally showcased.
Everything from fat graphic novels to first-timers with their number
ones to xeroxed handmade zines are there. What's not to like?
|Rob G. of Teenagers from Mars stares at an indie rock chick until she takes money out of her wallet, Bri Wood accepts the thanks of a grateful Jim Mahfood, AiT/Planet Lar publisher Mimi Rosenheim restrains AiT booth bunny John Lee, while Larry Young talks to AiT counsel Kenneth F. Levin.|
I had to admit that I was pretty bummed, first thing Saturday morning,
since the shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry. One of our
flagship series is the Astronauts in Trouble books, and we
thought it'd be imprudent to display our usual con backdrop of our prop
costumed spacesuits, considering. Just didn't seem respectful. As it
was, because I'm "the space guy," a million people asked me what I
thought of the Columbia's destruction, anyway. "I'm just a dude who
makes comics," I'd say. "Real people died. That's all I've got to say
about that." And we'd go back to the funny books.
We brought all of our Astronauts in Trouble comics, though,
anyway. I figured we'd not sell any or we'd sell out of 'em all. Because
we had just amazing booth placement and the draw of New York City-based
comic book warrior/priest Brian Wood and his brand new Channel
Zero prequel, Jennie One, we sold out of our stock of several
books on Saturday. This isn't the panic it would be if it were to happen
at, say, San Diego, because we can zip back to the HQ and restock, or,
at worst, tell folks we'll have more the next day.
We had to restock AiT: Live From the Moon, CZ: Jennie One, and
Tom Beland's True Story, Swear to God twice that weekend.
Speaking of Tom Beland, he and his wife Lily Garcia have to be the
nicest people in comics. I used to think it was Brett Warnock, of Top Shelf, or possibly Ed
Irvin and Todd Rapisura of Absence of Ink. But
it's Tom and Lily, hands-down. Lily was just indefatiguably perky, and
even though Tom's hand started cramping up from signing so many
autographs on Saturday, he had nothing but smiles and kind words for the
mob around his table. I asked him how he was holding up, since I know
that cons are sort of rough on comics creators. We spend all year
toiling away in our offices and studios with what is a pretty limited
interaction with other folks. So going to a con is an overload on most
creators' abilities to hold conversations…
…so when I asked Tom how he was doing he said, "I've got no complaints!
Think about it; my big problem today is that there are too many people
telling me they appreciate my work! How cool is that?" And then he
laughed his hot fudge sundae laugh.
Since Saturday was so mobbed, I didn't get a chance to walk the floor,
at all. I was working those booths, man. Just a constant flow of
hipsters and cool cats who wanted to check out our stuff. Since it's no
secret that Bri Wood and I are
big fans of the home-made zines, we had a lot of folks drop copies of
their work on us. This worked out great for me, since Sunday was a
little less frenetic and I was able to go see the folks at their tables.
I keep my eye on Marc Nordstrom, who did a book called Local Heroes
186 a while back that I really enjoyed, and he handed me a copy of
his latest, Hel on Ice. It's inspired lunacy, and almost
Also inexplicable was Dave Robson's Three Wacky Cops, which
starts out "NOTE: What you're about to read are a number of strange
documents that recently surfaced after the blue flames hit last year"
and gets weirder after that. And I mean "weirder" in a good way.
I didn't talk to Debbie Huey, but Mimi picked up Bumperboy Loses His Marbles and I have to admit I was completely charmed by it. So too was I impressed
by Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. His art is super-clean, and the lettering (which apparently is a part of the artform that only Augie and I seem to care about) is professionally
done. You can find out more info about Gene on Modern Tales.
The previously-mentioned Todd Rapisura worked up a really impressive follow-up to my previous favorite of his, Tree vs. Bill, with Mr. Bear and the Great Happenstance. On the first fast flip-through, I thought it was a cloying little tale about a girl and her stuffed animal. Then I sat down to read it, and I was just blown away. It's a powerful rumination on loss and redemption and it just kicked my ass. Anyone who tells you that comic books are only "just lines on paper" hasn't read Mr. Bear.
Walking around the new venue was kick-ass. Much more spacious than Fort Mason (and drier, too! Fort Mason leaks like a sieve when it rains), it's the perfect place to interact with fans. Sure, it's in South of Market with its views of the Macromedia headquarters instead of Fort Mason's view of the ocean, but, hey! We're there to do business during the open con hours, not sight-see. It's not like I ever went outside for the view at Fort Mason, either. APE offers just too much to do and see, inside.
And inside I ran into David Glanzer, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the con, and told him how great we were doing, and how much I loved the new digs. I asked him how the show was going, and he said, "Everyone loves the new venue. Lots of space to hang out. One of the cool things about the con is the intimate nature of the show, where people can spend time with the creators.
"But I don't have to tell you that," Dave laughed, because we were up on the second level looking down at the AiT compound, where Bri Wood was being mobbed. "We don't have final numbers, yet, of course, but it's looking like attendance was up a bit from last year, and that can't be anything but good for comics."
Even that second level wasn't the drama that some exhibitors feared when first looking at the floor plan sent prior to the show. Ryan Yount, artist of the full-size comic Scurvy Dogs and half of the bare-bones minicomic Minisplit had his table up on the second level. "I was a little apprehensive when I saw the map," said Yount, "because it looked like we were going to be closed off in a second room, or something. But it turned out to be easily accessible from the main floor, and I thought the lighting up there where we were was even better, to tell you the truth. Up in that elevated level looking down on the other folks, me and my other minicomic soldiers like Dave Law, James Fulton, and bigshot painter Alex Pardee felt like kings!"
Another guy doing the work was Long Beach City's own Dennis Culver with his mini Funwrecker. "APE was incredible!" said Dennis. "Not only was my minicomic well-received, but I sold out of every copy I brought as well. I have to make more to fulfill the web orders that were waiting for me when I got home!" Now that's a guy who was working the room…
And there were a million other cool cats there hanging out and showing their wares and signing autographs, like Elizabeth Gencoe and her book Platform, and con mainstay Jeff Parker and his self-pubbed The Interman… just too many good books and not enough time. I'd go to APE the whole time if they made it a three-day show, it's that good.
Sometimes, a good time is what you make of it.
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