APE '09 | The Haul

I probably spent more at the Alternative Press Expo this year than I have in previous years. It's probably my favorite show of the ones I've been hitting regularly since moving to California a few years back, if only because at just about every single table in the place you have the opportunity to discover a comic you've never seen before. Although living in the Bay Area I have access to shops that not only carry independent stuff, but in some cases also have minicomics, it's nice to have a venue like this where you can find such a wide range of books and talk to the creators directly.

So here's what I came home with ...

Heirophany by Rebecca "Bex" Freund: Bex is a student at the California College of Arts in San Francisco; her instructor, Matt Silady, introduced me to her. She has the distinction of being the first student at the school to have one of their comics appear in the school's literary journal, which she had on hand, along with a huge 11 by 17 version of the story that she was selling. It's a dreamlike, surreal horror story; one of the coolest sequences in the book has the main character getting yelled at by his boss, and the boss is represented by a body with a television for a head. Each panel featuring the TV has a different set of lips that appear to be yelling at the character, with no dialogue ... Bex is deaf, and Matt said that's what people look like to her when they're talking. Overall it's nicely done and kind of disturbing ... I hope to see more from her in the future.

Carnivale: A Kit Kaleidoscope Story by Nick Mullins: I bought all three of Nick Mullins' wordless mincomics set in New Orleans. I glanced at them as I was walking by his table and the art really jumped out at me. I haven't had a chance to dive into them yet, but you can check them out online.

Karaoke Comics #1 by Russ Kazmierczak: This is a really fun minicomic about the author's love of karaoke, which apparently came about after being bitten by a radioactive Michael Bolton CD (among other theories). It chronicles a couple of awkward moments he's experienced at karaoke bars. It's fairly short; the comics take up six pages, plus he reviews The Mint, a San Francisco karaoke bar. It's a fun concept that I bet he could do a lot more with, both in terms of fleshing out the two stories here and adding some others.

Whirlwind Wonderland by Rina Ayuyang: This one, I believe debuted at the show; published by Sparkplug and Tugboat Pres, it collects several stories that have appeared elsewhere. Another one I haven't had time to read yet, but I bought it based on Ayuyang's work in A Girls' Guide to Guy's Stuff.

Dog and Mouse by Marian Churchland: You might recognize Marian Churchland's name from the recent Elephantman arc she did, or from her upcoming graphic novel from Image, Beast, which I also picked up at the show. She only had 15 copies of Dog and Mouse, and each came wrapped in tissue paper for protection. I haven't actually gotten up the nerve to open it yet; it's very delicate, I guess is the right term, and I'm afraid of hurting it when I take it apart to get to the story. Soon, though, I'll work up to it.

North Country by Shane White: White was on hand mainly to sell his newest book, Things Undone by NBM, but he also had copies of North Country, which NBM published in 2005. I read Things Undone last Friday night and really dug it, so I added this one to my buy list when I realized he was going to be there. I haven't read North Country yet, but it looks like a very different book from Things Undone, at least in terms of artistic style. White said that the two books are part of a trilogy, with NC being the first book and Undone being the third, and both are based on his own personal experiences. He said the second part of the trilogy he's being very careful with, as it's about a time in his life and people he really respects, and he wants to make sure he gets them right.

Princess Witch Boy by Storm: I put this after my North Country write-up on purpose, as it shares a similar trait to White's Things Undone book -- both use the fantastic to tell very personal stories. In Things Undone, which a lot of people probably think is a zombie story based on the cover and the press leading up to it, White is telling a semi-autobiographical tale that uses a zombie metaphor to show how the main character is basically falling apart in both his work life and personal life. Princess Witch Boy, subtitled "A Fantasy Memoir," is about a boy who, at least in his head, can shape shift into various female forms -- a princess, a djinn, a supermodel sorceress -- to escape from the real world. This first minicomic is pretty much the set up, a glimpse at a bigger story; Storm said he plans to make the next issue longer than the 16 we have here. But he does some nice things here, particularly on the first page, which is a text piece called "Sissy" that lists "advice" on how to be more manly -- don't play with dolls, make a fist when you check your watch, etc. It does feel like we're only getting a small piece of what this will ultimately be, but I'm looking forward to seeing what it turns into.

Anthology Anthology by Jon Adams: Jon Adams is the mad genius behind Truth Serum, which you can read for free on the web. This is a collection of strips that appeared in various anthologies he's contributed to (hence the title). I find these all very funny ... my favorite in this collection is probably the one about two stormtroopers who discover Darth Vader's secret journal and read it in the breakroom over lunch.

Comic Diorama by Grant Reynolds: Another one I haven't had time to read yet; this one is a collection of short stories published by Top Shelf. I believe it comes out this Wednesday.

Dogtown, Book One by Brent Otey: Another one I haven't read yet; it's a mash-up of anthropomorphic animals, the Old West and science fiction, so you have a dog sheriff riding around on some sort of hoverbike. But a couple of things I like about it: first up, the art is really nice, esp. the full color cover, and second, it contains some fun "back matter" in the forms of classified ads and a map of the world where this is set. What I don't like is the printing; I don't know exactly what's off about it, but the word balloons are harder to read than they should be. But I won't let that stop me from reading it ...

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