The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, kicked off today in San Francisco, and I made the trek up north to partake in comic culture-dom. I missed the show last year, and in fact haven't been to a comic convention since SDCC in 2010, so it was fun to get back into the con groove. And APE is just the place to do it, with its laid back vibe and focus on making, buying and talking about comics.
Like I said, I missed last year's show, so I have no idea how the crowds compared or the size of the place compared. Since I first started attending the show in 2007, they've switched up the layout of the place, and it seemed much bigger, with more exhibitors, than it has in the past. There seemed to be a bunch of people there, many with kids, and the folks exhibiting who I talked to for the most part seemed to be happy with the turn out. The weather was beautiful, which can sometimes be a hindrance; San Francisco doesn't have that many days per year where there's lots of sunshine and it's very warm outside, so you never know when someone might decide to hit the park instead of, say, a convention. It'll be interesting to hear what the CCI folks say about attendance this year
These folks in particular seemed to be staying busy:
Sergio Aragones was set up at the front of the Concourse and always seemed to have a line at his booth. Almost like one of those big jam pieces you might find in an issue of Groo.
All three Hernandez Brothers were at the show, and when they hit the Fantagraphics table the crowds surrounded them. Fanta of course had tons of Love & Rockets related merchandise, including those cool T-shirts that debuted at Comic-Con this summer.
And Adrian Tomine was only at the show for a few hours, and he had a line any time I went by the Drawn & Quarterly table.
I got to speak with Matt Silady very briefly about the California College of the Arts MFA in Comics. He told me initially there was some discussion around what to call it--you know, something highfalutin' like "visual narrative" or something like that. Then when someone was at a cocktail party and was asked what their master's was in, they could say "visual technique" or whatever, and the person would say, "What the heck is that?" and the master's student would respond, "Comics!" So Matt suggested they just keep it simple, which probably saved their future students a lot of time. He also said the program will be basically three Julys of intense comics work, then in between candidates could go back home to their day jobs and do their work through correspondence. That would allow more students to participate, versus having to move to California for two years.
Matt's always fun to catch up with at APE; in addition to promoting the program, he showed me the anthology that was created by a group of 15-year-old cartoonists who attended a comics boot camp he ran this past summer. It made its debut at APE, and it was kind of cool hearing him point out the different techniques he taught them this summer and how they tried to incorporate them into their stories. You can tell he's very proud of all his students, past and present, and passionate about what he's doing, as he pointed out the folks exhibiting at APE had gotten their start at CCA.
The good folks at BASA--the Bay Area Sequential Artists Group--set up a table this year and sold an anthology they'd put together, along with their own various works. I've known one of the anthology's editors, Ralph Rawson Werner, for quite some time, and I always expected to be buying comics he made at some point in life. So it was very cool to do that.
I spent a lot of time walking the floor, catching up with folks and checking out cool comics. Had a great talk with Ethan Young, creator of Tails, who was there with his wife. Ethan came all the way to California this weekend from New York to attend a comic convention. Heh. Actually he said it was his first trip to the West Coast and was a belated honeymoon for the couple; they were planning to see the sites after the show. I also caught up with Matt Maxwell, who longtime readers of this blog know as the creator of Strangeways. He's got a third volume of Strangeways coming out hopefully next year; unlike the first two it is a collection of stories featuring art by a variety of artists. We hit the traditional APE eatery, the Holy Grill, which makes a
damn good heavenly burger. Shannon Watters, the ultra-cool editor of the mega-popular Adventure Time comic for BOOM!, was helping to hold down the BOOM! Town table while the rest of her BOOM! cohorts were in New York. I probably wouldn't have pegged Adventure Time as an APE kinda book, but given the creators who have worked on it, it makes total sense. Go check out the BOOM! tumblr, which she runs with Dafna Pleban. I also met and chatted with Chris Wisnia, who had copies of his newest book, Monstrosis, at the SLG table. He told me about a comic-related documentary he's working on. And I chatted with Shannon Wheeler at the Fantagraphics table about all sorts of things, including the Dallas Fantasy Fairs both of us attended when we were kids. It's likely we both met Jack Kirby, Frank Miller and Gil Kane on the exact same day.
When Matt and I went to the Holy Grill we couldn't help but notice the dark shadow over the Concourse ...
Zynga headquarters moved in next door to the Concourse since I was last at the show. And my what a big building they have, and it seemed to have a lot of activity for a Saturday. ComicVille, anyone?