I'M JUST A DUDE
The Alternative Press Expo was held last Saturday and Sunday in SanFrancisco. This year's show was to be a pretty big one for us… as you'llrecall, I write and publish comics under the AiT/Planet Lar banner… and atthis year's APE not only were we going to have thirty trade paperbacksto offer up to the discerning crowd that attends APE… not only were wehosting Rob G. and Rick Spears of Teenagers From Mars fame (Robdid the art on The Couriers out February 19th)… not only is itheld pretty much down the street from the AiT/Planet Lar WorldHeadquarters, so I can sleep in my own bed at night and only lug stuffacross town instead of across the country…
… but APE is professionally run by Fae Desmond and David Glanzer and thefine crew who stage the San Diego Comicon International, so all thevarious strata of the comic book landscape are optimally showcased.Everything from fat graphic novels to first-timers with their numberones to xeroxed handmade zines are there. What's not to like?
I had to admit that I was pretty bummed, first thing Saturday morning,since the shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry. One of ourflagship series is the Astronauts in Trouble books, and wethought it'd be imprudent to display our usual con backdrop of our propcostumed spacesuits, considering. Just didn't seem respectful. As itwas, because I'm "the space guy," a million people asked me what Ithought of the Columbia's destruction, anyway. "I'm just a dude whomakes comics," I'd say. "Real people died. That's all I've got to sayabout 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. Becausewe had just amazing booth placement and the draw of New York City-basedcomic book warrior/priest Brian Wood and his brand new ChannelZero prequel, Jennie One, we sold out of our stock of severalbooks on Saturday. This isn't the panic it would be if it were to happenat, 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, andTom Beland's True Story, Swear to God twice that weekend.
Speaking of Tom Beland, he and his wife Lily Garcia have to be thenicest people in comics. I used to think it was Brett Warnock, of Top Shelf, or possibly EdIrvin and Todd Rapisura of Absence of Ink. Butit's Tom and Lily, hands-down. Lily was just indefatiguably perky, andeven though Tom's hand started cramping up from signing so manyautographs on Saturday, he had nothing but smiles and kind words for themob around his table. I asked him how he was holding up, since I knowthat cons are sort of rough on comics creators. We spend all yeartoiling away in our offices and studios with what is a pretty limitedinteraction with other folks. So going to a con is an overload on mostcreators' 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 peopletelling me they appreciate my work! How cool is that?" And then helaughed 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 ofhipsters and cool cats who wanted to check out our stuff. Since it's nosecret that Bri Wood and I arebig fans of the home-made zines, we had a lot of folks drop copies oftheir work on us. This worked out great for me, since Sunday was alittle 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 Heroes186 a while back that I really enjoyed, and he handed me a copy ofhis latest, Hel on Ice. It's inspired lunacy, and almostinexplicable.
Also inexplicable was Dave Robson's Three Wacky Cops, whichstarts out "NOTE: What you're about to read are a number of strangedocuments 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 impressedby 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 professionallydone. 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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