APE 2012

Saturday I headed up to San Francisco for this year’s Alternative Press Expo. This is my third year going, and I was a little disappointed this year compared to the last two years.

As a lead-in, take a look at Travis Hanson’s review of the show from an artist’s perspective. It was enlightening for me to read: APE not being a show where you’re likely to make a lot of money for a vendor (maybe not even break even if you’re flying in), the wide variety of skill levels and artists who aren’t sure whether they’re doing this as a hobby or a career.

As an attendee, I mainly go to discover new graphic novels to read. Consequently there are a few vendors who don’t interest me but I imagine would interest others (a few who sell art supplies, a few who are basically retailing independent/alternative comics and graphic novels, and the “multimedia” ones who are selling dolls or crafts or statues or whatever). But there are a large number of artists who seem to be only selling prints, or published sketchbooks, or posters. I guess a bunch of these artists probably work in animation or graphic design and like to do fantasy art on the side, and want to make a little money off it, or get their name out there, or network, or whatever, but I mostly admire these artists’ work as I walk past and figure that if they decide to get into the graphic storytelling business then I might be interested, but putting out a few (to my mind) random items doesn’t really pique my interest. I’d rather you had a story to tell!

Now, my feeling is that APE is supposed to be highly inclusive of all sorts of artists, but the ones who are just selling prints or portfolios are I suspect the ones who are treating their art as more of a hobby than a career.

Which brings me to my main point which is that it seemed like there were a lot more of that kind of artist at APE this year than in the last 2 years, and fewer artists who were selling graphic novels. Fewer people who had stories they were telling.

(Aside: Trav, whose post I linked to above, does both. I’ve bought a few of his prints – which really stand out above most other artists – and I pledged to his most recent Kickstarter for the next volume of his fantasy series The Bean.)

There seemed like fewer webcomics artists present this year, and they’ve been a big source of material I’ve bought the last two years. And a few ones who were there didn’t seem to have any new volumes compared to last year. Which is fair enough, but it did mean I didn’t buy anything from them. (I did see the booth for The Adventures of the 19XX, but since I also pledged to his Kickstarter, I didn’t buy anything from him.)

So I spent about 3 hours walking around, and a little more taking a break and looking through some of what I did buy. Here’s what I did pick up:

  • A couple of books from Top Shelf: Wizzywig by Ed Piskor, and Any Empire by Nate Powell. My friend BC, whom I ran into (along with our friends Trish and Jared) strongly recommended I buy Wizzywig, so I picked it up and thumbed through other stuff at the Top Shelf booth.
  • The Martian Confederacy volumes 1 and 2, by Jason McNamera and Paige Braddock. I’m not sure why I didn’t buy this before, as I like science fiction and I’ve enjoyed Braddock’s Jane’s World series.
  • The first volume of The Dreamer, by Lora Innes, a webcomic that I think is in my “to catch up on” folder, about a woman in the present day who has vivid dreams of being in the Revolutionary War. I had a short discussion with the artist about this folder, and ended up recommending that she try NetNewsWire as an RSS reader now that Safari on the Mac no longer supports RSS reading (as I wrote at some length here).
  • The Legend of Bold Riley, by Leia Weathington and a host of artists, about (it seems) a lesbian princess adventurer.

Not a really big haul, which makes me think that perhaps I should take a year off from APE next year and come back in 2014 when there will have been more turnover. I dunno. On the other hand webcomics creators don’t seem to show up every year, so who will I miss next year if I don’t attend? Balanced against that is the time spent on the trip up to San Francisco, which knocks out most of the day.

I had a pretty good time, but I suspect that first year will be the high-water mark for me in finding a whole bunch of new material to read.

One thought on “APE 2012”

  1. Interesting. My tastes in shopping at cons has changed, especially with the advent of Kickstarter, where I now buy most of my graphic novels. At Wondercon in March and now at APE, my wife and I mostly shop for prints, and the people we buy from sure seem like they are in business to me. Travis, Eunjung Kim (Atelier), and Nidhi Chanani are three artists who were at both conventions, and at $20-$30 a print and with a wide selection of prints, I am not sure how the latter two artists have any less of a business than Travis who happens to sell both prints and his graphic novel. It seems more like a matter of taste to me.

    This is not to say that any one person’s mileage on a show may vary, but only to say: how many original graphic novels are for sale should not be the metric by which the show is judged, in my opinion. I spent about the same time at the show as you did, by the way. Definitely a small show, but at $10 it was worth it for me.

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