Monday, October 3, 2011

APE 2011 Debriefing

I spent a very nice Sunday afternoon at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco, accompanied by half of my Digital Art Assistants' Squad (that is, my girls Laura and Robin). Although APE is organized by the same group that does the much larger, louder, slicker Comic-Con International and WonderCon events, it's got a unique funky, underground, do-it-yourself vibe that really sets it apart. Its physical space enhances its tone: rather than a modern concrete and glass convention hall, APE is held at the Concourse Exposition Center, a long wood-beamed refurbished warehouse in an industrial, slightly sketchy part of town. It suits it.

The only other time I've attended APE was in 2006, when I remember it being smaller. A few important independent comics publishers were there yesterday--Fantagraphics, IDW, Top Shelf, SLG (not Marvel or DC)--but most of the tables were claimed by people clearly in it more for love than money. The glory and horror of APE is that the talent on display ranges from extremely polished professionals to the rankest amateurs. One table was staffed by an 8-year-old girl selling felt-tip drawings of superheroes; I guess she was pretty good for an 8 year old, but honestly not a prodigy who should've been asking for people's cash.

I met people I didn't know and remet people I did. At the Fantagraphics table I happened across a book-signing by cartoonist Leslie Stein, whose Eye of the Majestic Creature comic has just been collected by the company. Both Leslie and her work were new to me but I bought her book and introduced myself, and we had a nice conversation about getting published and such--Leslie said she was excited to see her work "in a book with a spine." When I mentioned my editor, the guy quietly taking money next to Leslie perked up and said, "Charlie?" And that's how I met Fantagraphics Editor Eric Reynolds, one of the more important folks in comics, and had a nice, quick conversation with him as well.

People I knew at least a little and reconnected with at APE included cartoonist Shaenon Garrity, her husband and Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago (who organized the APE workshops), cartoonist Paige Braddock (Jane's World, The Martian Confederacy), Paige's writer on The Martian Confederacy Jason McNamara, cartoonist Lex Fajardo (Kid Beowulf), and cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles). Unfortunately, I just missed saying hello to cartoonist Rick Geary before he left for the day. My girls pointed out that for someone who doesn't know anyone in the business, I know a lot of people in the business.

Two of those people let me subject them to a "Two-Minute Interview," in which I ask them two minutes worth of bad questions on shaky hand-held video. I've done 'em before and, despite zero demand for more, I did 'em again. Who? I'll let that suspense build until tomorrow.

Between 2 and 2:55 p.m. I gave a workshop on "Designing Distinctive Characters." I think it went pretty well, despite the absence of my usual AV/PowerPoint crutches. Andrew had told me to expect about 20 people so I made 25 packets to distribute; since I ran out, I think I got about 30. Nice!


My talk was a little looser and more seat-of-the-pants than I usually do, which I thought fit the APE ethos. Attendees seemed to get something out of it and I don't think I wasted anyone's time. The best part was talking to people afterward. A couple were very interested in learning the Secret to Success (if I knew it, I'd apply it myself. Just do as much work as you can and get it out into the world however you can, and then get lucky). And I was very happy to meet Tony, who said he's a regular reader of this here blog, which I think is a first for me. Hi, Tony, thanks again!

Thanks to everyone who came to my workshop, and to Andrew for signing me up to do it. APE's a good event, especially for getting a sense of the enormous amount of interesting comic work bubbling beneath the established commercial successes. Some of the people at this expo are going to break out big in the coming years. I don't know who, but it'll be neat to be able to say I saw them when.



Mark Jackson said...

Ray Bradbury's gonna get you for that, Brian.

Brian Fies said...

Sheesh, what a maroon! I mean me, not you. Mark's referring to my calling Paige Braddock and Jason McNamara's book "The Martian Chronicles," a title already famously taken. It's really titled "The Martian Confederacy" and I corrected it in my post. Thanks for the catch.

I bet they get that a lot.

Tony Yun said...

I enjoyed meeting you, Brian, and attending your workshop. I came away with a lot of new insights on designing characters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts at the workshop and through this blog! Hopefully I'll run into you again at another con or CAM event. ;-)