Last weekend, Comic-Con held its annual Alternative Press Expo, or APE-Con, in San Francisco. Hailed as one of the country’s best underground press conventions, APE exceeded all expectations by being especially good this year.
The interesting thing about APE is that you’ll find Indie stars there, like Craig Thompson (author of Blankets and Habibi), the Hernandez Brothers, and even Matt Groening. What you won’t find there is Marvel or DC, Dark Horse Comics, or even Image. It’s like the 99% movement applied to comics and craft-making.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the APE convention is the wide range of wares you’ll find adorning the table tops as you patrol the artist’s alleyways. One booth might have mini-comics, and the next one is displaying giant hamburger pillows! When it comes to artists, you’ll find creators and illustrators from Pixar and Cartoon Network selling sketches and books of their own personal work. Unless you stop and talk to them, you probably won’t realize you’re talking to the guy who created Adventure Time, for example. If you ask me, the lack of a Wondercon, which was held in Anaheim instead of San Francisco last year– officially making it San Francisco’s only major comic convention this year – helped to fuel the surge of interest in APE.
Rather than writing a lengthy article about all the various guest stars, informative panels, and the major artists, I’m going to follow in the APE tradition and talk about an isolated number of tables that I personally found interesting and new. For projects like ElephantMen, by the famous and talented Richard Starkings, you can read any other major APE coverage story and hear all about them. And, trust me; you really should look up ElephantMen if you haven’t already.
The first artist I’d like to spotlight was easily my favorite newbie at the convention, due to the creativity and spontaneity displayed in his craft. For awhile now, I’ve noticed the surge of paper craft creation on the internet, with cube-art paper crafts slowly becoming a new art form and trend. If you’re into paper-craft art, then get ready to meet the Pablo Picasso of the craft! Gabe Jackson is his name, and making bad-ass paper statues is his game. Immediately upon seeing these statues, I was a fan. For the low price of $40, I was hooked up with six of his kits, and all the tools I needed to get started. It takes some patience to make these, but after a few tries, I started to catch on, and was able to assemble a very unique creature. Well worth the price, I imagine Gabe’s company, PaperBoss, is going to be a huge success in no time at all. To see Gabe’s work, and to order your own kits, go to www.paperboss-g.com.
Carrying on the great tradition of Jim Hensen and his crazy Muppets is a group of people who create puppets of their own. They have incorporated them into a live action television show they created and are currently pitching it to Cartoon Network. Shark Bites is a puppet oriented show, just like the Muppets, where the main character, Spielberg, a hipster Shark, gets involved in various adventures around the city. To check out more on these guys, you can see the show by following their link on their facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/
The Academy of Art University’s first edition of their Comic Collaborative, Ultrasylvania, made their debut on both coasts in SF and at New York Comic-Con simultaneously – a claim that no other book can make. Ultrasylvania is a graphic novel drawn by a handpicked group of students at AAU, featuring a story about what the world would have been like if Frankenstein and Dracula ruled Europe during the 1800′s. Written by Brain Schirmner, a comic book writing instructor at AAU, and directed by Jeremy Saliba, another AAU instructor, this book is a great read, with an anthology feel due to the many artists who contributed. It’s essentially the Game of Thrones with monsters, which is awesome. You can read this story online at www.ultrasylvania.com.
“Atomic Yeti” is Dan Cooney’s (Indie star and creator of “Valentine”) newest comic book. It’s a project drawn by master illustrator Jeff Himes, and can be bought at conventions or through comixology. Currently, there’s a kickstarter running to get this book published. You can find out more about the book and the kickstarter at http://www.etsy.com/listing/
The Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco hosted the official APE-Con after-party this year. It featured its newest exhibits to a crowd of Con-goers and exhibitors from the convention. For $5 you could spend all night in the museum and have as much free alcohol and food that you could handle. The exhibits that crowded the hall of the CAM were impressive. I’ve been going to CAM for a long time, but this time around, I was very impressed by the high quality of art they were showing. Included were actual sets from the movie “Paranorman”– by far the most interesting display there, due to their size and detail. These were the actual movie sets used in the filming of the stop animation film. Also on display were reproductions of the Sketchtravel book, which is a story in itself, full of original artwork from some of the world’s greatest artists.