APE 2010 Wrap-Up Thingy

Well, another APE is in the books, making three that I have attended.  One of the things I’m starting to realize is that the energy of the 2008 edition was quite possibly a unique event that won’t be duplicated any time soon – and so, as the first one I ever went to, I think it might have even spoiled me a little bit.  There were a few things about that show that were unique…

  • Chris Ware was there, which I’m to understand is a fairly rare event.
  • Kramers Ergot 7 debuted with all the hype that had built up around it.
  • Buenaventura Press organized a ridiculous roster of cartoonists to sign it (Ware, Clowes, Hernandez, Pham, May, Johnson, Hensley, Huizenga, Furie, Harkham, Groening, and more that I’m probably forgetting).
  • It was DUMPING rain, which for some reason (maybe only to me) made everything crackle with an energy that isn’t there when people just seem to wander in off the street.
  • It was the first APE in a year and a half (the 2007 version having taken place in April)
  • This one applies only to me, but it was the first comics convention that I had ever been to, and so literally everything about it was totally new and exciting to me.

But, all this isn’t to say that the show has lost any of its appeal to me – it’s still the weekend of the year I look forward to the most, and it seems even better now that I have been to Comic-con and can compare it to that.  (Enough has been written about Comic-Con, and I don’t have anything new to offer.  Suffice it to say that it took me about a half-day to decide that 30% of the con is the best thing I’ve ever been to, and 70% is close to intolerable to me).  APE is such an easy show compared to Comic-Con… I’m local to it, and I can just jump in the car and go.  In fact, Saturday morning when I got off I-80 at 9th street, it occurred to me that every time I take that exit, I wish it was so I could go to APE, but this is the only weekend of the year where it’s actually the case.  And that put me in a good mood before the show even opened its doors.

One thing that added a new wrinkle to my APE experience this year was that I was trying to do some networking for Chance Press, which gave me more to talk about with a lot of people there than if I were just there as a collector.  (“Networking” is a nebulous term, and for someone as socially awkward as myself, my version is basically to introduce myself, talk a little bit about Chance Press, and hope not to embarrass myself that much.)  I’ve written about this a lot on the Chance Press blog, but I was trying to pursue a handful of people at APE to work on some comics or art projects, and we’ll see in the coming weeks/months if any of my efforts end up paying off in terms of new projects.  Because of the mini-comic, DIY ethic, I’m realizing more and more that cartoonists – even unpublished just-starting-out cartoonists – see Chance Press as pretty unnecessary… not bad or worthless, per se, just unnecessary.  Meaning, they can make their own mini comics and zines, so when a publisher comes calling, they want it to be someone with the muscle to get the book distributed on a wide scale, Fantagraphics-style.  Which makes total sense, I should add.  At this point, I’m still feeling out whether or not there’s room to publish the sort of comics projects I had in mind originally.  My hope when I started pitching Chance Press to cartoonists was to find someone interested in book arts who was interested in having a deluxe, limited edition book to promote their work, and to have some copies to sell on their website and maybe make a little money.  I still think that cartoonist is out there, and so I went to APE with a handful of business cards (and a few copies of a “publishing prospectus” that I made) in hopes of making some contacts and finding that person.

But, nascent small press publishing stuff aside, what else do I have to say about APE this year?

  • So happy to see Pigeon Press up and running with their first two releases.  I was really disappointed to hear about Buenaventura Press folding, and I’m really happy that Alvin B. will continue to be a force in the publishing world.  Of course I picked up a copy of those releases – I Want You #2 by Lisa Hanawalt and Boy’s Club #4 by Matt Furie, and both are as good as you would expect them to be.  IWY #1 was the surprise of APE 09 for me, since I hadn’t read Hanawalt’s work before that, and so of course it was great to see a new issue come out.
  • Also great that BP folding doesn’t mean the end of Alvin showing up at conventions with a table full of European comics that no one else has and that are really hard to find anywhere else.  I suppose this will come to an end when supply eventually dries up, but given the volume, that’s not likely to be any time soon.  My favorite finds at his table – L’Horreur est Humaine – a 450+ page hardcover comics anthology from France for a mere $25 and a Frech edition of book 2 of Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest. Good thing I went to college and majored in French – now I don’t have to wait for Fantagraphics to publish their version later this year.  He also had the letterpress-printed catalog for an art exhibition he curated for a mere $30… I’m pissed at myself for not buying it (even though I went WAY over my limit), since I have been looking for it for a couple years now.
  • Emilie Ostergren was at the Pigeon Press table as well.  Her book Evil Dress was another surprise from 2009 – I bought it last year and got it signed with a really cool little drawing, and I have read it three times since then.  She had a couple comics for sale that I made sure to get signed as well.
  • Drawn and Quarterly had great guests this year – the only really noticeable lines for author signings were at their table – first for Dan Clowes, and then an even longer line for Lynda Barry – one that was so long that I got shut out from it when I tried to join it.  (A problem I remedied by showing up at D&Q’s booth 30 minutes before she started signing on Sunday so I could be first in line.)  I wouldn’t have bet on Lynda Barry having a longer line than Dan Clowes… I mentioned this to one cartoonist I spent some time talking to, and his opinion was that – in an environment like APE that is rife with DIY cartoonists – people are “fans” of Clowes while they are inspired by Lynda Barry.  Personally, I’m fans of both, although I prefer reading Clowes’s work.  But, to look at it from the other direction, Clowes’s work might seem off-putting to some in how clean and technically proficient it is, whereas Barry exudes encouragement with everything she does.  This was echoed again by another cartoonist who mentioned that she likes Clowes’s work very much, but “the first time I met Lynda Barry, I almost started to cry.”
  • Because I’m a signature hound – most likely to a fault (see my APE 2009 wrap-up thingy for more on just how big of a geek I am when it comes to signatures) – I was a little disappointed that Fantagraphics only had two booth guests this year.  Of course, this disappointment was mitigated by the actual guests – Megan Kelso and Tony Millionaire – being authors whose work I am particularly fond of.  But… they’ve got a big list of artists, right?  And San Francisco isn’t that bad of a city to visit, right?
  • Speaking of people I wish were there, I was hoping to see Frank Santoro and his boxes of curated back issues that I read about every time there is a show on the East Coast.  Alas, it wasn’t to be, but…
  • …happily the show wasn’t entirely free of some sort of presence from Comics Comics, since Dan Nadel brought a whole slew of Picturebox books all the way from New York.  H-Day by Renee French was the first book I bought at the show, but it was also great to see If n Oof and Powr Mstrs 3 in the flesh, not to mention the new Mat Brinkman book that is printed on gigantic sheets of vellum and housed in a death-metal black cardboard envelope.  Also cool to support the release of H-Day with what had to have been 8 hours total of Renee French signing books.
  • Also enjoyed meeting Chris Pitzer from AdHouse books – I’ve been a fan of their books for a while, and I was really happy that yet another publisher made it all the way out from the other side of the country.  I picked up Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines, an artist I wasn’t previously familiar with.  It’s about the size and thickness of a regional telephone book, so I’ll have to set aside some time for it, but the art looks superb at first glance.
  • I’m looking forward to reading what other people have to say about the flip floppy layout this year (the entrance being on the other side and all) – I didn’t really care either way, although it definitely seemed like the tables in the back section consistently had less foot traffic than those on the other side of the dividing wall, and this wasn’t the case the last couple years when the show was all in one section of the convention center.
  • Great art presence again this year – even better than in past years… I saw a lot of people whose primary business was selling prints rather than zines or comics, and I really like the idea of APE becoming a place where sequential artists and (for lack of a better word) “fine” artists coexist.  (What I mean is “people who make books” and “people whose metric for success isn’t necessarily book publishing as much as it is showing in galleries.”)  I spent the most money at Skinner’s table, since he had a bunch of large format inkjet prints that were too cool not to buy.
  • APE cost me a lot of money this year, but as I left, I thought about how I could have easily spent double and still left the show wanting more.  You can decide whether this says more about me or the quality of the work at APE.
  • There’s a guy I see at APE every year who I call “Cart Guy.”  Apparently, there are a couple Bay Area cartoonists who refer to him instead as “Pushcart Pete.”  I shouldn’t poke fun, though, as more than one person gave me shit for my gigantic backpack (and at times, the totebag I carried because I had too much stuff for my backpack), and my shoulders wish I had a pushcart instead.  How long before I’m “Backpack Bill” or “Totebag Tim”?

Okay, well that’s probably enough… the thing I’m most content with as I wrap up another APE weekend is that my enjoyment for this convention has been reaffirmed, and I’m already excited about next year.

Finally, my standard disclaimer: sometimes this blog gets picked up by link aggregation blogs (FLOG, Comics Reporter, etc.), so I kind of feel it necessary to state that I don’t consider myself a comics critic, expert, afficionado, etc.  You probably know more about comics than I do, and you have probably been to far more conventions.  The “audience” I have in mind when I write is one made up of people who really like books and book collecting, and APE is one of the premier events of the year for me in terms of that hobby, which is why I like to write about it every year.

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