A.P.E. (Alternative Press Expo 2008)
November 1st & 2nd, 2008
Review and Photos by Joshua "Creep" G.
Better than: Standing inside your local comic shop and talking about the future of certain titles.
I consider myself an avid comic book fan, yet I have never been to the San Diego Comic-Con, the Alternative Press Expo, or even a comic book shop that had more than 12 people in it at one time. So, I was pretty excited to finally boost my nerd credibility, as well as see some new art and independent comics. But then the rain started to pour down in earnest and I started to have second thoughts about how great the day could be. Of course, it didn't help that the bus driver dropped us off four blocks away from the expo, but once we made our way into the building my hopes rose as my clothes started to dry.
The Concourse is a great place to have a convention such as the A.P.E. It's not massive in size, but is open and small enough to scope out the booths you want to go to directly, or just slither your way through it all like we chose to do. I had a cheat sheet with table numbers so I could make sure to stop at certain places, but I quickly disregarded it and just went from booth to booth, stopping at those that really seemed to offer something unique.
Even though none of the mainstream publishers were there, you could find Image Comics, IDW Publishing, Last Gasp and Hi-Fructose Magazine. Attaboy and Annie Owens, the creators of Hi Fructose, were there running the booth, so it was great to finally meet them. The table was filled with new and back issues of the magazine, some original art and prints by Attaboy; even custom skateboard decks. Hi-Fructose is no doubt one of the best magazines to collect if you're a fan of the "lowbrow/pop surrealist" movement. The mag isn't full of irrelevant ads and you can tell they love the art they are writing about. You can see the side of my head peeking into the shot there, with Attaboy at the table talking to some happy fans.
Last Gasp was directly across the aisle from Hi-Fructose. This was a great opportunity to look through the books and buy them without having to pay shipping. I was able to finally get the new Mike Giant book, and also see exactly what is inside that Daniel Martin Diaz book. The books are of top notch quality; the kind you want to proudly display, but make sure your friends keep their grubby fingers off of them.
While creating my table number cheat sheet, I had also spent some time the night before on Myspace, checking out to see which artists would be at the A.P.E. Ben Templesmith, one of my favorite artists and creator of one of the coolest comics of all time, "Wormwood", posted he would be there signing and selling some original art. I was glad for the MySpace bulletin, since the A.P.E. homepage mentioned nothing of Ben appearing. I was able to talk to him for a bit and peruse his folder of original artwork. I noticed that there were a few artists at the expo that really didn't have any sort of banner or placard to let you know they were there. So if you didn't know exactly what they looked like, or were on their mailing list, you might have missed an opportunity to talk to them or get something signed.
If you did happen to miss some of the artists that day, many of them were at functions later on that night. Ben for instance was at the Comic Outpost, and Alex Pardee was at the "Crom" show at Varnish Art. The show featured work inspired by the Conan movies, and everything featured was made by artists who participated in the expo.
As the day picked up, more and more people poured in, but I did notice that throughout the day there were some tables that just didn't see much action at all. Maybe the art just didn't speak to people, or wasn't in the style that many people liked. The Concourse was set up in a way that everyone there could get a fair shot at being seen. If you think about it, the A.P.E is a great way for an artist to test his/her work on the public.
I also noticed that some of the artists were taking breaks from their own tables to walk around and check out some of the other artists. Ken Garduno and Tom Haubrick were two artists that I would often bump into while working my way through the Expo. I was able to grab some original art and swap ideas about various ways of creating art. Not only are Ken and Tom amazing artists, but they have killer attitudes which make you hope other artists follow their example.
There were a few tables that had no problem being seen, like Camilla d'Errico's booth. It seemed like she was running her own riot throughout the day, so I'm surprised I was even able to get that shot! Not only does she show her pieces in galleries; she creates art for comics as well, so she has the luxury of both types of fans. Some of the other "gallery" artists might have had some zines or books of collected work there, but few seemed to work in both areas.
One of the great things about the A.P.E. is being exposed to new and exciting artists. You can pick up independent comics that might be completely different from the ones you currently read or ever thought people could make. There were very few tables, if any, that had comics that featured your standard "comic book hero" types. Zombies did seem to be a widespread theme, but there was some specialized ideas as well, such as Joshua Johnson's "Stereoscopic" art and comics. His paintings work just like the vintage dual images that you needed a special viewer or just crossing your eyes to see.
Then there was the work of Ian Hill, David Hardy and Ben Jelter (above). Each artist is a graduate of the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and all three make some seriously cool stuff. The painting shown behind them is called "The Proletarians," and was made by Ian Hill. This was not the type if work I thought I would see there, but I was very happy I did. I must have made my way by that table 3 times, but I am also a big fan of the "darker" styles of art so it didn't surprise those that accompanied me.
The A.P.E. goes on all of saturday and Sunday, but I could see no reason why you would need to go both days. Unless of course you really take your time, talk to all the artists and thumb through everything that is offered there. Without having to work your way through thousands of people, and gawk at those dressed as Wolverine or Heath Ledger's Joker, it was an informative, fulfilling Saturday that was well worth the $10 to get in.
The highlight of the day though was the mind-blowing anatomical reference models made by San Francisco-based "Freedom of Teach". Each model is created by a sculptor and visual effects artist Andrew Cawrse. These figures are created for artists, medical students and those working in the film or animation industries. They are a huge step up from the standard reference models you see in art supply stores, they are works of art in themselves. Along with the three versions of the male figure, they also have various artists' busts, dvds, reference charts, and an upcoming female model and 1/3 scale poseable skeleton. These are the type of models that every artist needs, and if you're like me, something that you would proudly display as not only a tool to further your art, but something that is as treasured as all the art in your collection. If you check out their homepage you can see that artists such as Brom, Jon Foster, Jordu Schell and Carlos Huante are already using these models for the very inspiring work they make.
Personal Bias: I went to the expo with a list of artists that I was already a fan of, so as long as I saw their work I was happy.
Random Detail: There were two art shows later that night that featured work by some of the artists at the expo. Panelists IV opened at Giant Robot SF, and "Crom," a Conan-inspired show opened at Varnish Art on Natoma.
By the way: Many of the artists that were there sell prints and original works right from their homepages. Few had limited edition prints that were there just for the weekend; Alex Pardee was one of the few that did.