Sean Maher's Quality Control

Monday, April 10, 2006

APE Decompression, Day One

Holy shit.

Okay, I've been going to APE for - if memory serves - three years now. It's always been a mixed bag, of course. The bright-eyed, talented, professional amateurs with amazing comics to sell or fun stories to tell have, historically, been few and far inbetween; enough of them there to make the trip worthwhile, to send me home with a big fat stack of cool stuff and a smile on my face, but not enough to completely wash out the taste of all those sorry-ass sacks of shit that didn't belong there in the first place.

I laid out a lot of my thoughts on the difference last year, launching a huge discussion on the Isotope forum about how to sell comics, but this year I don't think that's going to be necessary. I have a few thoughts - folks with business cards and websites, for example, are going to get the bulk of my attention in the future, simply by virtue of practicality - but mostly I walked away this year with one thought on my mind:

Holy shit.

That was incredible

This year brought easily the strongest Alternative Press Expo I've yet attended. This stuff was so consistently good, y'see, that I didn't really have to bother with the sad fuckers - I was a bit more judgemental this time around, walking with a bit more swagger and determination. I didn't do it because I'm any hotter shit than I was then, or because I'm any meaner - I did it to protect my wallet. Just a few booths in, I realized it was a whole new ballgame, and the two hundred bucks I'd brought with me "just in case" was in very real danger.

I'm going to have to spend the bulk of this week just extolling the virtues of all the awesome books I've been reading ever since, but I'll lay it all out for you today, digest-sized, so you can check out any titles or names that catch your eye.


My APE Stash, 2006 Edition:

Cry Yourself To Sleep, and several mini-comics, by Jeremy Tinder. I was super-psyched to see this one - I've been grooving on Tinder's self-produced eight-pagers for three years now, and seeing that he'd been picked up by Top Shelf for a full length book was really exciting - like seeing a kid you played ball with in high school make the majors or something.

A Late Freeze, by Danica Novgorodoff, who won this year's Isotope Award For Excellence in Mini-Comics, and asked during her acceptance speech if she could do it wearing the Doctor Strange cloak James keeps on display. According to the Diamond shipping list, this should be in retail shops this Wednesday.

Just Another Guy With A Planet For A Head and The Nomad Church #1 by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, who won the award last year. I'm a devotee now, having thoroughly enjoyed pretty much everything of the man's I've ever read.

The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft preview by Mac Carter, Jeff Blitz and Adam Byrne. These guys had a really gorgeous poster on sale for just a buck, but unfortunately they were also one of my first stops and I wasn't about to carry a poster all over hell. If you were one of the lucky ones to pick that sucker up, props.

Metro and Gone But Not Forgotten by Ian Sampson. Homeboy was actually folding and stapling copies as I stood there, which honestly impressed me more with its determination and moxie than it annoyed me with its unpreparedness. Plus, this guy's art was really excellent, so it was well worth hanging out for a minute to get a freshly minted copy.

The Nearly Infamous Zango by world-conqueror Rob Osborne, the first winner of the Isotope award. Osborne finds a lot of inspiration in the concept of ambition, so I'm looking forward to his take on a "mere" super-villain aiming for world domination.

Hip Flask: Unnatural Selection (issue #1) and Elephantmen (issue #2) by Richard Starkings, Joe Casey, and Ladronn, who ties with Quitely and Darrow for the Best Slow Artist In The World award. Spoke with John at ComiCraft about the upcoming Elephantmen ongoing series, and it sounds really cool - he said it should drop in July and I couldn't be more excited.

Red Chapel #1 and Paper Cuts by Caleb Monroe and Elk's Run artist Noel Tuazon. Small world, huh? I've been banging the drum for Elk's Run for, what, a year now? And just like that I meet one of Tuazon's early (and continuing) collaborators at a Con. Caleb was really cool and I'm looking forward to reading this.

Feed America's Children featuring Major Impact, from Wildcard Productions and featuring artwork by Darick Robertson, Phil Winslade, Scott Kolins, Brandon McKinney, Ron Lim, Keiron Dwyer, C.P. Smith, Paul Harmon, Norm Breyfogle, P. Craig Russell, Joe Jusko, Jimmy Palmiotti, and good ol' Rafael Navarro, who tried to slip Molly the tongue at the Isotope party after the con.

A free postcard from Joshua Ellingson, whose artwork was incredible but out of my budget.

Towards a Hot Jew: the Israeli soldier as fetish object by Miriam Libicki, whose jobnik! #4 I reviewed Friday. This one is described as a "drawn essay" and has a more photorealistic art style, so I'm curious to see how she switches it up here.

East Coast Rising, the first in a new manga series by Becky Cloonan and my first Tokyopop purchase ever. It was gonna take Becky to do it, to make me break down like that. A look at the original art she brought with her convinced me it was a must-buy.

Burying Sandwiches by Rob Sato. Rob's got a really wild, original style to his artwork (preview pages are up at the website) and the story I picked up from flipping through just a couple pages seemed accessible and unique at the same time, so eight bucks seemed a really fair price for this original graphic novel.

The Waiting Sun by Justin Madson, who had a really impressive spread: gorgeous framed art prints to grab my eye, trade collections of his Happy Town series, single issues for the tight budgets, and a "box set" including pretty much everything on the table for a mere twenty-five bucks. I got this done-in-one trade for five bucks because, again, Justin suffered from being an early stop in my travels, but this Kochalkaesque stuff looks great. My good buddy Joe Keatinge picked up the box set, so I'll be looking to pick his brain about how the rest of the stuff worked out.

Red Magic: Houdini's Secret by Ed Sams. These guys had a lot of interesting chapbooks for sale, and I went with Houdini because, well, I've been looking to read up on the guy for a while now and this seemed like just my chance.

Grizzled Comics featuring John Wayne Dixon, Gritty Tales of Espionage and Danger, and Girl Friday book one, all by Kyle Strahm. This guy had an awesome art style that reminded me of Kyle Hotz and Eduardo Risso, and he did something I thought was cool - you know how artists get all self-concious and have a hard time pimping out their shit sometimes? Kyle found a way to twist that to his advantage. "That's my earliest stuff you're looking at; I'm really excited about the new book [Girl Friday] because I think I've changed my style a lot and I'm a lot happier with it." See, what he did there? I'm not happy with this one quickly twists into You should really see this one! Much more effective salesmanship than simple self-criticism.

Break #6: Catch Me If and Break #7: Over and Over by Briana Miller. I picked up and really enjoyed Briana's Walk Like Tall Birds (Break #5, apparently) last year, which featured a touching marionette love story between an elephant and a giraffe. It was nice to see her return to the show with two new comics, and she seemed pretty excited about them, so they're at the top of my read pile.

The Homeless Channel #2 by Matt Silady, who you may remember won the Rob Osborne original art poetry contest I ran when I first got started blogging last march. Matt's a really cool guy and super-excited about his book; big smile on his face as he told me folks were comparing his progress between issues #1 (last year) and #2 (this year) as moving from Brian Bendis towards Tony Harris. I can see what they were getting at and I'm psyched to see where Matt's gonna go with this.

Other Days #1 by Brian Fukushima had a guy who looks like an old friend of mine and Molly's on the cover, which was why Molly picked it up and showed it to me. But I opened it and really liked the interior art style and the coloring, so it had to go in the haul. Damn coincidences.

Fistman #2: Fistman Fears Fish by Joseph Bergin III was a purchase that came from a big balls exhibitor move: as I walked past, glancing from several feet away at Joseph's table, he saw my glance at held out a copy of his book - "Would you like to take a look?" Could've come off desperate and sad, but instead came off gutsy and confident. It's all in the delivery, friends. Anyway, the book itself looks pretty funny, and the character design for Fistman is cute.

Diary of a Catering Whore by Sean Seamus McWhinny (Christ, you think that guy might be Chinese?), whose Head Trip I bought at my LCS months ago. I enjoyed that one - a book about his father's descent into Alzheimer’s - so I figured I'd check out this tale of terror in the service industry.

A zodiac calendar by Chris Koehler, just because his sketchbook - laying flat, front and center - was so awesome I wanted to bring some of his art home.

Death By Sexy version 1.2 by Evan Keeling was a cool find for two reasons - Evan's part of the D.C. Conspiracy with Quality Control amigo Jason Rodriguez, and he's got a really righteous (and ambitious) concept for the book. These are all concert posters for the band Death By Sexy, which have to include the time, date and ticket price of each show, and Evan's trying to connect all these posters into an ongoing story in which each poster is one full page. Pretty wild, huh? I'm looking forward to checking it out.

A really gorgeous postcard-sized art print by Jaime Zollars, whose stuff you should really look for. Lots of samples at the link; if Jaime ever does sequential work, this kind of thing would fit really nicely in one of the Flight books.

Arsenic Lullaby: The Donut Cometh by Doug Paszkiewicz was a highlight, of course, as was seeing Doug again. This book is essentially the second volume of "the complete" series (first was Year of the Fetus), which pretty well catches us all up on his current work. Arsenic Lullaby has been a bit slow to release lately, which Doug told me is because he's been picked up for some word in Mad Magazine, starting this month. Holy shit! I couldn't be more psyched for the guy. If you're not into baby killing or holocaust humor, this ain't for you (Ross), but if you are secretly a horrible, evil person, this will have you rolling.

And finally, the book I was perhaps the most excited to find was Fragile Prophet by Jeff Davidson and Stephen R. Buell of Lost In The Dark Press. I did a fairly extensive review of the advance of the first issue I picked up last year, and they quoted me on the back of their trade collection! The story's complete, the collection is printed (and it's beautiful, complete with adjustments to the lettering, which I'd criticized as being unclear in the first issue), and it really comes together as a story. This one's getting a full review for sure, but the short and fat of it is: fantastic.

Amazing year, everyone. The bar has been seriously raised. Thanks for it.


This guy did a big college report on Cameron Stewart, and specifically his work on the upcoming Vertigo series The Other Side, and got some preview art I haven't seen yet. He's blogged it to us all here.


I've told y'all to watch out for Jason McNamara - he's a dangerous conversationalist - and there's a bit of evidence now online in the form of his recent interview with Newsarama.

Clever bits like this:

Every time we want, fear or express something we shape the world. Society isn’t something prefabricated, that can be delivered to your house on top of a pizza. We’re all culpable.

And a couple really cool "how I met..." stories, including his Larry Young story:

Back in 2004 a local television show decided to spotlight the best in Bay Area Cartoonists. It featured interviews with big shots like Batman writer Judd Winick, AiT-PlanetLar publisher Larry Young and… us. We were supposed to go on before Larry Young. But Tony and I got super nervous and had to stop off for a bottle of Gentlemen’s Jack first. We showed up ninety minutes late completely hammered. I nervously called Larry Young “Larry King” like fifty times. We mumbled and cursed our way through the interview, hit on the host and then left to go to work at our day jobs.



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