Well, today I visited the Alternative Press Expo, lovingly called APE, for the first time. As my wife put it, I was suddenly in the big pond, and I was most definitely the small fish. When I first walked in, I was a little shaky. Almost like I wanted to turn around and walk out. There weren’t that many people there, yet, and I felt like I couldn’t blend in enough and remain invisible. People were still too eager sitting behind their tables wondering if the day would prove to be a successful day of marketing, sharing, and networking. I promised myself I wouldn’t stop at any table yet, I would just walk around looking at them all. After doing this for about an hour, I stumbled upon the limited edition book put out by Dice Tsutsumi of the Totoro Forest project organized to raise money for a foundation in Tokyo to save a Janpanese forest. All the contibutors donated their work and over $200,000 was raised. They were mostly animators inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, many working at Pixar now. My favorites are Peter Nguyen and Andrea Blasich, but there are many artists on the website to peruse.
I also purchased the new Best American Comics edited by Lynda Barry. I managed to also get Eric Haven’s, Jaime Hernandez, and Matt Groening’s signatures in the edition! What a treat. I bought the Summer 2007 edition of MOME, a quarterly put out by Fantagraphics in Seattle, that featured Jonathan Bennet, a gentle, sophisticated Brooklyn illustrator and Designer whose understated brilliance was apparent in his signature. Perhaps I’ll scan it for everyone to see how adorable his drawing was. It’s fun getting signatures of comic book artists because they do drawings…
I listened to a great panel given by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden about their new textbook, Drawing Words, Writing Pictures. It was an inspiring discussion about how to teach the making of comics at the college level. Something I would love to teach someday.
My two favorite conversations were with Reynold Kissling, a kid just out of his BFA at MCAD in Minneapolis with his book Kingwood Himself (the cover’s pictured above). The girl character is fantastic, and his environments are really inspiring. He said he spent a year just working on environments. It really shows. The places this girl goes are fantastic. He’ll go far and he was willing to trade his mini anthology for a mini copy of Sydney Arthur. Then my conversation with Ken Dahl (that’s really his name, I think!) was great. He just finished up a fellowship at the Center for Cartoon studies and won an Ignatz award for his first two mini comics Monsters. He’s been picked up by a publisher and will be diving into the rest of the book soon after his move back to Hawaii.
I could go on and on, but mainly what I learned is this is a great physical place to promote comics and illustration careers in an indy, but doable way. I could see really getting a start this way. I’m definitely going to get a table next year and sell something. We’ll just have to see what’s finished by then. I think I’m also better off serializing the graphic novel instead of trying to finish it as a complete book. That way, I could potentially get picked up by a publisher before it’s done and would spend less on printing in the mean time and create beautiful collectible smaller books. There were many great examples of that today.
Overall, I was overwhelmed. I was in a state of panic after just an hour there and had to calm down on the phone with my wife who helped me come up with a game plan for how to get through the day. I was surrounded by people I was dying to know, and yet I was terrified to get to know them. I felt clumsy trying to trade or compare myself in any way to them, but managed to have more good encounters than not. The bad ones were merely awkward. I can handle that.
I spent a lot of money on new books, but I think I’ll be glad I did. As my friend Roger told me when I called him for moral support, I need to begin investing in collecting so that I feel like I’m participating in the community that exists out there. Instead of rising above it, I’m diving in…