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October 17, 2016

Alternative Press Expo 2016: Expressions of Passion, Energy and Love

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The Alternative Press Expo in San Jose, California, took place on a beautiful day where the golden light was like something out of a Maxfield Parrish painting. On October 8 and 9, 2016, The San Jose Convention Center was the scene of yet another great APE get-together. The Alternative Press Expo is the premier show for authors and artists in an intimate venue offering visitors lots of opportunities to meet with exhibitors previewing new and newish contributions to the comic medium with dips into every genre. In the words of APE’s creator, Dan Vado, “APE was created for people who have the need, for people who would create what they create even when there is zero money and a minuscule audience...” Artists who bring “passion, energy and love...to their craft and the media of comics.”

So let’s start with a nod to Halloween. Goblin Hood & His Merry Monsters by Peter Timony, Bobby Timony and Matthew Wilson (Twin Comics 2016) tells the story of a group of monsters banished from the bad crowd for doing good deeds. Modeled on the story of Robin Hood, Goblin Hood and his gang set out to right wrongs and rescue the fair, or not so fair in this case. His band consists of a banshee banished from her clan for her sunny disposition, a not-so-giant giant, Friar Muck, the fox-like Will Muttley, and, of course, Goblin’s true love, Fey Faerion. The two full-color stories gathered in this collection offer rescued damsels and follow the antics of the none-too-swift villains sure to delight any young goblin this season.

Model-A: Book Two by Jef Bambas (SLG Pub 2013) offers a delightful second installment of the adventures of a spirited robot. The black-and-white artwork, reminiscent of Peter Kuper, highlights the slapstick action of the intrepid Model A. A wordless comic, but hardly quiet, our hero is pushed around by the up-and-coming Model Bs. If you have ever watched an episode of the silent-era Keystone Cops, you will recognize their antics in this fast-paced battle of wits (and fists) where the fight over a gun leads to a witty ending that leaves one laughing (yes, out loud).

A newcomer to APE was John Hopkins and his award-winning Lost Cactus strip (www.lostcactus.com), which presents comics that are politically astute without preaching and offer a slice of life from inside the lab. What about the $500 Pentagon hammer, secret warehouses ala Raiders of the Lost Ark, clones and all those secret experiments? The four-color artwork and storytelling reminded this reader of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, engaging in laboratory satire poking fun at the bureaucratic money pit of certain government entities.

Coming all the way from Chicago, writer Daejuan Jacobs showcased his work, Fractal (fractalcomic.com), a gritty, futuristic novel where the government has taken over everything --- possibly even your memories. The artwork by Buci Szalontay is beautiful. Dark edges combined with light colors create a future that is stunning to see. This thriller involves the one-government world of our future where geopolitical terrorism is an everyday event.

The Cartoon Art Museum is still looking for a permanent home (shhh, there should be an announcement soon), while offering all kinds of classes and presenting cartoon panels at various venues. Fall classes include Character Creation for Adults, Visual Story Design for Adults, and panels on Our Girls are Super Heroes with a #morethancute photo op scheduled October 30 at Yuerba Buena Gardens. More information can be found at www.cartoonart.org.

There were a variety of panels offered at APE, including a presentation by Gene Luen Yang, a 2016 MacArthur Genius Grant winner and the creator of AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, BOXERS AND SAINTS, writer of The Last Airbender, and currently a writer for DC’s Superman and The New Superman. If that’s not enough, he is also the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the Library of Congress.

This is one of my favorite shows since it focuses on the creators, artists and writers of comics, both old and new, and presents a sneak peek into works coming our way from people all across the country, artists passionate about what they do. From fairy tales to sci-fi, this year’s crop offers a myriad of reading fare to keep us engaged now and intrigued by future offerings by people we hope to hear from soon.