I wake up on Saturday mornings to find my television infested with cute and cuddly characters. Last weekend I couldn’t take it anymore. Surely there was a place where I could find safe haven from such monstrous creations. Luckily, San Francisco was hosting the Alternative Press Expo.
The Alternative Press Expo (APE) is an annual showcase for small press and self-published comics, minicomics, and zines. Among this year’s guests happened to be Jhonen Vasquez, creator of such titles as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim. He was there to celebrate the 10th anniversary of JTHM and, as an added bonus, the new issue of his infamous Fillerbunny was available for purchase. His previous Fillerbunny comics were drawn in one to two nights. This latest installment diverged both in the amount of time and effort it took Vasquez to produce. Aside from lavishly painted and colored sequences, fans can rest easy knowing that Fillerbunny once again has a cute playmate in the form of baby friend Aborto. The core storyline of endless anguish remains.
I braved my place in line alongside the rabid fanatics so I could get Vasquez to sign my comics and draw Fillerbunny in my sketchbook. Later, Vasquez held a Q&A panel that proved both entertaining and informative. A female fan once sent a package to him that was intercepted by his publishers when the box began to leak red fluid. Inside the box was the freshly killed carcass of a squirrel. Vasquez explained how his humble origins with comic books began after seeing a Slave Labor Graphics advertisement on late-night television. A quick trip to their office with his portfolio and the rest is bloody, vomit-encrusted history.
Afterward, I had the chance to look around the rest of the building to see what else APE had to offer. There were plenty of independent creators and titles to be found, but I made sure to stop at the Flight Anthology booth. This graphic novel contains a myriad of colorful stories by an equally diverse group of creators. These talented individuals have been continually gathering sales and praise for their work ever since their first book’s debut last year. Flight Volume 2 mixes returning talent like former Daily Nexus artists Kazu Kibuishi, Rad Sechrist and Catia Chen with new contributors such as Jeff Smith (BONE), Michele Gagne (“The Iron Giant”) and Don Hertzfeld (“Rejected”). Yeah, you heard me. Flight Volume 2 remains easily accessible in tone for all ages without losing its maturity or needing to dumb itself down. I can’t properly describe how it feels seeing former co-workers juxtaposed with more established members of the comic community.
APE exposes a part of the comic industry normally hidden from view by an over-saturation of superhero titles. It remains the best place to find new creative talent in a quickly stagnating industry.