Alternative Press Expo showcases indie publishers

Nick Moone

Kate Beaton, author and illustrator of the book and web comic Hark, A Vagrant!, is one of the showcased artists at the Alternative Press Expo held at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco on Sunday, Oct. 2. Photo by Nick Moone.

There is an unbridled energy that surges from the imagination of an artist into his work. When given free creative control, this power can give birth to romance, intrigue and epically awesome fight scenes, sometimes all on one page.

Saturday and Sunday Oct. 1-2, the Concourse Exhibition Center hosted the 18th annual Alternative Press Expo, a showcase for independent and alternative creators and publishers ranging from web comics to individual artists.

More important than the base atmosphere and cool things to buy, APE represents a do-it-yourself attitude and a way of creation that makes it truly unique from other conventions.

APE is a subsidiary convention of Comic-con International, which hosts Comic-con as well as Wondercon in an attempt to educate about comic book artists and history. APE, focusing on alternative comics and art, is a much smaller convention, boasting less than a quarter of Comic-Con’s 125,000 person attendance cap.

Elaine Leon, writer and illustrator of the independent comic “Zombie Romance,” said that the ability to create her own stories and be instrumental in their creation was an essential part of her writing.

“Having a character that already exists is boring for me,” Leon said. “It’s selfish of me but as much as I’d like to collaborate, I really do love doing it all.”

Leon, excited to have two abandoned tables next to her own, covered them with a roll of paper and invited passerby to draw. She said she loved getting people to draw because it was fun, positive and allowed them to create their own art and get involved.

With the do-it-yourself mentality there is a lot more freedom than working for a larger company like Marvel or DC Comics. Rather than working with pre-created worlds and characters, artists and writers can take the reins on their own creativity and run with it.

“It’s your own voice from start to finish and your own passion project. I get to tell the stories that I want to tell,” said Alexis E. Fajardo, creator of the comic ‘Kid Beowulf.’ “Batman, Superman, and Spiderman just aren’t that compelling to me because those stories have already been told.”

For independent projects like Fajardo’s, the road is not necessarily easy; with creative control comes a lot more placed on his plate.

Although he has a publisher to produce his books, Fajardo said he attends six to 10 conferences a year to promote his project that he started back in 2001.

Jacob Sulay, a student at the San Francisco Art Institute, said that although this was the first convention he had ever attended, the variety created by independent artists did not disappoint him.

“I really like how it’s unique, that it’s its own thing,” Sulay said. “There are so many independent styles rather than just being one big superhero theme.”

For some independent artists, especially for web comics, a majority of funding comes from sale of merchandise as well as advertising and appearances.

Tom Neely, creator of works such as “The Wolf and “The Blot,” publishes his own books but only because he also works as a freelance animator for Disney.

While freelance animation is his day job, Neely said his independent works are what he enjoys most.

“I’m not interested in working with other people’s characters,” Neely said. “Independent is a lot more work but I’m getting better at it. I’d like to think and I’m having more fun with it.” SF State alumnus and conference attendee Robert Radkins said he loved the energy of APE because it really bolstered his creative energy.

Radkins, previously a physics major who left SF State before graduating, said he has more time now to pursue his artistic endeavors.

“I’m writing my own comic book and I’ve had the idea since high school,” Radkins said. “This is smaller, which is nice because the artists are there and I can see how it’s all done on a smaller scale.”

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