Featuring 350 exhibitors across 275 booths, the indie comics convention Alternative Press Expo (APE) is returning to San Jose for the first time in 15 years on October 3rd and 4th. With prominent names such as Jhonen Vasquez and Jason Shiga, as well as countless individuals who are doing art and comics for themselves, APE promises to be “like having the internet right in front of you. You will find things there that you didn’t even know existed,” says Dan Vado—founder of APE and owner of SLG Publishing and its storefront, Art Boutiki.
Founded in 1994, Vado says APE is “the physical stage on which people who might not ordinarily get seen, can get seen,” citing classic cases like Vasquez and Shiga who exhibited at APE years ago and eventually became leaders in the comics and animation world. “This could be a preview into the future,” Vado adds excitedly.
The very first APE took place in Parkside Hall behind the Tech Museum, near the San Jose Convention Center. It featured around 50 exhibitors, and approximately 500 people came to see their work. In 1995, Vado gave APE to Comic-Con, who moved it to San Francisco in 2000. Shortly after APE 2014—which held almost 400 exhibitors and vendors, as well as an estimated 6,000 attendees—Vado announced that APE was being handed back to him and moving back to San Jose.
Many people were unhappy about the move, questioning the validity of APE in San Jose, but Vado reassured them that although San Jose would be different, it would be better in the long run for APE. Vado points out that not only is it cheaper to come to and stay in San Jose, but that artists are moving out of San Francisco because of gentrification. “San Jose,” he says, “is a city that supported APE’s move from San Francisco back to San Jose. They wanted to help us get it off the ground, so the Creatives Industries Incentive Fund (CIIF) gave us a small grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs.”
With a city ready to build its artistic community, San Joseans only need to prove that they are just as interested. “My biggest concern is no one will come out,” Vado says, despite the great line-up he has put together for 2015. Tickets are $15 for one day and $20 for two days. There will be various events and panels, plus a Café Stritch APE Party on October 3rd.
The Four Must-Sees at APE 2015
Known for drawing ironic and eccentric happy faces on his characters that are trapped in a world of chaos and darkness, Jhonen Vasquez started off his comics and animation career right here in San Jose. Growing up on the Eastside, Vasquez’s first comic, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, was published under SLG. He later added the spin-offs Squee! and I Feel Sick, and then went on to work for Nickelodeon on the television series Invader Zim. His style is known for being thin and geometric, almost like stick figures, with insane protagonists living in dysfunctional societies who tend to fall into the black comedy genre.
Known for his use of mysteries, mathematical puzzles, and unconventional, interactive narrative techniques, Jason Shiga has been drawing comics out of Oakland since 1996, citing APE as one of his biggest influences from his early career. With five graphic novels, twenty comic books, and dozens of magazine and newspaper strips under his belt, Shiga has made a name for himself in the comics world. He has worked for Nickelodeon Magazine, drawing and writing several comics for the company, including beloved characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Fairly Odd Parents. His newest project, Demon, is a 750-page science fiction epic, which Shiga just announced that First Second Books has agreed to publish.
For Mark Badger, the world presents itself as a comic panel. From the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s, Badger worked for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and First covering prominent characters like Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men, and more, until his style became too personal. His two current projects are William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a comic book adaptation of the play that “explores the tensions between speech and visualization,” and Abstract Kirby, a comic book story without words or representational content—what Badger deems a “pure comics experience” of sensual pleasure.
Last Gasp Comics
Based out of San Francisco, Last Gasp is an underground comics publisher and distributor with notable artists, including Tim Biskup, Richard Corben, Ron English, Justin Green, Bill Griffith, and many more. Founded in the 1970s, Last Gasp has always done interesting things and explored new topics. Last Gasp’s early successes include the ecologically-themed Slow Death Funnies and the all-female anthology It Ain’t Me Babe. Last Gasp also published some of the first books about West Coast punk and explored women’s liberation and left-wing politics in other publications.
Written by Giselle Tran