Alternative Press Expo 2012

Lu Han/Staff

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Comic Book Education

The creativity of the art on display in the Concourse Exhibition Center was enough to inspire anyone to pick up a pencil and start doodling. When asked how they got their start, many artists revealed that they were self-taught, but a vast majority had some kind of background in arts education. Jai Granofsky, author and artist of “Little Men in Little Boxes,” graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, where he got to create his own original comic book as part of his thesis project for the two-year masters program.

“We learned a lot about design, formatting, staging and everything,” Granofsky explained. “It’s a real academic way of looking at comics.”

Tucked into the corner of the exposition were the folks from the Animation Collaboration, an Emeryville  animation school that focuses on “a la carte education” with animators from Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney.

Grace Lovio

Erik Drooker

New York native Eric Drooker may have painted several covers for The New Yorker and contributed to the film adaptation of famous Allen Ginsberg poem “Howl,” but on Saturday afternoon, he surprised APE attendees with a completely different medium of art: banjo playing. Drooker plucked along in accompaniment to a slideshow of some of his more renowned work, which takes a cynical yet affectionate view on quotidian New York life.

“Every picture tells a story,” he said. “Even if it’s just one picture … it’s still narrative art.”

Drooker shared several clips from his animated sequences from Howl. Most notable among them was an apocalyptic scene of parents offering up their children to the minotaur  Moloch, mythical god of war. The  artist laughingly explained his unique sense of animated tragedy, saying, “Fuckers aren’t gonna see this in a Pixar film.”

— Grace Lovio


Torn between geeking out over comics and geeking out over technology? There’s an app for that. Bay Area startup company Emanata is “a comic and visual story reader” that allows readers to access original comics from up-and-coming artists right on their iPad.

“It’s like YouTube for independent comics,” said Emanata CEO George Chen.  “All the content is pretty much free to read.  It’s up to the artist to decode if they want to charge for content or, to gain more exposure, send us the work for free. We have about 150 titles and about 40 to 50 artists.”

Die-hard comic fans may object to adapting what is traditionally a printed art form to the digital age, but Chen was assured the future of printed comics.

“There’s a coexistence of the two. It’s like when radio came out, everyone said it would replace a certain medium, but it never does. I look at this as additional to the printed comics.”

— Grace Lovio

Childhood Experiences, Adult Stories

Comic book artists and authors Miriam Libicki, Jim Woodring, Kraig Rasmussen and Derek Kirk Kim spoke to the Alternative Press Exposition attendees on Saturday about drawing on childhood experiences as inspiration for their art. Woodring, who admitted to having a “nightmarish childhood,” spoke eloquently on the subject and noted  the importance of holding onto memories even when it might be more pleasant to let them go.

“You keep that wound open and keep going back to the well. That’s your spiritual and artistic capital.”

Libicki, who writes nonfiction comics about her two years of service in the Israeli army,  encouraged young artists to hold onto all their art, regardless of quality, for use as future reference. Doing so, she said, would make it easier to access memories and fuel the writing process.

Grace Lovio

Jen Oaks

The Alternative Press Expo is a rich and diverse bastion of creativity. People come from all over the place — Portland, Canada, etc. — to visit and display artistic expression. But, there is still beauty and intrigue to be found nearby. Berkeley to be specific. Enter artist Jen Oaks.

Oaks also graduated from San Francisco’s prestigious Academy of Art in 2009 and now makes a living as an illustrator. I had heard of Oaks before. If you frequent “HOOT!” — a musically-themed open mic event — at Albany’s St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, you might be familiar with her vivid poster designs. With a penchant for bold colors and a retro, whimsical character style reminiscent of other local favorite, Daniel Clowes, Oaks has also ventured into the world of comics with the wonderful “Employee of the Year” (written by Will Scovill). Not to mention she also sells hand-drawn “Twin Peaks” buttons on her Etsy account.

— Jessica Pena

Catbutt City

Like its larger, more congested brother, Comic-Con, the Alternative Press Expo can be entirely overwhelming. You walk in, you see so many cool drawings, fascinating artists, projects and stories that you simply don’t know where to begin. That’s how I felt, until I saw a name on the catalog of exhibitors I just couldn’t ignore: “Cat Butt.” I had no choice. This was my destiny.

It turns out “Cat Butt” stands in for “Catbutt City” — a vendor of, you guessed it, cat butt-related merchandise. Hats, shirts, mugs, stickers were all there, with the same, single image of a glorious cat’s behind. You may be thinking to yourself: “But Jessica, with all the variety at APE, why would you highlight Catbutt City?” I’ll tell you why fine people. Catbutt City represents what’s so great about APE. At the bottom of it, it’s a place for everyone and everything — cat butts included.

Jessica Pena

Contact Jessica at [email protected] and contact Grace at [email protected]