Another APE (Alternative Press Expo) has come and gone.....
This was my 13th APE in a row as an exhibitor, and there was a bit of growth going on at the Concourse Convention Center this year. The exhibit hall was actually expanded for the first time in years. Last year there were 325 exhibitors, with this year the floor map shows just over 700 tables!!
I expanded my table's selection by debuting my brand-new book, COMIC POP, as well as a selection of Muerto Sketch Dolls. New product has always been key for me at APE, having practically debuted a new comic book or mini-comic at each and every show.
Another thing you want to have at these shows are decent table neighbors (or a reasonable facsimile thereof!). Fortunately I was sitting next to A.J. Herrera & Justin White:
They're the writer and artist behind ZOMBIE KILL SQUAD, which led to the naming of our corner set-up at APE the Zombie Kill Korner (I just wrote that, we never once called it that the whole weekend!).
Positioned directly in front of me was Audra Furuichi, artist of the NEMU*NEMU webcomic.
Audra came all the way from Hawaii, and even shared with me some genuine Hawaiin candies she brought! How's that for an overcast, drizzly weekend in San Francisco?
Me and long-time pal Rafael Navarro. (Notice Rafael and I are holding our favorite purchases from APE. Me with the brand-new issue of LOVE & ROCKETS by the Hernandez Bros., Raf with a copy of his sketchbook!!)
Raf and I actually scouted out our first APE together back in 1996, when we had both decided to try out this whole self-publishing thing. We drove up North to meet other artists and exhibitors, find out about table prices and printing costs, etc. Nowadays I guess you'd just Google 'self-publishing', but back in the old days...!!
Jim Lujan, the founder of the whole Ghettomation cartoon art form that's sweeping the planet, was actually debuting as a first-time APE exhibitor!
My friend Ricardo Padilla (after I called him out for manufacturing and flagrantly wearing a bootleg El Muerto T-shirt!):
Ricardo's a great friend though (outside of his morally questionable act of piracy!), and was kind enough to host me at his home. He actually curated my solo art show earlier this year, "COMIC POP: Art by Javier Hernandez". His whole family is very supportive of my work, and his wife and daughter are true gems. Plus they always take me to the most mouth-watering food places in the city!
The always vivacious Bernyce Talley, comic book creator and illustrator:
Erik Arreaga, the infamous Phour Nyne Guy, who I've met a few years ago on the convention circuit:
Met up with several other artist friends on the floor, which always leads to some great talk about catching up with the latest goings on, as well as some neat discussions on art and craft. Nothing like talking to people in person, in this age of blogs, social networks and podcasting.
I actually expected that my sales would have reflected the growth in size of the show itself. But in retrospect, judging by the amount of actual visitors to my table, it seems that the audience may not have grown as quick as the number of new exhibitors. Mind you, I don't have the figures for attendance versus last year, so it could be that mysterious variable at play here, the one where sometimes you just do better or worse one year than the other. By the time I tallied up my sales for this weekend, this definitely wasn't my weakest showing. I know I still have some room to improve in terms of making APE my most consistently profitable show year after year.
Sunday was slow for me the first part of the day, which picked up in the afternoon. There was a flurry of sales near the very end of the show (among them, artist Brent Anderson and his family actually stopped by and bought some comics!). Talking to some of the other exhibitors, there definitely seemed to be somewhat of a softening of sales this year. Seems that the more inexpensive items sold better, which considering the still flatlined economy, is expected.
I'll be curious to see at next year's APE if the amount of exhibitors increases or contracts (I'm guessing increases, judging by the number of conventions that are experiencing a growth in table sales). But I really want to see if overall there is a marked surge in attendees.
But I will be back. This is still my favorite show to do. There are always new fans buying the books, the friendships I reconnect with once a year are always rewarding, the meals and times outside the convention hall are memorable. And the challenge to make new work, find the right mix of products to carry, will always draw me to the show.
After a great meal at Taqueria El Farolito (where I had me a humoungous Shrimp burrito) we converged at Mitchell's Ice Cream, the only place for ice cream I wait outside in the cold, late night drizzle for, year after year.
Michael Aushenker, Raul Aguirre and me. Raul, cartoonist and host of the MAN VS. ART podcast, was attending his first APE as an exhibitor. Michael was actually my carpool buddy for this trip. I think I've probably shared more rides with him to APE than anyone else. It's always a non-stop gab fest on the ride to and from LA, and the great times we have at the show always produce great memories, and great blog material!
Time to slowly be getting ready for APE 2011....