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APE ’12 | Saturday at the show


The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, kicked off today in San Francisco, and I made the trek up north to partake in comic culture-dom. I missed the show last year, and in fact haven’t been to a comic convention since SDCC in 2010, so it was fun to get back into the con groove. And APE is just the place to do it, with its laid back vibe and focus on making, buying and talking about comics.

Like I said, I missed last year’s show, so I have no idea how the crowds compared or the size of the place compared. Since I first started attending the show in 2007, they’ve switched up the layout of the place, and it seemed much bigger, with more exhibitors, than it has in the past. There seemed to be a bunch of people there, many with kids, and the folks exhibiting who I talked to for the most part seemed to be happy with the turn out. The weather was beautiful, which can sometimes be a hindrance; San Francisco doesn’t have that many days per year where there’s lots of sunshine and it’s very warm outside, so you never know when someone might decide to hit the park instead of, say, a convention. It’ll be interesting to hear what the CCI folks say about attendance this year

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This weekend, it’s the Alternative Press Expo

The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, returns to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco this weekend. The show’s special guests are Groo creator Sergio Aragonés, Flood creator Eric Drooker, all three legendary Hernandez Brothers, The Cardboard Valise creator Ben Katchor, jobnik! creator Miriam Libicki, and Weathercraft creator and giant pen owner Jim Woodring, all of whom have spotlight panels over the course of the two days. In addition, other guests attending the show include Shannon Wheeler, Stan Mack, Justin Hall, Derek Kirk Kim, Jason Shiga, Thien Pham, Jamaica Dyer and many more.

In addition to the spotlight panels, the show has panels on politics and comics, censorship, queer cartoonists and a “Gigantes” meet-up with the Hernandez Bros. and Aragones. They also have workshop panels if you’re interested in making comics and a “creator connection” that allows aspiring creators to find writers or artists to work with.

The show is usually one of my favorites of the year, mainly because it’s so easy going and loaded with opportunities to discover something new and cool. Here’s a round-up of some of the folks you can see and buy cool stuff from at the show, as well as things to do inside and outside of the Concourse:

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Comics A.M. | Todd McFarlane Productions emerges from bankruptcy

Todd McFarlane

Legal | Todd McFarlane Productions has emerged from bankruptcy after more than seven years, having paid more than $2.2 million to creditors, according to court documents dug up by Daniel Best. Of that, $1.1 million was part of McFarlane’s settlement with Neil Gaiman, which brought to a close the decade-long legal battle over the rights to Medieval Spawn, the heavenly warrior Angela and other characters (it’s unknown how much of that disbursement was eaten up by legal fees and how much actually went to Gaiman; the writer has publicly stated he gives money won in the proceedings to charity). Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004 following the $15 million court award to former NHL player Tony Twist, who sued over the use of his name in Spawn for the mob enforcer Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli. McFarlane and Twist settled in 2007 for $5 million. [20th Century Danny Boy]

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Strangeways: The Thirsty to quench parched comics shops in April

Strangeways: The Thirsty

Matt Maxwell announced yesterday that his second Strangeways graphic novel, The Thirsty will be in the upcoming Previews catalog under the order code item FEB121066. For those not familiar with it, Strangeways is a series of horror-Western graphic novels written by Maxwell and drawn by Argentinian artists Gervasio and Jok. The first Strangeways novel, Murder Moon plunked former Union officer Seth Collins into the Weird West to confront a werewolf; The Thirsty brings him to a new town infested with vampires.

Maxwell has serialized The Thirsty here on Robot 6 and is currently doing so again on his own site (where you can also read Murder Moon in its entirety), but this will be the first time it’s available in print.

Matt Maxwell announces third Strangeways book

Around here, we’re big fans of Strangeways, Matt Maxwell’s series of horror-Western graphic novels. Maxwelll’s practically family, having serialized his second book The Thirsty on Robot 6, so it’s exciting that he’s now announced the third volume. Whereas Murder Moon was a werewolf tale and The Thirsty featured vampires, The Land Will Know is all about the ghosts. Maxwell calls it “the campfire ghost story reinvented” and describes it as sort of an EC-inspired anthology, but with a bridge story that ties the individual tales together into a single piece.

He’s started announcing artists for the various stories, but more details will be coming later. Gervasio and Jok (who’ve both worked on Strangeways before) will be drawing the bridge story as well as one of the other tales. Benjamin Dewey (Dark Horse Presents), Tom Neely (The Blot, The Wolf), and Tom Fowler (Venom) will each be doing stories as well. Check out Maxwell’s website for more details, samples of the artists’ work, and future updates.

Quote of the day | What superhero movies and superhero video games have in common

Honestly, most comic book movies feel like most tie-in-videogames do. Those things get made to service the trademark. They aren’t very good games. There’s nothing amazing going on in innovation or gameplay. They’re cool because you get to roleplay Batman kicking skulls in or the like. I’m sure they’re entertaining enough, but they’re not memorable above and beyond that.

Strangeways writer (and Robot 6 veteran) Matt Maxwell, with a comparison that really clarified a lot of things for me about the pleasures and disappointments of superhero movies. Fatherhood has done to my movie-going time what I do to about 20 diapers a day and thrown it right in the garbage, but I’ve looked forward to and seen a lot of these flicks over the years, and on an alternate Earth I’d have seen two more already this summer in the form of Thor and X-Men: First Class, with another two, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger soon to join them. I’ve disliked many of them. I’ve liked some of them. I’ve liked a handful — the Marvel Studios suite of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 — well enough to own them on DVD. But with the exception of the first Tim Burton Batman movie, I’ve never seen one that offers the never-seen-that-before sensation that superhero comics still regularly afford you, if you know where to look.

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Robot 666 | A Weird and Scratching Beauty: The Art of John Coulthart and Call of Cthulhu

Lovecraft is a hard act to follow, and an even harder one to adapt. “Oh you mean HP Lovecraft, the guy who came up with Cthulhu and all those cute little plush toys.” Yeah, the guy who launched a thousand little cottage industries pumping out VOTE FOR CTHULHU: THE STARS ARE RIGHT bumper stickers and Mythos Hunting Guides and all that stuff. Yeah, him. I do wonder if he’d be tickled or appalled at his legacy and all the eldritch dust-catchers and t-shirts and radio plays.

Well, he’d probably like the radio plays. He’d probably have even approved of the silent film adaptation of THE CALL OF CTHULHU, arguably his single most famous piece of fiction, certainly the one that’s lodged most deeply in the collective consciousness, for good or for ill. The film adaptation ( for the IMDB page, and it’s streaming on Netflix) gets a solid recommendation from me, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m pretty hard to please as this stuff goes. Not because I think Lovecraft’s every word is sacred and perfect. I don’t. My relationship with HPL’s work is problematic, mostly in terms of the execution. I like characters. I like it when characters drive the plot. HPL couldn’t be bothered with that by and large, except when it was an incessant curiosity on the part of the players that made the eldritch secrets of the plot unfurl to their almost unerringly messy conclusions.

So I find HPL’s conceptual work rightly celebrated even if I find his prose nigh-unimpenetrable at times. Which is why I’m often attracted to adaptations of his work, where creators have a desire to stick to the template that HPL laid out, and often there’s some sense of respect for the source material, but it’s filtered through a different sense of aesthetics. HPL-inspired stuff that stars HPL himself? Not so much. Though there was that beautifully-illustrated LOVECRAFT OGN with art by Enrique Breccia that was so wonderful that I simply didn’t care about the story. Though I suppose there’s an interesting vein to mine when talking about Lovecraft as fictional construct rather than historical figure, but that’s for someone else to do.

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Strangeways teaser: “Red Hands”



Matt Maxwell, writer of the comic Strangeways that we’ve been serializing here all year, provides a bit of glimpse into the past and future of the series with this teaser image from a story called “Red Hands.”

Matt explains the image:

From the final chapter of The Thirsty, which tells the tale of Raphael Guzman de Medina,also known as the terror of Drytown and Cedar Creek. “Red Hands” tells the story of how he went from being a simple merchant’s son to a monster, driven by his own thirsts and his inability to keep them in check.

Oh, and in Strangeways, vampires don’t run from the church. Instead, they burn churches down.

Look for “Red Hands” to begin after the fifth chapter of “The Thirsty” wraps up this spring.

The art is by Luis Guragna, better known as the main artist from Strangeways: Murder Moon, from Matt Maxwell’s script. Get caught up on Strangeways right here.

Strangeways: Murder Moon named best local graphic novel by Sacramento News & Review

Murder Moon cover, dig?

Murder Moon cover, dig?

Congratulations to our own Matt Maxwell, whose graphic novel Strangeways: Murder Moon was named best local graphic novel by the Sacramento News & Review, the local independent paper.

“We’ve got some serious local talent when it comes to comics and graphic novels (including artist Sam Kieth, who lives up in the foothills), so it’s no surprise that every so often a graphic novel crosses the transom that looks pretty damn good,” the write-up says. “Strangeways: Murder Moon, the first in a series written by El Dorado Hills resident Matt Maxwell, is a genre bender that adds to werewolf mythology and transforms the traditional Western. The slightly retro black-and-white drawings are stark but detailed. It’s extremely unnerving and just right for this horror-slash-oater story of a Confederate veteran out to stop a family curse. Maxwell’s going places—and not just to Rocklin, either.”

Be sure to check out the follow-up, The Thirsty, right here at Robot 6.

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