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Going APE for Indie Comics

October 24th, 2009

Okay, that was an awful pun, but I couldn’t resist. Last weekend Brett and I headed out to APE (Alternative Press Expo) to see what was new in comics beyond the world of Marvel and DC. Turns out the answer to that question is mostly of the horror genre. Zombies, vampires, witches, ghosts, daemons… zombie-vampires… ghost-daemons… and Simpson’s knockoffs. Not exactly my thing. But all was not lost, for among the wasteland of teenage vampire love triangles were a few precious gems.

I found a publisher who translates Japanese manga teaching manuals into English on technical topics like physics and calculus. Each one has a cast of characters with different problems which are solve by use of the book’s subject matter. Much to my eternal joy, they had a book on databases which I quickly snatched up for my, erm, collection. They were also selling copies of XKCD Volume 0, but I had just received mine direct in the mail a few days earlier.

Another publisher was selling sophisticated choose-your-own-adventure books that were mildly interesting. But what really struck out about this particular booth was a contest to win a new book if you could solve three brain teasers. I grabbed a copy of the puzzles and spent the rest of the convention coming up with solutions. The first puzzle, a chess board where you had to find mate for White in two moves, wasn’t very challenging… though there was a trick I had failed to see involving whether or not Black could castle. But that didn’t mater, as the moves I indicated were still correct. The second challenge had me ordering a series of seven polaroid photos, each taking on a different consecutive day of the week. Some of the photos had other photos in them and others had calendar page. It was pretty challenging to figure out, but there were just enough clues to solve and it was most satisfying.

The final challenge was, erm… debatable. We were tasked to argue that at any time there is at least one spot on Mars where the antipode has the exact same temperature and elevation. Brett and I struggled with this problem for quite sometime eventually deciding it simply wasn’t possible and that all we had to do was argue something so we wrote down some BS and turned it in for grading. Well, the dude back at the booth had a crazy theory about how you could prove the temperature and elevation were independently equal somewhere, and then employed a logical fallacy to argue that these points must eventually coincide. His first argument, proving temperature and elevation independently, was actually pretty good, but fails to account of the existence of limits (sheer cliffs or sudden drops in temperature) such that there is no guarantee that even those parts were true. Suffice to say, we didn’t believe him, he didn’t believe us, and I didn’t win a free copy of the book.

But I did not walk away from the convention a loser! We attended the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s charity “art-off”, where attending artists drew sketches on subjects suggested by the audience that were then raffled off. I bought just one ticket, more as a donation than anything else… and wouldn’t you know, I won something. I’m picking it up this Tuesday and will be sure to post a picture. Don’t get your hopes up too high.

Lastly, I went over to the TopatoCo booth where the writer and photographer for a Softer World were selling books. I was really excited to buy a copy of Overqualified and get it signed by Joey, the author. Sadly, this was not to be. Joey had stepped out just before I bought my copy… and though I was told he would be back, he was never there each time I circled by to check. The booth proprietors also suffered from a common problem at these conventions where they are more interested in their friends than the fans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they were all really nice people, but clearly they were more interested in chitchatting amongst themselves than actually talking to me I rarely try to talk to the booth people mostly because I don’t have anything to say and I figure they have more interesting things to do than talk with random fans. But I had hoped Softer World would be different, since its played an important role in my life these past years… alas, no. So, sour experience at the booth and an unsigned copy of Overqualified. Kind of a bummer way to end the convention, but at least I won my art-off sketch!

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