by Amy Crocker

For all the off-color topics explored in the comics at the Alternative Press Expo, the convention itself was downright professional. Maybe it was the dark wood paneled walls of The Concourse Exhibition Center that subdued the crowd, but there was nothing of the costumed mayhem of San Diego Comic Con. Attendees approached tables with a very serious devotion to the subject matter.

APE is a rare chance for independent artists to emerge from behind their webcomics and try to build an audience, or, cross fingers, make money. The majority of exhibitors were self-published and self-promoted. Their wares ranged from posters to stapled booklets to hard covers. Tables often had free candy, free postcards, booklets for 50 cents - anything to get the customer to linger.

Jesse Baggs, ( advertised that he would draw anything for a dollar. I asked for a San Francisco superhero. He came back with “Trans-America Man,” a variation on one of his hipster characters. It works, he explained, because hipsters and superheroes both wear tight clothing. Then in true marketer fashion, he turned the conversation to his stapled together booklet, “How Hipsters are like Superheroes.” In the panel discussions on webcomics and independent cartooning, artists such as Shannon Wheeler, Stephen Notley and Miriam Libnicki advised the note-taking crowd to keep a day job. Webcomics are not lucrative, they explained, and suggested making print collections of previous online work in order to monetize.