Alternative Press Expo 2006

The APE returned to San Francisco last week. With hundreds of artists, writers and publishers of alternative, self-published, hand-made comics showing their latest work, I knew my one-day pass (even with its snazzy ball chain) wouldn’t give me enough time. Fortunately, I had a singular mission: Find the food.Four hours and a pocketful of cash later, my arms were overflowing with goodies.Below are some of my favorite eating-related zines, comics, cards, and miscellaneous ephemera from this year. Please support independent writers and artists–visit their sites or contact them directly for more information about their work and how to buy it.

Achewood fans will be relieved to know that, finally, the denizens of that mythical suburb–“a retarded otter, an alcoholic tiger, and two bears”–have come forward with recipes for their favorite dishes. You don’t have to know Teodor, Lyle, Mr. Bear, Philippe, Roast Beef, Ray or Pat to appreciate the transformative presentation of a Hell Baby breakfast or the diligence required for spectacular 12-Step Cookies. But it helps.

Lindy Groening‘s tiny, hand-made books are like graphic poems. Love gained and lost, adversity overcome, mistaken identity and the comfort of true love–such are the topics she explores with the spareness of her rhymes and line-drawings in Another Tragic Love Story, Chirp!, The Taste of Sweet Betrayal and Tea Time. Radish

Rigel Stuhmiller, an artist and illustrator who works on a farm during the summer, pulls gorgeous prints by hand from a Chandler & Price letterpress. Brussel sprouts, fennel, radishes, leeks–humble vegetables come to life in lino-cuts that evoke the spare, rough-hewn artistry of wood block prints.

I Like Eating collects Thien Pham’s weekly comic strip food reviews that appear in the East Bay Express food section. Pham’s ability to arc a story perfectly in 8 simple panels, his self-deprecating humor, and his lusty love for all things meat make him one of my favorite reading snacks.

Stumpytown highlights Karin Yamagiwa Madan’s kooky cast of StumpyTown Tempura Shrimpcharacters. Her collection of buttons features two especially irresistible gang of fatty foods: “Mixed Nuts” and “Fried.” Who knew a corndog could have so much personality, or that cashews nuts were so darn cute?

New Year Designs proves that you can never get enough banana-juggling monkeys or carrot-nibbling rabbits, especially for those of us who ring in the new year twice every year.

Sour Milk SeaSour Milk Sea isn’t for everyone. The adventures of Robot Melina and her appliance in crime, Toaster, include shotgun violence, an anty picnic with Mr. Nixon-doll, and the fermented head of Fermat. But if your comic sensibility jumps the gamut from sperm whales to little girls sticking their heads in their EZ-Bake ovens, then Melina Mena’s work will give you plenty of giggles between the gasps.

Hot Dog Holiday serves up meat-tube humor cover to cover. Chris Cilla’s glimpses of a day in the life of a jumbo frank, interspersed with small acts of devotion from the faithful, remind us why we love so much what is so very bad for us.

Toshiko Kamiyama and I used to see each other on Saturdays, when I was working at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She still helps out at one of the farmers booth and, in her free time, creates lovely little comics about such unforgettable experiences as surviving helmut hair and failing (three times!) the California drivers’ license test. I include her in this food list because she also sculpts amazing 3-D paper art of Japanese nigiri, English high tea and Thanksgiving turkey.

Foie Gras blends free association, Freudian symbolism and quaint cookery techniques on its lurid pink pages. This new series by Edie Fake, creator of Gaylord Phoenix, riffs on that classic, The Joy of Cooking, for the ultimate foodie fetish.

Tokkisom, a planet inhabited by various forms of fluffy creatures, appears on my list because, well, bacon and sunny-side-up eggs are a sure way to my heart. Hae Eun Park’s hand-stitched pins are as caressable as they are cute.

Worth remembering from APE 2005:SeafoodSeafood follows a yellowfin tuna from the ocean depths past fishing boats old and new to the majestic fish’s most recognizable form. Josh Frankel’s graphic story-telling is superb–the graceful flow of the journey requires not a single word. Though the lesson-cum-lecture at the end is a clumsy appendix after the previous pages’ artful silence, the information presented is important and useful.

Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

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