LET'S LEVEL WITH LEE!

By Lee Hester, owner of Lee's Comics of California.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

THE FURTHER DESCENT OF MAN

Still not another APE report.



As I write this, I'm back at my home in San Jose. For those of you who are not familiar with the Bay Area, it's 60 miles to the south via highway 101.



On the way home I pass right by my two store locations. Twenty miles to the south is San Mateo, where one store resides. Thirty-six miles to the south is my Mountain View store. If I wanted to, I could hop right off the freeway at Rengstorff, and be at my store in a minute. This time I pass it right by.



At one point I had a big map of Northern California. It had pins on it with all the other comics stores. I also placed pins where I planned on opening stores. My next locations were to be in San Francisco and San Jose. I even looked at locations in both areas, but those plans were put on hold. The timing was not right, or the money was not right, or the market was not right. Right now there are no plans on expansion, but there are plans at making the existing stores better.



I get home and say hello to my family. I have some dinner, and watch Sopranos with my wife Connie. Then I load up my photos. I have a habit of playing the song "The Party's Over", as sung by Blossom Dearie, after a big event. It helps me decompress and get back to normal. So I play the song again.



The Party's Over,

It's Time to call it a day.

They've burst your pretty balloon,

and taken the moon away.




Let's look at the photos:




Here's Al Gordon. He's a mellow fellow, and a fantastic artist. Like me, he hurt his leg running recently. We hobble around a bit and commiserate together. You can let a little of Al's cool rub off on you by checking out his winsome website.




Here are Ted and Robbie, the two gentlemen behind the IDW line, one of the fastest growing, and highest quality publishing houses we've seen in quite some time. They are really nice guys. I made sure to stock up on all their fine titles for the stores.




Here's a lovely photo of my friends James Sime and Kirsten Baldock, of San Francisco's own Isotope Comic Book Lounge. I always get a kick out of the fun events they put on. They are looking remarkably fresh after putting on their famous Isotope mini-comic award show the night before.




I really had a great time joking around with Rick and Debbie Geary. It's hard to tell you just how fun and witty they are. You'll just have to meet them yourself to find out!




Here's Jim Smith, co-creator of the great Ren and Stimpy! He not only cracked us up with his wild antics, like doing impressions of our favorite episodes, but he drew a picture of the famed duo for my son. Here he's getting down, and playing the theme song! Did we, or did we not have a blast? Did I, or did I not tell you to go to the APE?




Here's Camilla Pierrico, who will be taking over as artist on Slave Labor's Nightmares are Fairytales, beginning with issue #19. The art she showed us was fantastic, and we are looking forward to it. As it happens, Camillia hails from Vancouver, where much of the family and I will be visiting in just 2 weeks.




Here's a shot of our friend, Anna Warren Boersig, producer of Dorothy.




Here's Shannon Wheeler, creator of Too Much Coffee man, and his boy Austin. Shannon and I are planning on becoming the next Bialystock and Bloom.




Here's an old friend J.R. Williams. We go way back to my own alternative comics convention that I put on at the San Mateo Expo center in 1993. J.R. was putting out a comic book called "Crap" at the time. Fantagraphics was the publisher, and it was anything but Crap. I'm hoping that someone will be able to coax J.R. back into the comics world some time soon. His stuff is hysterically funny.




It was a real honor to meet Art Spiegleman the author of my all-time favorite graphic novel, Maus. He was helping to raise money for Gary Groth, publisher of Fantagraphics, who is pictured on the left. The good people of Fantagrahics are fighting a lawsuit brought on by SF writer Harlan Ellison.




I don't know who these guys were dressed as, but I loved the costumes. One of them handed me a button with a blank face on it. The other one handed me a tiny naked doll. Neither one spoke a word. Great marketing here, because it stimulates the curiosity, and does not reveal too much. I think the button had some small reference to a web site, but I don't have it handy to check. I'll just have to wonder, at lest for now.




Here's the view of the room from the balcony with one hour to go.




The Party's Over,

It's Time to call it a day.

They've burst your pretty balloon,

and taken the moon away.



It's time to wind up,

the masquerade.

Just make your mind up,

the piper must be paid.



-Lee
Lee’s Comics

Saturday, April 21, 2007

THE DESCENT OF MAN

Not another APE report.



On other parts of the web, you will surely find comprehensive blogs that will cover all the most outstanding guests, announcements, books, and news of the 2007 Ape Convention in San Francisco. This is not one of them.



Here you will find a few pictures along with some random and opinioned thoughts. I am far too busy running the booths on a limited amount of sleep and talking to people, to be a full service, level headed, objective reporter. I'm hoping, however, that you may enjoy some facets of the many sided gem that is the APE convention as seen through the prism of my camera, and the fog of my memory.



I just discovered that some of the pictures are small, and some of the pictures are big. The hour is late, and I don't have time to fix it. It will have to either run as is, or not at all, so I'll run it as is. Perhaps I'll go back and fix it later. Probably not.



The Lee's Comics crew is set up at APE again this year. We have 5 booths. I didn't see any other retailers other than Comic Relief who is here each year, and also had 5 booths. They use the same racks as us too, so our booths look much the same. These things are called Gabriels. They are called that, not because they used to be in the band Genesis, but because they were made by a fellow named Gabriel. He didn't blow his horn, but he did make heavy duty racks that you could use at a convention. He made them real heavy duty. They weigh a ton, and must be carried by two stout men. Or Mark Crane.

Many comic store owners back in the day used to use them for their stores. We stopped using them in store a long time ago, but we still use them at cons. The thing are indestructible, and will probably outlast us all. The only weakness is the shelves, which do crack now and then. This is probably much more than anyone other than me or Rory Root (celebrated owner of Comics Relief of Berkley) wants to know about Gabriel racks. Exclusive content for the Lee's Blog!




Here's the, staff fully set up and ready for business. My son, who by incredible coincidence is also named Lee, lives in SF and came by to visit. I'm in front of him. Behind him is Clay, who is back with us. Mark Crane, our general manager is turning away.




Here's another shot of me and my son. As you can see, my boy towers over me, as I am a mere 6 foot 4.




Here are a couple of really nice girls, whose smiles really light up the room. It's Jenny and Cindy Field, daughters of my friends Joe and Libby Field. I was happy to hear that Jenny and Cindy enjoy comics enough to have come to the convention on their own.




Here's Sam Boswell from Canada. Up until recently, I was under the impression that Sam Boswell was a man. I am a member of a chat group for comics dealers, and I saw many posts by a Sam Boswell, partner in a bookstore named Perfact Books. Here is conclusive and compelling proof that Sam Boswell is not a man.



She and her partner, Von Allen are working on a graphic novel called "The Road to God Knows." They were kind enough to list my store in the Ashcan edition. I am looking forward to reading the graphic novel that she gave me.




Here is Art Spiegleman and Francoise Mouly from a panel they were doing. I just had to get a photo of Art, because he is a hero of mine. Maus is one of the greatest books I have ever read. If you have not read it yet, please make sure to do so, and soon. It's a masterpiece, and I guarantee you, once you pick it up, you will not be able to put it down. His book might just as well be printed on Crazy Glue.



I really didn't stay for much of the panel. I must admit that at conventions, I am just too overstimulated to sit still and passively listen for that long. Running a booth does that to me, what with all the interesting people coming and going. You probably have not seen me at many convention panels. I've attended about as many as I've been a guest on. I did see a lecture by Art last year. I think I cover somewhere in this blog. That lecture, of course happened outside of the convention circuit.




Here's James Lucas Jones, editor of Oni press. I talked to him about the comic book adaptation of Stephen Colbert’s Tek Janson, which he assured me is coming out soon. I'm looking forward to it, as Colbert is a hero!




Here's Renee French and Brett Warnock. Renee is the author of The Tickling, which has been nominated for 3 Eisner Awards this year. Brett is co-owner of Top Shelf, her publisher.




I don't have any "Guilty Pleasures". I figure that if I like something, it has to be good. Therefore, if I like something, there is no need to be guilty about enjoying it. They closest I come to a guilty pleasure is my love for the Zine "Murder Can Be Fun." I have been reading it for years. We carry it in the store too, when it is infrequently published. You may remember Slave Labor's comic book adaptation. Pictured here is the author Johnny Marr proudly displaying his handiwork.

That's why I love the APE. You get to meet more fringe characters than you can shake a stick at. These cats turn the ordinary world on its ear. They challenge the statue quo, and write their own language. They shun, mock and parody the accepted norms. I don't know about you, but I believe those accepted norms could use a good tweaking now and again. You can find me leading the charge, as well as cheering from the sidelines.




Here are Matt High, and Mark Thompson, the boys from Cold Cut. If you have a store, you should be buying small press books from them. Nobody does it better. Nobody is more dedicated. Nobody loves alternative comics more. They deserve your support. Here's something you probably did not know about Mark. He loves Plop comics. A man after my own heart.



That's all from day one! It's time to get some much-need rest. Please excuse any typos or other regrettable oversights that crept in. Tomorrow is sell, sell, sell, and then the big break-down at the booth. Hopefully not of the nervous system. Perhaps I'll be back with more photos and comments soon. See you then!



-Lee

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