SPX Spotlight 2014: Alternative Comics is in Full Swing

Welcome to another entry in the 2014 SPX Spotlight series!  For the next month, Panel Patter will be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at one of the best conventions, the Small Press ExpoYou can check out all of Panel Patter's spotlights for SPX from both this year and prior years here.

Once upon a time, Alternative Comics was an amazing publisher. Then, sadly, it had to stop producing new books. Enter Marc Arsenault, the new publisher of Alternative Comics, who took over in 2012 and by 2013 had Alternative Comics at SPX with a set of strong titles and plans to match.

Now it's 2014, and Marc and Alternative Comics are kicking ass and taking names, with both print and digital offerings that put them on par with similar publishers, and I couldn't be happier about that. We are seeing some really strong small/micro press publishers right now, as the market grows for quality independent comics. As with Annie at Koyama or Box at Retrofit, Marc's taste in terms of creators and books is top-notch, and he's able to find both well-known names and those you may be less familiar with under the Alternative Comics banner.

And if Marc did nothing else for me, I will never stop thanking him for bringing Sam Henderson and the amazing Magic Whistle series to my attention. Sam was at SPX 2013, and while he sadly won't be able to make the show this time around (neither will I), you definitely should make sure that at least one of the comics you buy from Marc at the Alternative table is an issue (or three) of Magic Whistle.

What you will find at the Alternative table this year is a lot of fun. In addition to some of his back titles, Marc will have a new book from SPX guest Derf Backderf, who is part of the Alt Weekly focus this year. They're also planning a get together for Big Feminist Butt, as contributors Gabrielle Bell, Mari Naomi , Emily Flake, and MK Reed will all be at the show. Alternative will be hanging with the folks from Kilgore, which means you can also meet Noah Van Sciver, who has a digital comic out with Alternative right now. And Malachi Ward, whose book Ritual Three: Vile Decay I reviewed here will also be in attendance.

Though I was unable to read everything in time to do some full reviews in advance of SPX, here are some previews for you of the latest from Alternative Comics.

If you've ever read an alt-weekly on the East Coast (and perhaps elsewhere, too), you've likely run into Derf Backderf's comics, which often hang out towards the back of those free papers, with the adult classifieds and the obscure concert listings. He's finally out of the game, and it's time to collect some of his "True Stories" entries, starting with more recent strips in Volume 1. Derf takes actual events he's witnessed, like a man arguing against drinking "A-RAB-ian coffee" or putting a to-go pizza on top of his baby cradle (with baby on board) or discussions with all kinds of people on the street, whether they're "bums" or Bible-thumpers. Drawn in Derf's square-character style, with flat jaws and oversized heads and clothing that exaggerates everything about his subjects, this one is going to be a treat to read, and is probably my #1 recommendation from Alternative that's new to the show.

Now mind you, that's a tough call, because there's also Steve Lafler's Death in Oaxaca, a book that Panel Pal Ken Eppstein actually said he'd travel to California just to pick up. Luckily for you, all you have to do is go to SPX. This is one of those books that's incredibly strange, incredibly odd, and incredibly good. A man moves to run away from things, but finds you can't escape Death--but you can jam with him while he plays the harp and you strum a guitar. Also featuring a woman who wants to be a super hero, and a vampire, along with a mystery about the main man's past, all wrapped up into one fun package.

Andy Ristaino’s Night of the Living Vidiots was one of my picks when I previewed the Fall books from Alternative, and now that I've had a chance to read some of it, it's everything I hoped it would be. Ristaino's linework is a bit like what you'd see in NBM's Dungeon series, right down to the tight panels and color scheme. This is a collection of shorter works that are pretty darn insane, like a one-page comic about a pitcher of beer who helps others underage drink or a man playing a gigantic game of poker with cars for cards against a foe for the fate of humanity (hint: not the best plan). Anyone who likes well-drawn absurd tales should have fun with this one.

Alternative Comics is a great publisher, and I really hope you'll stop by the table at SPX. If you like high quality work in a variety of styles, with a definite edge towards humor/weird/strange stuff, Marc's your guy, and Alternative is your publisher. Go see for yourself!

Can't make SPX? The Alternative Comics website is here.