Monday, October 19, 2009

APE '09: War is Gay

Last weekend, my buddy Brent and I exhibited at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco as K.O. Comix, our self-publishing comic book company, where we displayed Brent’s new amazing comic Dog Town, not to mention my KaraokeFanboy Press stuff (all of which are available for purchase through our blogs, but anyway). Although I was technically one of “the talent,” I love mini-comics and zines (which is why I make them), so I was also a critical consumer, too, and I picked up some the most subversive and innovative stuff in the medium today. Of course, as in any forum of genre saturation, I also picked up some crap -- so in conjunction with my series of Halloween-oriented reviews, I’m going to sprinkle in some posts about this independent, and good or bad, I challenge you to check it out. What can it hurt to go ape from time to time?

War is Gay by Mike Rios

War is Gay is an interactive, neon-colored zine you can put in your pocket and share with your friends. In fact, I reckon author Mike Rios would encourage it, since his website, Mike Rios Is A Whore, implies shameless self-promotion, and by buying this zine, I feel totally empowered to be his pimp -- especially since I’ve tried the product. Er, take that as you will.

When I saw fellow APE exhibitors and attendees strolling about the convention floor with “Mike Rios is a Whore” tote bags, I wondered if someone was brazenly boasting their product, or bashing an enemy behind his back. While a zine titled War is Gay could be just as easily dismissed as pretentious vulgarity, I was drawn to its bold, brightly colored design, and while its image-laden interior could be digested in less than a minute, I encourage consumers to chew on its content a bit and ponder what the author meant, beyond satire and graphics-intensive social commentary.

Unfortunately, because of its relatively text-free nature, War is Gay is difficult to summarize, but when we spoke briefly Rios assured me that the content is linear and strategic. If it does indeed have a point, its commentary on masculinity in America in contrast to the history of war and the poignancy of homosexual rights creates a wry reflection of society and challenging springboard for thought. Otherwise, it’s just really pretty to look at.

Finally, I emphasize its interactive nature; at five dollars, War is Gay is the most I spent for any product at APE, and rightfully so since Rios and company painstakingly hand-cut and glued some of the issue’s manipulative elements. I’m drawn to any comic book artist that manipulates the humble canvas of a single piece of paper to tell a story (with an emphasis on the story), and considering the cost other artists were charging for traditionally published and bound books, Rios’ five dollars is very reasonable considering the time and effort put into each piece -- not to mention the free tote, handy when shopping for awkwardly sized zines and prints!

Okay, Mike Rios may be a whore, and war may be gay, but in this case his passion is pretty straightforward. Pull up to the dark corner of comicdom, roll down your car window, call him over, and check it out.

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