Tag: APE

20th Anniversary of Litmus Test 10

After my first mini comic Jack Face came out in July 1996, I started my ongoing title, Litmus Test. This is was my training ground and I did all kinds of stories in this title which I would photocopy, staple together, and try to sell. With issue six, I made a huge leap forward in my art and storytelling. Yet it was issue ten that I was the most proud of.

This issue contained two very different, but self-contained stories: “Holiday Phone-call” and “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House.” The first was based on my grandmother and so, while expressionist in certain aspects, was a real-life piece of fiction. The second was the second appearance of Kit Kaleidoscope and so existed in a silent world full of fantastical characters. Yet both stories were similar in the fact they both came to me almost fully formed.

I was really proud of this transition that I created for the two stories.

According to the inside cover of Litmus Test 10, it was published in October of 2000. I’m not sure this is accurate, because the notes on the back of “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House” state that I finished it in November of 2020 with a parenthetical remark that says “a month late.” So I think I intended to have Litmus Test 10 done by October but didn’t quite make it. Still, I’m using this October to recognize that this comic came out twenty years ago.

Holiday Phone-call

While I had a clear vision for this story, as is common for me, it took me a few tries to get something I wanted.

It took me three tries to get the first page.
And three tries to get page three.

According to the notes on the backs of the pages, I started “Holiday Phone-call” on January 9th of 2000 and finished it by August 14th. I was proud of how it turned out and I received some positive responses for the work. While I think the story is a bit thin now, I still really like how I handled it visually. And since it is based on my grandmother and her house, I’m so glad I drew it. She died not long after this story was completed.

Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House

This is probably the most Angela Carter-inspired of the Kit Kaleidoscope stories. It’s not included in the Kit Kaleidoscope collection because it is the most fantastic and doesn’t sit well next to “Kit Kaleidoscope and the Mermaid in the Jar.” Also, I don’t like the story as much as I once did.

It may be hard to see, but it says “Angela Carter” on the cover of Kit’s book.

Still, at the time I felt like this story was a major accomplishment. It was the longest wordless story I had ever taken on. The beginning is concerned with a slave auction and figuring out how to depict the auction wordlessly provided a big challenge. Yet I really liked figuring out how to do it and I realized that I found the struggle to be rewarding. Along the way in the auction, I included some fun references (or “easter eggs,” if you wish).

I put Bill Clinton in the group of slave buyers.
And I had Kit “pay” the auctioneer with the marbles from “Kid Kaleidoscope and the Tale of the Seven Marbles” from Litmus Test 3 and the yo-yo from Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball.

I started “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House” on March 14th of 2000 and finished it on November 22nd. So yeah, it was late for my self-imposed October deadline. It didn’t really matter since I just needed it done in time for the Alternative Press Expo, which wasn’t until February. Still, at 32 pages, “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House” was one of the longest stories I had ever done, next to Jack Face.

So as I said, I felt like when I put these two stories together that this was the strongest statement I had made for my art yet. Litmus Test 10 also had the best cover I had ever done on a mini. Mostly, I just had plain photocopied covers. But seeing all the fancy things people did at the APE, I felt that I had to try a bit harder. Yet I didn’t want to spend too much money. At the time, I had purchased my first color ink jet printer. So this is what I used to make the cover. For the inside back cover I included a pastel self portrait along with a scan from something I had written about myself as a kid. As it turned out, the statements made by the six-year-old me basically applied to the twenty-seven year-old me. Twas ever thus.

You can get a pdf of the full run of Litmus Test through Gumroad.

APE 2017 reflections

I first exhibited at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in 1998. I had been photocopying issues of my comics work for about two years at that point and had never been to a con, much less exhibited at one. I made 50 copies each of Litmus Test 4 and because I had read an article about the APE in which the author claimed that she had moved over 100 copies of her magazine. I ended up selling 3 copies of Litmus Test 4, and 2 of Litmus Test 5 (I still have plenty of copies of both). I sat at my half table between Richard Becker (Bloodthirsty Pirate Tales) and Keith Knight. I saw how Becker looked middle aged and yet was sitting behind a table watching the crowds like I was. I felt sorry for him (little did I know…). I saw Johnen Vasquez parade around the floor followed by a gaggle of goth girls. Keith Knight rolled his eyes at the scene, but encouraged me to give copies of my comic to Dan Clowes (and he actually wrote me back and praised my work). And I made a total of $15. It was a blunt welcome to the world of comics. But I met a lot of nice people, like Jesse Hamm, Lark Pien, Derek Kirk Kim, and Gene Yang. And through them I was invited to a comics creators meeting where I met Jimmie Robinson, who was at the APE this year.

Except for 2006 and 2011, I went to every APE from 1998 to 2013. I saw it move from San Jose to San Francisco, saw it change hands from Slave Labor to Comic-Con, saw my sales gradually improve, saw familiar faces start to disappear, saw the art students take over and the photocopied books go away. But it was always basically the same two-day marathon of sitting behind a table watching people walk by.

So though it had been awhile, I decided to do it all again. I had new books and it felt like a way to come full circle. I was worried though. Reviews of 2016 said attendance was low. And up to a week before the APE, the “Panels” page on the con website was blank and the blog hadn’t been updated since February. That didn’t really inspire confidence that this thing was in good hands. But I decided to try it anyway. And so this weekend I ventured back to the APE one last time.

The San Jose Convention Center tent was more than half empty.


First off, this APE was much smaller than any other. It was comprised of three aisles of about thirty booths per aisle. Besides Slave Labor and Last Gasp, there weren’t any publishers. And, oddly, many of the booths remained empty all weekend. Sometimes the place reminded me of a dying downtown with stores boarded up and empty. The attendance was also pretty sparse. There were never more than a few people in front of any one table, and usually no people. Though the attendees that did come seemed nice and because the con was so small, they could really take in every booth.

It also seemed to me that there weren’t many booths dedicated to comics that focused on fiction. And there weren’t any art comics. Most of the stuff there were prints of superhero, video game, fantasy, and sci-fi art work, and when there were comics they were often adventure stuff that looked similar to other corporate work. Like one guy behind me kept comparing the main character in his comic to Harry Potter.

Except for a few hours on Saturday, the booth next to mine remained empty.

As with any con, there were weird interactions. Like one guy took issue with the fact that I was calling my old 5 1/2 x 8 1/2″ copies of Litmus Test minis. Another guy made a big deal about comparing me with Fellini. A cartoonist whom I will not name, but who used to always show up at cons or in anthologies I was in, bought Holiday Funeral from me, which I’m pretty sure he bought years ago. And a guy that I had a summer job with in high school bought Kit Kaleidoscope and Carnivale.

While I talked with other exhibitors, I didn’t make a connection with anyone new. That may say more about me than them, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of something, which I’ve felt at other cons. The only connection I felt was that we were all putting in our time under the flourescent lights. There was no new movement and no real excitement about a work or artist.

But in keeping with coming full circle, Johnen Vasquez walked by once. He looked the same, though his goth girlfriend was gone, replaced by a cell phone. And I eventually said hi to Jimmie Robinson. We only chatted for a minute, but he admitted that he still didn’t know what he was doing in comics, but he was still stumbling ahead. “It’s a strange kind of love.,” he said.

On Sunday, an older man who had bought some individual issues of Carnivale from me back in 2013 came up and bought the new collected edition. He told me work like mine made coming to the APE worthwhile.

And I sold the last copies of the first comic I ever put together, Jack Face.

Are you ready for the irony?

I made more money at the APE this year than I’ve ever made at a con.

Now that’s not saying much, since I never make much. Still, the fact that such a slow con not only met but exceeded my previous levels shows that the people who showed up were dedicated comics people.

But… I don’t think I’ll be going back next year.

I’ll be at the APE this weekend!

As I mentioned before, I’m going to be exhibiting at the APE this weekend, September 23-24. If you plan on being there, definitely some by and say hi at table 133. I’ll have my copies of Sink and recent printings of Holiday Funeral.

Here’s where my table will be located:

Nick Mullins at table 133

We’ll see how this all goes. Looking at blogs after last year’s show, attendance was pretty small. And seeing as the “panels” page on the APE website was absolutely blank until this week, I don’t have a lot of faith in how well this is being promoted. But hopefully there will be some dedicated people and the energy will be good.

update about my comics work

I haven’t been posting much new comics work. There are two reasons for that.

One, I’m working on smaller pieces that I’m submitting to different on-line and literary journals. Most places want previously unpublished work, so that means I can’t post them here or on my tumblr. But sometimes I have a work that doesn’t seem like a good fit anywhere, like “Art is a Lonely Business.” And that’s why I’m putting it up on-line.

Two, I’m trying out different publishing options and getting new printed books ready for the APE. My last printing of Holiday Funeral was done through Ingram Spark. I’m still seeing how the full process pans out, so I’m suspending judgment on it now. I’m also coloring “Sink” and working on an updated edition of Carnivale.

On a similar note, I’m trying new on-line options. That’s why I put “My Grandmother’s Funeral” up at Tapas and am serializing “Defrost” there now. So far, Tapas has been a really supportive community.

So that’s what’s going on. Basically, instead of working on one big thing, I’m sending my feelers out in lots of other little directions.

coloring page 22 of

at the APE again

I put my first mini comics together in 1996 and decided to be an exhibitor at my first con in 1998. I took my little photocopied minis, full of enthusiasm and dreams of making money and gaining readers.

I made $15.

That con was the Alternative Press Expo in San Jose. Though my expectations met the cold, hard wall of reality, I also met people like Jesse Hamm, Lark Pien, Derek Kirk Kim, and Gene Yang. And the APE gave me a deadline to work towards every year, so I attended it regularly (with a few exceptions) until 2013. I saw it move from San Jose to San Francisco and slowly grow in size. But the long weekends of tabling with little reward wore me down and so after doing TCAF in 2014, I decided to take a break from cons. But then I heard the APE was back in San Jose and back in the hands of Slave Labor Graphics. So a little voice started up in the back of my head. And I do have new books to showcase…

So I’ll be tabling there again, back in the place where I started. It feels like coming full circle. I’m not holding my breath that I’ll make significantly more than $15, but I hope to meet new people and connect with old friends.

It will be September 23-24, so if you’re there, say hi. I’ll let you know my table when I get notification.