A few years ago Susie Cagle set aside her keyboard and picked up her paintbrush.
After years of working as an editor and journalist, Cagle decided to try editorial cartooning, and the results have been remarkable. Her “True Stories in Words and Pictures, “ (the way she describes her narrative cartoons) have run in San Francisco Panorama, SF Appeal, The Rumpus, and The Awl, among other places. She has also published a comics series called Nine Gallons, a series about food justice.
Cagle will be one of the cartoonists and illustrators showcasing her work this Saturday at the first East Bay Alternative Press Fair at Berkeley City College. Modeled after the incredibly popular – and influential – San Francisco Zine Fest, the East Bay Alternative Press Fair aims to introduce established and emerging artists to readers. More than 40 zine creators, illustrators, independent artists, and publishers will exhibit at the festival, which runs from 10 am to 4 pm at 2050 Center Street.
“This is the first year we’ve done this,” said Tomas Moniz, the creator of the zine Rad Dad. He is organizing the event along with the poet and writer M. K. Chavez. “These events are important for zinesters and people who are just starting out.”
Cagle is a proponent of these small press fairs and has traveled around the country to attend them, she said. While she sells her comics at independent stores like Comic Relief and Pegasus, both in Berkeley, the fairs allow her to meet her readers and other artists and get the word out about this somewhat-under-the-radar art form.
“I think free community events like the Alternative Press Fair can be some of the most effective PR for self-publishing artists and writers; connecting with people face to face and flipping through hand-made books in person make for, in my opinion, more acute experiences than Facebook and webcomics,” said Cagle.
Cagle’s comics are known as minicomics, and they are the “lifeblood” of the industry, said Sophie Yanow, the public relations coordinator for Comic Relief on Shattuck Avenue and a cartoonist herself. There has been an uptick in interest in graphic novels, and minicomic illustrators often end up creating the longer-form novels, she said.
Comic Relief will host a talk Saturday night featuring some of the fair’s exhibitors, including Trevor Alixopulos, Ben Costa and R.J. Parks, Francois Vigneault and others. Titles “Tales: An indy-fantasy comics reading,” the event will feature slides of the artists work.
The East Bay Alternative Press Fair is free.