Growing up in Sonoma County during the 1990s, Oakland artist Alex Sodari often saved up to buy Dark Horse comics at the grocery store and make the trek down to San Francisco for comic conventions. “I really would not be an artist if it weren’t for comic books,” says Sodari, who went on to study illustration at California College of the Arts. But as they moved from enthusiast to creator, they noticed a lack of Latinx and Chicano artists in the mainstream comics scene.
“Who are the comics artists that are Latino that are even out there?” says Sodari. “You can count them on one hand, and then it’s like ‘take it or leave it,’ you know? If you don’t like the Hernandez brothers, then who else do you really have to read?”
Yearning to reconnect with his Mexican heritage and empower local queer and BIPOC zine and comics creators, Sodari founded the Mission Art and Comic Expo (MACE) in 2019 alongside friend and fellow illustrator Anthony James Harmer. On May 7, MACE returns with a lineup of nearly 50 confirmed exhibiting artists at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.
A newer addition to the Bay Area indie comics sphere, MACE is inspired by longstanding events like SF Zine Fest and the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest, which have drawn in hungry crowds of art lovers since their respective foundings in 2001 and 2010. When developing MACE, Sodari wanted to create an event that retained the DIY, punk spirit of these zine fests while also highlighting Latinx and Chicano artists in the Mission who may be struggling to put their art into the world and sustain their creative endeavors.
“At this point where gentrification is really hitting the Mission hard, [with] a lot of artists having to move out of San Francisco [and] being displaced, we felt like we need to do the event to show that artists still reside in the Mission, and that this is still a place for Chicano art to flourish, despite the economic challenges,” says Sodari.