Visual Arts > Visual Arts
Fresh from the comix world
The Austin self-styled “Independent Media Expo” STAPLE! celebrated its sixth annual show on March 6. By combining a focus on independent, alternative, and small-press media with independent-friendly comic-book-shop sponsorship and an affordable entrance fee, Chris “Uncle Staple” Nicholas, co-creator of the online comic series You Chose Right The First Time, created the first significant and viable comic-book-centric, alt-media expo in Central Texas. For a community that has spawned such well-known creators as Berkley Breathed, Gilbert Shelton, Jack “Jaxon” Jackson, Shannon Wheeler, and Chris Ware, Central Texas has historically lacked significant events for fans. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, several small one-day comic-book conventions popped up and failed — the most infamous affair in an abandoned McDonald’s in the basement of a University of Texas dorm.
Featuring a mish-mash of seemingly unrelated exhibitors, the 2010 STAPLE! abounded with odd delights. Kristin Hogan hawked not only collections of her popular web comic Dead Squirrel Girl (deadsquirrelgirl.com), but also pop-culture-infused nautical creatures — plush squid crafted with well-known, character-illustrated fabric numbered among the finds. Posters and prints of all sorts littered the 80-plus tables of goodies, but none quite as graphically slick nor as unusual as Mark Gonyea’s sensational Mr. Oblivious (mroblivious.com) story posters. The Wonder Craft (thewondercraft.com), a boutique and studio housed in a vintage Airstream trailer, promoted hip, handmade wares. Artist Diana Sprinkle (ghostcircles.com/dxs) displayed her innocent-yet-twisted cat creations on prints, postcards, and in books.
Naturally, comics dominated. Alan Porter (alanjporter.com) and Paul Benjamin (thepaulbenjamin.com), writers of the comic-book incarnations of Cars and Monsters, Inc. respectively, shared a table showcasing their Pixar and other works. Across the aisle (though barely visible through the masses of people), Guy Davis (BPRD, The Marquis), who along with Andy Runton (Owly), Chris Schweizer (Crogan’s Adventures), and Jason Neulander (The Intergalactic Nemesis) made up the contingent of special guests, signed autographs. Creator Yehudi Mercado (supermercadofilms.com) offered the most inspired promotion — pizza gift certificates with a purchase of his Buffalo Speedway graphic novel, subtitled “A Slice in the Life of a Pizza Boy.” Rebecca Hicks sold the collection of her charming, humorous webstrip Little Vampires (little-vampires.com) in both regular hardcover and signed limited hand-bound editions. Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse contributor John Lucas (johnlucasart.wordpress.com) and Bill Williams (lonestarpress.com), the writer of IDW’s Angel and Spike comics, showcased their works, most notably the Lucas-designed T-shirt that observed “Jesus Christ was a carpenter. So was Harrison Ford.”
A few indie publishers bought exhibit space and joined the fray. Based out of Cypress, Texas, Red 5 Comics (Red5Comics.com) talked up their well-crafted, primarily science-fiction titles. Relying on several big-name comic-book writers, Round Rock’s Big Head Press (bigheadpress.com) serializes their science-fiction and fantasy graphic novels online prior to publication. Panel Press (panelpress.com), out of New Mexico, focuses on new talent for their cross-genre comics. Though he hasn’t published a book since 2008, publisher F. K. Needles promoted his two titles and promised a new book sometime this year from New Belleville Press (newbellevillepress.com).
STAPLE! offered a full slate of programming events, including sessions with the guests and a performance of the radio play The Intergalactic Nemesis: The Living Comic Book (theintergalacticnemesis.com). The Neulander-scripted and -directed story uses the traditional set-up of actors reading lines and a foley artist producing sound effects, but with the addition of Tim Doyle’s art projected above the actors, which gives a new dimension to the tale.
During his Q&A with the audience after the performance, Neulander perhaps best described the genesis and the appeal of STAPLE! When asked why he created The Intergalactic Nemesis as an audio-only radio play, an illustrated radio play, and a comic book, Neulander posited, “To survive, an artist must create in as many media as possible.” No truer words acknowledge the 21st-century artistic experience. •
Rick Klaw is a professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon based in Austin.