A STAPLE Diet For Small Press Comics
You may know Chad Hindahl from his regular Kicking With Cactus strip on Bleeding Cool on Sundays. This weekend he had other business, at the Staple small press comics convention in Texas. He writes;
STAPLE! Independent Media Expo celebrated its 9th year drawing new, and veteran indie comics creators together under a beautiful blue Austin, Texas sky. No sign of Wolverine or Batman in these halls, the creator is king! There were several wonderous jewelers, sculptors, animators, and designers! At one point my son and I popped into the animation panel just in time to see some of the most absurdly twisted strobing flash into our cortex, followed by what almost seemed to be a study in animating and warping textures.
I however was on the hunt for comics. As an independent creator (Bleeding Cool's own Kicking with Cactus and forthcoming "Telefated") I'm always confounded by how many approaches there can be to the same problem; namely, telling a story. Particularly one outside of the wheelhouse of comics as it exists in our minds. There were a few things that immediately surprised me. 1.) The male to female creator ratio appeared to be about 50/50. I didn't go through and count, but I'd almost dare say females outnumbered male creators and fans combined. 2.) I was really surprised at the lack of repetition. Every booth had an individual voice (or in many cases, voices.) There were very few people doing their own spin on the "Supers" genre, and on the opposite side of the token, I think only 1 furry comic. Alas, without further ado, here is what I've unearthed for all the indie loving Bleeders to check out!
I saw E.K. Weaver for a second, and missed her for the rest of the show unfortunately, but her "Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal" is a real under appreciated jewel. Heartfelt, witty, and beautifully drawn. She's coming up on 400 pages in, and you can read it all at www.tjandamal.com.
Fans of classic thick black cartooning would probably really enjoy Andy Hirsch's work. He's got a smooth Eisner meets Keane vibe going on, and several varieties of stories which you can see at aforandy.com. The series he's currently plugging away on Varmints is available in print and on graphicly, which you can check out at (darnvarmints.com)
Francisco Salinas caught my attention with his stark "Boy With the Demon Mask" comic. Printed in black and white, each issue has the demon mask color customized throughout making each issue a one of a kind collectible piece of artwork. You can find out more at www.facebook.com/boywiththedemonmask.
One of my favorite books I saw at the convention was an anthology called "Rough House." The book was printed very nicely, and packed thick as a phonebook with a smattering of creators. They're an Austin based collective, and I gather the book was hot off the press. Looks like there is more on the way at their tumblr here roughhousecomix.tumblr.com.
Illustrator Kim Scoulios had her comic "Nancy Nebula" on hand, and I was immediately drawn in by her style. Like Tim Burton collage-ing with Alphonse Mucha and Precious Moments. The layouts and storytelling in her book were incredibly wild and ambitious, and I've never quite seen anything like it, in a good way. Check out her work at theksgallery.com.
Daniel Strickland, who won the New Orleans Press Club Award for Editorial Illustration for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina was promoting his comic "Salvia Divinorum." A rather metaphysical tale told in
Beautiful grey scaled black and white. It is trippy, but there is some really exceptional cartooning going on, and you can check it out at strickart.com.
The CCP collective was in full force, with several of their talent in tow. They'll be making it as far as NYCC this year with several new books. They're boasting quite the diversity amongst nearly 15 different series, and expanding their reach even further in the comics months. If you're a fan of CCP Comics or haven't heard of them before, they are a young publisher to keep an eye on, and you should head on over to www.ccpcomics.com.
For those looking for something with a bit of erotic flair, look no further than Amanda Lafrenais' work here; amandalafrenais.com. It's got that Skydoll level of cuteness and polish, but much more organic and natural. I'm always a sucker for looking at painted work in the flesh!
Possibly Austin's cleanest draftsman, Cody Schibi was running awful low on issues of his latest comic, "When the Evil Came." He's currently working on "Bullmoose," with his brother Lance. The couple of pages he showed me looked fantastic, with Teddy Roosevelt scrambling through Amazonian foliage. Imagine a sister book to the Manhattan Projects, but based more in truth. There wasn't a set timeline for release yet, but head over to www.codyschibi.com to get the latest details.
James O'Barr and Jim Terry were promoting their newest run on the Crow, "Skinning the Wolves."
The 3rd issue is about to hit, and they're putting together elements for a jam packed collected edition
That will feature O'Barr's layouts, references, and notes.
Bernie Wrightson was the legend in the room, with him and Steve Niles promoting their Frankenstein
Book. Every time I passed his table he was incredibly busy, or gone. It's probably for the best, because
I would have talked his ear off. Niles noted that he and Tony Harris had big plans for "Chin Music" from Image, and that Tony was really knocking it out of the park with a bit of a free-er style.
Really wonderful turnout, and it's nice to have two halls and a theatre filled with people who are following their dreams and passions without having Spider-Man flip down the aisle, or a video game giving you epileptic fits. My missus and son both had a ton of fun, and at $15 for the weekend, it's over half the price
Of Austin Comic Con.
If you're interested in finding out more about STAPLE!, their digital homestead can be found at www.staple-austin.org.
My own experiment in sequential storytelling, Kicking with Cactus, can be seen right here at Bleeding Cool every Sunday.