Monday, March 9, 2015

Management Recommends - Staple, the Independent Media Expo

I know, I know, it's been quite a while since I posted last. Things have been... interesting, to say the least, and I've been crazy busy. So much to talk about, so many comics to get out... and no, I'm not scrapping all those things I said I'd post about before. This is gonna take some time though. It's been and will likely continue to be a crazy year for me. But, tonight, I'm gonna talk about Staple.

Staple is an annual convention here in Austin specifically for independent media folk like myself. It's basically a mini comic convention, too mini and too indie-focused to see cosplayers walking around, but still pretty important if you're an independent or local artist trying to meet others, learn stuff and get your work "out there". 

Now, I'd heard of Staple before, I've heard of a lot of things that I should have investigated by now to see if they can at least get my comic strip on the local map, but now that I've got a table waiting for me at Wizard World Texas this year, I really need to get going and check this stuff out, and Staple seemed like a good place to start.


Staple took place on Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend (March 8th and 9th, 2015), and this was brought to my attention when visiting some of the local comic shops for the first time a week or so ago in search of the new (finally in canon) line of Star Wars comics from Marvel, but more on that experience in another article. I work on Saturdays though, so I opted to only show up on Sunday. After all, I was mostly just expecting to examine and photograph table setups as a refresher for Wizard World in October. I've been to Wizard World before on both sides of the table, but it's been years. So, Sunday finally arrived, and I headed over to Marchesa Hall (over by the Highland Mall), which was conveniently on my current side of town and not a problem in terms of parking either. I paid ten bucks for the day, carefully attached the yellow entry tag to my harry wrist, and went into the lobby. That's a picture of said lobby above. I know you're not allowed to be attracted to women at comic conventions anymore, but immediately, first thing I see: gorgeous girl buying t-shirts. Didn't even realize I'd caught her in this unflattering photo, but in-person, wow... but, I digress. 

I picked up some business cards and stickers and stuff in the lobby, had a brief discussion with the t-shirt seller who owns a local print shop (important, since I'm gonna need a lot of stuff printed up for Wizard World and hopefully Staple 2016), and then started my exploration. There were three rooms to this event, lobby not included. Two were exhibit halls, and if put together, they wouldn't add up to the size of a Wizard World exhibit hall, but they were just right for something like this. Staple is like if Wizard World was just Artist's Alley, plus those exhibitors who are basically doing the same thing but are famous enough or shell out enough dough to be in a regular booth. In other words, at Staple you don't have the comic shop stands full of toys and collectibles for sale, and you don't have Lou Ferrigno selling autographs for 20 bucks, or however much they run these days (I don't remember, but yeah, I bought one once). There are special panels, but I didn't attend any since I was only there from 2-6 on Sunday, and I filled all that time walking the tables, taking photos and cards, and talking to the artists and writers. There were also film screenings in the third room, which was the theater. I do wish I'd gotten to at least check out what the "theater" looked like, but I ended up not having time for any screenings either. Once I got into walking the exhibition floor, I didn't end up having a moment to spare. 

See that Kevin T. Chin guy in the upper left photo above? I came really close to buying one of his prints or books. Had I more money, I would have. I really liked his stuff. If I'd had a bit more money, there were a handful more people I would have bought from than I actually did, but as it was, I was surprised at how much I DID buy. Setting aside all the free stuff (and I'm sure I missed most of that by not coming Saturday), which was mostly business cards of various sizes and some stickers and mini books, this was the booty I actually paid for below...

 A modest haul by some standards, but I love all of it! I think this is the first time I've bought art prints and indie books at a con, I must admit! I've brought some home for free from W.W., but this is the first time I wanted some so much that I had to buy them. Oh, that green finger puppet monster was a freebie, ha. Here's some details on the people I talked to the most and the stuff I actually ended up buying...

You may already know that my comic book fandom is not the average one. While I love superheroes on the big and small screen VERY MUCH, my comic book love and collection is mainly composed of Disney and Star Wars comics (and Indiana Jones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and also a lot of randomness, including superheroes at times). Well, I was amazed to find at the very first table of the expo, Paul Benjamin, a writer who had actually written a book that has been in my collection for a few years, Monsters, Inc.: The Laugh Factory. I didn't know if I was going to find anything at Staple that I wanted to add to my collection, but here I had found something at table number one! Now, I didn't make the purchase immediately. I walked around a bit first, but I inevitably came back, and since I already had Laugh Factory, I bought one of Paul's Muppet King Arthur comics, which he cheerfully signed for me. On top of that, he was kind enough to give me the full story and lots of great advice when I asked him how he managed to get into the mainstream comic world. This guy, who also has written Hulk, Spidey, and Tokyo Pop comics, has a heck of a resume in the world of popular characters, but his main tip was to do plenty of work and hit these conventions with it! A huge part of it is in the connections you make there. Well, that's a little disheartening for me since I have some extreme social anxiety about interacting with strangers, but I'll keep trying! I was shy to talk with a lot of people at this convention (especially when they were attractive lady-types), unless I had something particular to ask about, but thankfully, in a couple of cases (like this one) it went well for the most part.

Above is Rick Brooks, a comic STRIP style artist. I was sooo happy to run across a newspaper comic strip-type artist at Staple, since that is more in-line with what my Moonlight Motel webcomic is, even though I am writing a graphic novel based on it (but it lends itself well to both). Rick is the San Antonio-based creator of this Mr. Morris comic, and he was simply the nicest guy! And so full of awesome information! He clued me in on a local newsprint publication called Rock Salt that loves local strip cartoonists, and he gave me great info on printing your work when you have to self-publish, as most people at Staple have to do. I bought a copy of his Mr. Morris comic, but I completely forgot to ask him to sign it! Argh! Ha. And I should have given him better warning about taking his picture. He'd just had a bit of peanut butter, ha.

Now, this was an interesting buy. I picked up both volumes of this Moonlight Rrriot book you see above. I saw these on a few different tables, and that's because, as it turns out, several artists and writers who worked on the book had tables at this expo. Anyway, so this is basically a Sailor Moon-themed collection of art and stories. Made by fans, for fans, so I sure hope I can get some art in a future issue myself someday!

And, basically, here was the star of the whole con, the super-sweet Babs Tarr, the Batgirl artist who also designed her new look, and in my opinion, did a fantastic job! I didn't even know she was going to be here, because I did very little research on this excursion, but I was so glad to get the opportunity to pick up a signed print and comic from her! The only hard part though, was selecting a print! She had some really gorgeous Sailor Moon and April O'Neil themed work, and Harley and Ivy, and other fantastic stuff as well!

In the end though, I had to opt for a double Batgirl purchase: Batgirl comic AND Batgirl print. I mean, I've had a thing for Barbara Gordon Batgirl since I was like 5, watching reruns of the 60's TV show and drooling over purple-suited Yvonne Craig. Batgirl is still my favorite superhero crush, aside from the Sailor Scouts, and here was one of her legitimates artists/designers, so, yeah, it had to be a Batgirl print.

My final takeaway from the evening was a second print, this time by the lovely artist Jessica von Braun, whose illustrations are both haunting and beautiful. One in particular kept drawing me back to her table, the peppermint girl that must be one of her most popular pieces (she even displayed her name under it). I immediately loved this piece. It might have something to do with Kiki, I'll admit, who once had pink hair when we used to hangout together, and whom I began to paint a similar portrait of before she moved away, and who also, I think, would have a great appreciation for Jessica von Braun's style, if she doesn't already. My thanks to Jessica for allowing me to snap a couple of pics of her at her table. She was so sweet and she wanted her daughter to be in the pic as well, but got a refusal, ha.

Yeah, I gotta admit, it was a really enjoyable time I had at the Staple Expo, and I sincerely hope to go again next year and have my own table when I do. My endless thanks to everyone who put up with my social awkwardness this year and took the time to chat and pose for my pictures. It was great meeting all these awesome people, and more that I wasn't able to get pics of for whatever reason (be it crowds or simply my shyness). I'm going to wrap this up for now, but I'll leave you with more random pics I snapped throughout my time at Staple 2015. And, I mean it this time, I'll write again soon, ha, AND get some new comics up! Later, folks!

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