Staple!: The Independent Media Expo returns for its second year
They call him Uncle Staple.
If you're familiar with superhero comics, you might think, especially with the thick gray muttonchops bracketing his thin face, that he looks like a cross between Wolverine and, say, the Vulture's less buff younger brother. His real name, his not-so-secret identity, is Chris Nicholas, and he's the originator and driving force behind Staple!: The Independent Media Expo, now gearing up for its second annual incarnation this Saturday in the Northcross Mall.
"Staple! is meant to be about DIY publications in general," says Nicholas, letting smoke from his American Spirit snake its way toward the outdoor rafters of the cafe we're sitting in. "Zines, self-published literature, all that stuff. But, yeah, it's really heavy on the comics. Which is fine," he adds, grinning. "I like comics."
Last year, about 300 people who like comics showed up for the first Staple!, swarming through the faintly mildew-tinged rooms of the Elks Lodge in South Austin, checking out the polychrome array of wares comics, graphic novels, posters, T-shirts offered for sale upon the ranks of dealer tables. It was a successful day of mingling, marketing, and mafficking, Nicholas tells me, and this year's version will be even more impressive.
"We're in the Red Oak Ballroom in the Northcross Mall," he says. "Nate [Southard] bird-dogged that one for us. It's like the south third of the mall, part of this big conference center. Definitely bigger than the Elks Lodge."
And it definitely needs to be bigger?
"Things went really well last year," Nicholas says. "That was our first time, and our programming was kind of an impromptu thing. This year, we've got a lot more going on that's actually planned, and there's more of a buzz going already. We've got almost twice as many dealer tables, a lot more panels. We've got Tony Millionaire coming in for the day. Austin Books is our big sponsor again this year, and they're flying him and his family in. He'll be doing a Q&A about his projects Sock Monkey and Maakies and the others and signing books. And Keith Knight'll be there from San Diego to do his slide show, and Toby Craig of Punish the Dead is doing a talk on 'Demystifying Comic-Making,' to show people how the whole process is done."
Wait, Tony Millionaire? Goddamn.
"Oh, and," says Nicholas, setting his cigarette down briefly in a chipped ashtray. "Jim Mahfood and Dave Crosland, the Silky Bureaucrats, are gonna be there. And later that night, they'll be at the Ritz downtown, doing one of their live art performances, kind of like a wild sketch jam with a live DJ behind it. They've done it all over the country; it's a really great show."
So, this year's Staple! hasn't started yet, and it's already spilling over?
"Yeah, well, we've got a lot lined up," Nicholas says. "We're starting out on Saturday with the Fiction Circus, these local guys who well, you have to see it. And we've got five recent winners of the Xeric Grant discussing their work and what it took to get the grant. And Miss Monster's going to be roaming around."
"Yeah," Nicholas says. "I saw her at Ushicon a couple weeks ago when I was there handing out fliers. She's, well, she's in this homemade monster costume, very professional-looking, makes her about 7 feet tall. She's a lot of fun."
Sounds like the whole thing's a lot of fun.
"Definitely," Nicholas asserts. "Even the program book: It'll have 10 pages of original comics. And don't forget the meet-and-greet at Austin Books the night before."
"There's going to be a meet-and-greet at "
"It'll go from 8-11pm," says Nicholas, ripping into a fresh pack. "They had to have a cut-off point, after last year. People just wouldn't leave, you know? Had to chase them out."
"You could've smoked them out," I suggest. "You could call yourself Smoke-Man or something. Captain Smoke. The Smokinator."
Nicholas shakes his head, passes me a few posters and a copy of his own comic, You Chose Right the First Time. "Nah," he says. "They call me Uncle Staple."
Saturday, March 4, 10am-6pm
The Red Oak Ballroom (Northcross Mall)