Early in March, I attended the 12th Staple! Independent Media Expo in Austin, Texas. This was the third consecutive year I found myself wandering around the tables of independent creators, and it was great to see (and in some instances hear on a panel!) returning artists like Robert Wilson IV, Monica Gallagher, and Isaiah Broussard, and welcome first-time guests like Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics. If I hadn’t been missing half my brain that week, I could have snapped a few pictures at the actual con to share with y’all. Oh well, there is always next year! Instead, I’m sharing the comics I bought. Every year, I give myself a strict budget, and every year, I blow right through it. 2016 was no exception, in spite of a “comics only, no art!” rule I set up for myself (a girl only has so much wall space, you know).
I fell madly, deeply in love with Irene Strychalski’s work on the spot at her table. I had to pick up the collection of her 2015 Inktober project, Badass Women In History, which includes detailed portraits and short bios of 32 inspiring women throughout ancient and modern times.
I flipped through, Beads, a wordless short comic, and decided I had to bring that home too, and goodness, am I glad I did. Beads silently follows the love between two souls, replayed and reborn through the centuries, and I hope you click on the link to read/buy it, because it’s beautiful and sad and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Every year I find a “new-to-me” creator at Staple, whose work is so in my wheelhouse, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before. This year, Sophie Goldstein was that artist. I’m super ready to dive into these two books I picked up, which, can we just take a moment to appreciate the detail and craft that you can find in indie comics, in the way a book is put together? The cut outs for the title pages of House of Women just make it even more special.
Okay, Balderdash! by Victoria Grace Elliott, is a webcomic, so I didn’t actually buy anything I can show off to y’all, but I did pick up the postcard (complete with a recipe on the back!) to remind myself to read it. Look at those colors! I want to swim in them. And the postcard totally worked, because I read all the posted chapters of Balderdash last week and am now supporting the Patreon, because I need more gentle, colorful, stories about girls, small towns, and baking (without magic!) in my life.
If you love Parks and Rec, you have to look at Ron-A-Day, a project by Elisa Wikey to draw one Ron Swanson (as something) a day for one year. It is, truly, a great and hilarious endeavor and I totally bought a few Ron originals as a birthday gift for a friend. For myself, I took home a small collection of Evil Robot, Little Girl comic strips.
I bought nearly all of Mittie Paul‘s mini comics at last years Staple!, so this year was all about completing the collection and picking up the hot-off-the-presses bound copy of the first chapter of her webcomic, Timber, which is a DELIGHT.
Mittie is an artist who utilizes die cuts and layers on the covers for her zines and comics to great advantage, like the die cut BB-8 in the Star Wars fan art zine, and the mirror cut-out and shadow image for the Mirror, Mirror comic. I love these details and find it not only elevates these comics to another level, but also grabs your attention as you walk by.
It was the end of the second day, and I was down to my dollars in my wallet, but luckily it was enough to grab this short, all-ages mystery comic by Caitlin C, which is adorable, and you can find for yourself by getting a copy over on Gumroad.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Austin (but not in the summer!), I heartily suggest skipping SXSW and coming for Staple! next year—it’s super chill, and I’ll totally meet you for tacos afterwards. And if you are new to comics, I hope you’ll search out and consider attending a small press/indie comics convention, like SPACE or SPX, even if you’ve only read comics by the Big 2! They are full of talented people, many selling amazing art of your favorite DC and Marvel characters. You never know! You may just find your new favorite character between the warm pages of a freshly printed comic, straight from the hands of the passionate creator and artist, held together with a couple of staples.