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Of Ninja Turtles and Intergalactic Nemeses: STAPLE! Media Expo celebrates the success of self-published comics

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Courtesy of Staple! Media Expo
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Saturday March 3 Schedule Courtesy of Staple! Media Expo
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Sunday March 4 Schedule Courtesy of Staple! Media Expo
Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_Staple Media Expo_feb 2012_flyer
Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_Staple Media Expo_feb 2012_saturday
Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_Staple Media Expo_feb 2012_sunday
Austin photo: Contributor_Michael Graupmann
Marchesa Hall & Events Center
Get Directions - 6406 North I-35 #3100 Austin

More exciting than a routine run to the comic book store! Less obnoxious than a touring comic book convention! Look -- over at Marchesa Hall: It's STAPLE!

Now in it's eighth great year of uniting independent media fans with their often under-recognized heroes, STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo returns to vivid, onomapoetic life this Saturday and Sunday with amazing offerings for any longtime fan of indie comic books, zines, games, crafts and animation.

STAPLE! isn't your ordinary comic book convention. There won't be miles of nomadic comic book sellers hawking their wares or aging actors from bygone sci-fi TV shows signing autographs. Instead, you'll find aspiring indie writers, artists and craftspeople who are selling their own hand-made work.

"The people who are there have made the work they're selling," says STAPLE! creator and organizer Chris Nicholas. "I want fans to be able to meet the person who makes their favorite stories. I want to help those indie creators make necessary connections. Those are my people and that's what I want to focus on entirely."

 "I want fans to be able to meet the person who makes their favorite stories. I want to help those indie creators make necessary connections. Those are my people and that's what I want to focus on entirely."

Nicholas, who is affectionately known to friends as "Uncle Staple," is an independent comic book artist himself, and STAPLE! is his gift to the community that he loves, a way to give back to his fellow pioneers. Plus, it's a pretty cool way to meet some of the artists that he admires most.

After humble beginnings in 2005 at the Elks Lodge of Austin, Nicholas is happy to report that his little indie expo has now become the most prominent independent comic book expo in the Southwest region. Even despite the economic downturn, STAPLE! has enjoyed larger audiences and greater industry attention.

"We named the expo 'STAPLE!' because a staple is something you need," Nicholas offers. "Art is something that people need in their lives; it's not just a luxury item. It's how our brains work. So even with financial constraints, in desperate times, we need an outlet. Comic books, luckily, are a cheaper version of entertainment than a lot of others."

As the expo grows, so do the necessary responsibilities. Nicholas has been working with his diligent staff and volunteers since August to make this the most exciting expo ever. This year, over 150 visiting vendors and a full program of expo guests will leave your fanboy and fangirl minds reeling, beginning with a kick-off party at Austin Books & Comics on Friday night.

Programming will begin on Saturday at noon with Austin's own Intergalactic Nemesis live action graphic novel, fresh off their performance on Conan. Director Jason Neulander will be revealing images from and discussing the much-anticipated sequel, Book Two: Robot Planet Rising, before the team heads over to the South Lamar Alamo for its first live audience screening.

Also on the agenda to appear in the Marchesa Theatre are: Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, creators of the supernatural western series The Sixth Gun and the demon-noir story The Damned; Kagan McLeod, creator of the obscenely acclaimed graphic novel Infinite Kung-Fu; and a panel on the Women of Webcomics featuring Liz Prince (Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed), Monica Gallagher (Eat Your Lipstick) and MariNaomi (Kiss & Tell).

That evening, Nicholas and all of the artists and attendees are invited to Shangri-La for a special Live Art afterparty. There, STAPLE!'s guest artists will spend the evening drawing brand new artwork that will be for sale, with the proceeds going to 91.7 KOOP Radio.

This year, 83 visiting vendors and a full program of expo guests will leave your fanboy and fangirl minds reeling, beginning with a kick-off party at Austin Books & Comics on Friday night.

"The way I see it, KOOP is another perfect example of independent media. They are to radio what we are to comics," says Nicholas. "We generally end up producing more art than we can sell in one night. It's amazing."

The next morning, STAPLE! kicks off with a best-of mock fest of an unidentified crowd favorite film by the nerds of Master Pancake Theater. ("They can't tell me which movie they're screening, but they did say 'It's one movie that rules them all..." says Nicholas.)

Afterwards, co-creator of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kevin Eastman, will take the stage to fill us in on what's going on with everyone's favorite pizza-eating, crime-fighting heroes in a half-shell. Not only is Eastman leading the creative team that will soon be bringing the Turtles back into the cultural zeitgeist, but he's also the owner and editor of the fantasy fan-favorite magazine Heavy Metal.

Finally, The International Academy of Web Television will present a lively panel discussing the rabid popularity of web TV, such as online web series like The Guild and the Austin-based production group, Rooster Teeth. The panel will be a multimedia explosion featuring Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns, Project: Rant's Cliff Wildman, Aphid Animation's Craig Staggs, and Hilah Cooking's Christopher Sharpe.

Without a doubt, Nicholas will be in indie comic hog heaven all weekend long. Although he'll be running the show, he'll get to take time with these industry heroes who are constantly changing his outlook on the medium he loves so much. "Web comics have openind up a new series of opportunities, for example, and I'm now a big fan of them. Although, there are some things that still just need to be on a page," he adds.

As for the crowd he's expecting at STAPLE! this weekend? "The genre really appeals to everyone in Austin, I think. We'll have nerds and hipsters, a few cos players and some steam punkers, for sure," predicts Nicholas. "We're all nerds here, man. We appreciate and look forward to whomever comes out. Everyone's welcome here."

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STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo runs Saturday and Sunday at Marchesa Hall & Theatre. Admission is $10 each day, or $15 for both; cash only at the door.

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