Every once in a while, I’ll think about this xkcd comic strip. It’s a reminder to me that great things can start small, unambitious. I never would’ve guessed that a web comic artist starting so plainly would later produce a single strip that’s so incredible.
Maybe we should all find our app’s version of stick figures, good jokes, and consistency. Then work long enough and hard enough and suddenly a couple years later, it feels within reach to build something amazing, something beautiful. Something big.
The 5th annual “STAPLE! indie comics expo”:http://www.staple-austin.org/ is coming up in 2 months, and I’m happy to say that one of my favorite comics artists growing up will be headlining the show: Stan Sakai of “Usagi Yojimbo”:http://www.usagiyojimbo.com/ fame. If you are in Austin in March, please plan to attend. (And say hi if you see me. I’m usually helping sell t-shirts or milling around somewhere.)
There’s also a “new short Usagi story”:http://www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents?issuenum=18&storynum=3 on MySpace’s Dark Horse page.
Like independent comics and art? “STAPLE! is in Austin today”:http://www.staple-austin.org/ at the Monarch Event Center, off I-35 and 2222. I’ve been on the STAPLE! planning committee for four years now and have enjoyed watching our little show grow from its humble beginnings, but it’s still a completely non-profit, volunteer-led endeavor and we need your support to make it a success. Come join us anytime between 11am and 7pm (or “check the schedule”:http://www.staple-austin.org/guests/ for our featured session times), and then come back downtown later tonight for the after-party and live-art show at Red’s Scoot Inn (“flyer”:http://www.staple-austin.org/promote/staple2008_afterparty.jpg).
“STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo”:http://www.staple-austin.org/ was last Saturday and it turned out great. The “animation panel I wrote about last week”:http://www.manton.org/2007/02/animation_panel.html was a lot of fun and didn’t seem to suffer too much from my amateur moderating abilities. The projector worked, the films were great, and we filled an hour and a half with questions from the audience. Special thanks to “Damon”:http://www.damonclinkscales.com/ for working the lights and providing feedback afterwards.
My only regret is that I didn’t take a few minutes to snap photos or set up a video camera in the back to capture it. I left my camera in the car the whole day. Luckily other attendees took pictures of the rest of the show. Here are Flickr sets from “Freddie Avalos”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/freddieavalos/sets/72157594570835464/, “Toby Craig”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/ithinkican/sets/72157594574373510/, and “Marianne Ways”:http://flickr.com/photos/mways/sets/72157594569262131/. Update: Damon “snapped a picture”:http://flickr.com/photos/digitalnomad/413875252/in/photostream/ after all!
Sunday night was the “Animation Show”:http://www.animationshow.com/ at the Paramount and Don Hertzfeldt answered questions afterwards. His latest film may be my favorite of his yet. I worked with Robert at the Animation Show on cross-promotion between their show and STAPLE!, and they were so great to work with I hope we can join forces again next time.
I came away from the whole weekend inspired. Monday a new idea for an animated short film hit me. I think it’s time to dust off the animation table again.
“Chris”:http://ycrtft.rethunkmedia.com/ and I headed over to Northcross Mall yesterday to take a final look at the conference center rooms before next week’s STAPLE! Expo. Although I’ve been on the planning committee since the very beginning of the conference over 3 years ago and actively involved for each of the previous 2 shows, this year is a little special because I’ve been organizing a panel on animation to complement the mostly comic book focused show. We have three great local animators this year: Aaron Romo, Evan Cagle, and Lance Myers. See the “STAPLE! guests page”:http://www.staple-austin.org/guests/ for more information on their work and our other featured speakers.
I also redesigned the web site last week, late Thursday night. In order to accommodate some CSS improvements and images from our new program, I had to abandon a few things from last year’s excellent design by “John Rubio”:http://www.johnrubio.com/ (who also did the logo). I hope to bring back elements of the old design for next year, though. There’s just not enough time in the day, and March is days away. I hate you February, for being so short.
Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo and successfully “completed a 50,000 word novel”:http://www.manton.org/2005/12/50136_words.html in one month. It was a great experience, but when someone conducted an informal survey on 43things of who would be doing it again this year, I answered that it was just something I wanted to do once in my life, like running a marathon, and I wouldn’t be doing it again.
And yet, before November rolled around again, the idea for a novel started growing in my mind. I had pretty much decided to go for it again. On the 1st of the month I wrote the opening and started organizing notes for the characters and plot.
But that same night I was sketching with friends at a coffee shop instead of writing. “Paul Adam”:http://www.untameduniverse.net/ and I talked about 24-Hour Comic Day, NaNoWriMo, and side projects. That conversation made me realize that I have a bunch of stuff I want to work on right now, and writing a novel which I have no immediate plan to publish just can’t fit into my schedule right now. NaNoWriMo is an all-consuming thing — you have to drop everything to finish it.
The story and characters I came up with have some potential, though. Instead of cramming it into a month, I may work on it a bit over the next year or two.
I picked up the board game “Carcasonne”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005UNAX?ie=UTF8&tag=mantonorg&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00005UNAX/ a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it. It’s great to see some innovation in board games again, and it’s a relaxing change of pace from video games. Target and the other big box stores are still mostly packed with remakes of classic board games, which are fine, but if you seek out the more speciality shops there’s a range of good stuff available. I bought my copy at “Dragon’s Lair”:http://www.dlair.net/, a local Austin comics and games shop that I’ve been frequenting for about 15 years, but I’ve seen it featured prominently at other quality toy stores.
I originally sought out Carcasonne for play between adults, but I’ve found the game also works great for kids even younger than the 8 years recommended on the box. Just follow a few rule simplifications. First, no farmers. Next, as recommended by someone in an Amazon review, use the word “traveler” instead of thief. And finally, just score a single point for any completed castle, road, or cloister. Part of the charm of the game is in constructing the map anyway, so these simplified rules make for fast and enjoyable games for younger children.
Comic-Con San Diego has started. For a humorous look at the kinds of people you might see walking the show floor, check out the excellent series of “recent sketches on the Story Boredom blog”:http://storyboredom.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_storyboredom_archive.html. I’ve never been to the convention, but have some friends who go most every year. Some of those people also worked on “A Scanner Darkly”:http://www.scannerdarklymovie.com/, which opened last weekend in wider release, banking an impressive $5000 per theater with a #9 opening at the box office. I saw the film last weekend and enjoyed it, especially the last half which seemed less burdened by unnecessary Linklater-ish dialog. In general I’m not a big rotoscoping fan, but the style held my attention and was well-executed.
In other animation news, the National Film Board of Canada has “put many of their classic films online”:http://www.nfb.ca/animation/objanim/en/films/ (via “Peter Merholz”:http://www.peterme.com/archives/000758.html). Also see “this beautiful little film”:http://www.skyvu.net/film/tree_qt_lg.htm by CalArts student “Ian Worrel”:http://ianworrel.blogspot.com/. Despite what the big studios do, I love that traditional animation is thriving at schools and with independent animators.
It’s not often that I get out of the house early on a Saturday, but STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo is today. If you are anywhere in the central Texas area, check out the web site for the schedule and location info. This week’s Austin Chronicle also ran a story on the show. Last night’s pre-party at Austin Books was great, but it’s still difficult to tell how many people will show up today. It’s one day only, so if you love comics or just want to support independent artists, please stop by.