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I have lived in Austin, Texas for almost seven years now. Six of those years I have been going to my favorite local convention Staple: The Independent Media Expo. I love is so much that for the third year in a row, I’ll be volunteering at the show. If you haven’t heard of it and you’ll be in town on March 5th and 6th, come join us!

What is STAPLE?

STAPLE! is a quickly growing convention located in Austin, Texas that has been bringing the best of independently produced comics, zines, art, crafts, and games and more to local fans. This year, there will be over 150+ exhibitors of comics, zines, art, crafts, games and more! There are events and workshops and live podcast recordings throughout the day and live screen-printing of the annual STAPLE t-shirt.

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Some of my past highlights: meeting Kevin Eastman, mastermind behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and interviewing Sean Wang, the creator of Runners. I’ve also met some other amazing artists like Kate Leth, E.K. Weaver, Jamie Kinosian, and so many more. Last year there was also a really stellar panel about queer diversity in the gaming industry with folks from my favorite Bioware. There is always great things happening at STAPLE! and this year is no different.

Who are the Guests this year?

There are some fantastic and talented creators coming out for this year’s STAPLE! Four time Eisner Award winner Gene Ha is the artist of books like Fables, Justice League, Cyclops & Phoenix, and Oktane. Emily Carroll is probably best known for her short stories collection Through the Woods and her gorgeous illustrations. C. Spike Trotman runs Iron Circus Comics, Chicago’s largest comics publisher, and puts out some pretty awesome Kickstarters. Danielle Corsetto is the creator of Girls With Slingshots and has written three Adventure Time graphic novels. These are just a few of the guests that will be showcasing at STAPLE! You can read up on who else will be there on STAPLE’s Guests page.

There will also be TONS of exhibitors showing off their work. You can find the whole list on STAPLE’s Exhibitors page.

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STAPLE! Details

STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo
When: March 5-6, 2016
Where: Marchesa Hall and Theater, 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, TX
Tickets: Sold at the Door

Interested in attending? Great! Here’s the scoop. On Friday (the 4th), there will be a pre-party out at Austin Books and Comics starting at 8pm. On Saturday, the expo officially opens at 11am and there will be workshops, tutorials, panels, interviews and more until they close down at 6pm. On Sunday, the show starts at 12pm and goes to 6 as well. And throughout the whole thing there are two rooms full of vendors for your to peruse to your heart’s content. The complete STAPLE! schedule can be found on their site.

Tickets aren’t sold online, so just head out and purchase them at the door. $10 for a day pass, $15 for both days. On Saturday only there is a Student/Military discount: two-day pass for $10 with valid student or military ID.

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Join Us!

Can’t wait to see you there!

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If I’m not careful, this is quickly going to turn into a nothing-but-youtube-videos-and-music blog, but y’all are okay with that right? RIGHT?

(I promise real posts are coming soon – they’re in the works.)

Musical!Inspiration!

I’m absolutely in love with the band Walk off the Earth and this song, Red Hands, it just PULLS at me in a way most songs don’t. I absolutely love it.

I realize that I got red hands, I wanna change this / Don’t ask me why I choose to lie, I stay blind, oh / It’s clear to me that you are human too, your accusations are burning through

The other song that I only just learned about last night is by a band called Alpha Rev who just played Blues on the Green here in Austin and they’ve quickly become one of my favorite bands. And this song, Sing Loud, has been on repeat all morning. So good.

Sing loud from the roof tops / Come dance on the rivers edge / Carry me over mountains to the end of love / Close the gates to the city / Hear the drums on the hillside / Carry me over mountains to the end of love

That’s it. That’s all I wanted to blog about today. Be good. Do good. Listen to good music.

At the beginning of March, I was able to attend STAPLE!, the independent media expo that happens here in Austin every year. I’ve been the last three years and it just keeps getting bigger and better every time. I have a lot more blog posts that I’ll be writing showcasing some of the folks I met, but I’m going to kick it off with an artist showcase/Kickstarter fundraiser post all rolled into one.

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Sean Wang is the writer and artists for the comic/graphic novel RUNNERS. I had never heard of it, but was introduced to Sean through the awesome event coordinator from Dragon’s Lair Comics, which is my favorite comic shop in Austin (but I can’t remember the event coordinator lady! Who are you? You are awesome!). I picked up his book while I was talking to him and was instantly hooked – I love his gorgeous lineart and the story grabbed me from the first page. I ended up going back a few hours later to buy the first RUNNERS book and ask I could interview him for Snailbird.

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Sean Wang and yours truly (I need a haircut)

Timing was perfect – Sean did a panel discussion on kickstarting your webcomic with Kickstarter and was currently promoting his own Kickstarter campaign as well so he agreed! So without further ado, here is the interview!

Interview with Writer/Illustrator Sean Wang

01. Tell us a little about yourself and what Runners is all about.

Sure! My name is Sean Wang and I am a comic writer/artist. I got my start on the TICK comics for New England Comics and also did MELTDOWN for Image, but my main project is my self-published sci-fi series RUNNERS, which is a fun action-comedy space adventure that follows the exploits of a crew of alien smugglers. Basically, they’re a rag-tag group of (mostly) aliens who take on smuggling runs for the mob that tend to spiral out of control. In the first story arc, RUNNERS: BAD GOODS, they are trying to complete one particular run that has them pursued by pirates, mercenaries, and an entire space station full of police, all trying to get to their cargo. In the new story, RUNNERS: THE BIG SNOW JOB, they take on a seemingly trivial job to steal a herd of yak on a frozen planet, but that job also goes south rather quickly as they find themselves pawns in a series of escalating double crosses.

Both the first and second story arcs have been posted online at Runners Universe, where you can read them in the entirety completely for free! I am also running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of the second story in graphic novel form, so you can get the books that way. That campaign ends very soon (March 28!), so be sure to check it out

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02. What is the process for creating each page of comic – is it completely digital or do you combine it with traditional work?

It is a combination. I still pencil and ink traditionally on bristol board at comic size (11 x 17″). I typically use blue lead mechanical pencils for the penciling part and then a combination of Micron pens and Japanese brush pens for the inking. Once that’s done, I scan the page and do the coloring and lettering digitally in Photoshop.

03. Why did you decide to start a Kickstarter and did you expect it to get so big so fast?

Once the second story had finished posting online, I started planning to also get it into print form. The first book was black and white (and grayscale), which wasn’t all that expensive to self-publish. But the new story is full color and I knew the printing would be much more expensive than the first book. So I decided to turn to Kickstarter to help me fund the printing. My modest hope to to bring in enough money to offset some of the costs, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see it completely funded! I hit my initial goal of $6000 in the first 2 days and my first stretch goal of $8500 (to print the book in the U.S. instead of overseas) a few days later. I guess a lot of readers were very excited about having the new book in graphic novel form and I’ve also had a great number of new people discovering the series, which is always a plus, because beyond just funding the project, it was very important for me in using Kickstarter to bring in as many new readers as possible.

04. What was the most surprising technical thing about the Kickstarter process?

I was actually surprised with how easy it is to put a project together on the site. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of work that had to be done, IE figuring out all the cool reward items to offer for the various tiers, researching all the shipping and supply costs, getting the video and all the visuals together, etc. But once all that was done, getting all that info up on Kickstarter was a fairly easy and painless process. I was expecting a few more quirks and technical glitches, but they really designed a great site with a very smooth process.

runners-snowjob05. What advice do you have for someone wanting to start their own webcomic/graphic novel/Kickstarter?

I can’t really say I have the best advice for doing a webcomic, since I don’t really follow the successful mold there. Given the nature of my storytelling and art, I need to fully script each storyline ahead of time, then do all the concept design, and then do the actual pages, which also take a lot of time to pencil, ink, color, and letter. So when I was posting the stories, I could only get up a page a week, and then there are long hiatuses between arcs as I frontload the work on the next one. To have a webcomic though that really builds traffic, you need a very regular (and frequent) update schedule. There are a number of successful webcomics out there, and you’ll usually find them posting new material several times a week without ever missing updates. It’s important to maintain that kind of discipline.

As for Kickstarter, it’s important to realize that it’s not quite as simple as you putting up a project and getting free money. Your chances of success will be greatly improved if you go into the project with a sizable audience already. The more people you have already familiar with your work, the more you have already willing to contribute without you having to sell them on an unknown quantity. But as far as bringing in new people, it just helps to have as professional a product as possible. Presentation is key: try to have the best art possible, clearly explain your series and goals on your project page, put together a good video that conveys that information as well, and stay in constant contact with your backers through updates and other postings online.

06. And finally! Who is your favorite Runners character?

That’s a tough one. I really can’t say I have a favorite since I always wanted to develop them all in such a way that any one of them could be a favorite for any reader. They all have different personality traits that make them fun or interesting in their own way, so hopefully no one character really steals the show. That said, I do think Cember is a lot of fun to write just because he is the most jokey one of the group but isn’t a total clown. He comes across as carefree but I think he’s only able to do that because he knows he actually has the chops to take care of a bad situation should one arise. I also love Roka as a character because he’s the exact opposite of Cember. He’s a bit more broken and unsatisfied with his lot in life. I didn’t want him to be a depressed or depressing character, but he certainly carries a lot more weight on his shoulders than anyone else, and that kind of struggle with the burden of leadership is very interesting to me.

But I think all the characters are a lot of fun, and it seems my readers are really having a great time with the series as well, so if you like fun sci-fi action adventure with cool alien characters, be sure to check out the RUNNERS: THE BIG SNOW JOB Kickstarter project (ends March 28)!

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Thanks Sean for the awesome interview! If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out more of Sean Wang at personal website, at Runners Universe, and on Facebook! And don’t forget to pledge to his Kickstarter project!

Day One of SXyote Sponsor: Embrace Pet Insurance

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Embrace Your Pet!

Well it’s Day One of the #SXyote adventures and while the majority of my day will be spent in the Gaming Expo for game reviews, demos, and a few sessions, I wanted to start off the day by thanking my Day One Sponsor: Embrace Pet Insurance! They are not only a sponsor this year, but they were one of the very first sponsors of the first fundraiser last year – so HUGE thanks to them for continuing to believe in my cause. You guys are awesome!

I now only love them because of their sponsorship, BUT they are also our very own Pet Insurance company! Most of our furkids are covered under their insurance so my shirt is pretty on the mark for us – “Don’t just love your pet, EMBRACE your pet!” We do! Do you!

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About Embrace Pet Insurance

Embrace was created by Laura Bennett and Alex Krooglik in July 2003. Laura and Alex spent several challenging years establishing Embrace. With a number of “one step forward, two steps back” experiences that often led them to wonder if they would ever get Embrace up and running, they persevered and laid the groundwork for Embrace today. Their core values are: We Are Open & Honest, We Believe In Customer Fixation, We Give Back to the Community and Help the Environment, We Take Personal Responsibility, We Seek Innovation, and Be Passionate.

We love Laura, Alex, and the whole Embrace Crew! Thank you again for sponsoring Day One of SXyote! Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #SXyote for lots of great livetweeting and pictures!

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