Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Small Favor of Colleen Coover’s Small Press Comics

Staplegator by Colleen Coover
With lighthearted and playful art that portrays a wide range of emotions, Colleen Coover style can seem deceptively simple, but her Eisner Award-winning comics all came from the heart.

“I grew up reading comics,” Coover said. “I basically was reading comics straight out of the womb.”

When she and her older sister were young, they would collect and read the “returned” comics from their grandmother’s five-and-dime store. Before back issues became the norm, stores would remove covers and return them to publishers for refunds, throwing away the comic interiors, but Coover and her sister saved the junked comics from the trash.

“I was a voracious reader as a kid,” Coover said. “I just always naturally wanted to do comics, and I could draw a lot.”

While she initially struggled with the writing aspect of comic creation, she picked up skills when she met her future husband Paul Tobin. While they worked at a comic shop, he would develop his scripting skills while Coover developed her storytelling abilities.

“Once we got together as a couple, we did some short pieces together on a book called ‘Attitude Lad’ that came out from Slave Labor Graphics,” she said. “I’d prefer that people forget it, because it’s really rough.”
"Small Favors"
She also noticed a need in the comic book industry. Women would order adult comics just as men would, from Roman Dirge's “Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl” and Jhonen Vasquez's "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac" to more mature fair, but there was no existing “girly porno,” as she put it.

“This was adult entertainment for men to read,” Coover explained. “Women could enjoy it if they wanted, but it was with the understanding that they were peeking into the male gaze. I thought, ‘surely this could be done with women in mind.’”

This realization encouraged her to tell the story of curious Annie and magical Nibbil in “Small Favors,” recently collected and back in print. While she began with an inspiration from male-centric adult comics, the story morphed into a playful romance.

“Just having happy sex and having fun,” she laughed.
"X-Men: First Class Special"
From there, Tobin and Coover created the more family friendly “Banana Sunday,” which will soon be republished in color from Oni Press, and some work for Marvel, including the all-ages book “X-Men: First Class.”

Coover said it was important to her she not be pigeonholed as an “adult comics” artist, but she and Tobin didn’t want to leave the indie scene behind either.

“Together we did an ‘art film’ kind of graphic novel called ‘Gingerbread Girl,’” Coover said. “That was us keeping one foot in the alternate comics genre.”

The couple’s current project is “Bandette,” a love letter of sorts to European comics they both admire.

“We wanted sort of a Nancy Drew with friends kind of character, but we didn’t want to make her a detective, we made her a thief,” Coover said.

While they were unaware of the French heroine Fantômette, they were honored when French readers said the good-natured thief Bandette reminded them of the classic heroine.

“We tried to make the most European comic that americans who don’t speak French could make,” Coover said. “She lives in kind of a not-Paris, and she fights international organizations while helping out the police while helping herself to priceless art and artifacts.”

Coover and Tobin’s “Bandette” stories can be found on ComiXology, but will be printed in hardcover through Dark Horse Comics.

“The great thing about digital publishing is that there’s no overhead,” Coover said. “When I started out way back in the ‘90s, you could sell comics but … you could expect to spend money and not make anything back.”

Coover added she’s excited to be headed to Staple! Independent Media Expo, her first Texas convention in years.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


CAMINOS is an immersive paid fellowship empowering Austin-area Teens to carve their own path in the creative arts. For a period of 12 months Students engage with various elements in a program which includes working with ESB-MACC professionals on-site, 1-on-1 artist mentorships, assignments with community organizations and participation at relevant workshops and cultural events.  This process concludes with the execution of Student-led collaborative projects under the guidance of accomplished creative professionals.

Our teens are passionate and curious about pursuing a career in the creative fields (fine arts, audiovisual arts, media, tech, etc) while also being ambassadors for Latinx social and cultural issues.  They are motivated to explore their growing potential as a vibrant members of our city’s arts landscape.

The CAMINOS 2017 generation worked on a collective publication featuring powerful women in their own lives, and fictionalized narratives inspired in true events. 

The CAMINOS teens of 2018 have been collaborating with J Muzacs on a large scale mosaic that will be installed on the Hike and Bike trail in front of the ESB - MACC. They have also been working on a research-oriented digital magazine, writing articles pertaining to their individual passions. 

Also, CAMINOS students have been working on a 16pg zine of their own design. Having visited the Zine library at the Austin Public Library for references, and having consulted Latin American comics recommended by NAVA, the teens work focuses  on issues surrounding inclusion, identity, family, tradition and belonging. Each zine is different, so in order to get to know these young artists, you will have to collect them all!


My name is Brandon Muñiz and I’m 16 years old. I am a Latino who loves art and more specifically make up.
In my community that is seen as a waste of time, yet I don’t listen to what people have to say. I am who I am.

Hello, my name is Ana Cristina Chavez Alvarado. I am 15 years old. I am the first child of two Mexican parents,
soon I will be the first to graduate from High School in my family and move on to my college career. I feel like I’m
an opened minded person and I am interested in just learning new things in general. I take advantage of every
opportunity that is given to me to learn new concepts and ideas. I decided to join the Caminos program because
my dream career is to become an Architect which I feel has a lot to do with creativity within the arts. Caminos has
helped me a lot to expand my idea/ definition I once had about art. I say the idea I once had because Caminos
helped me see that  art is a much more than just coloring or drawing, it is a complex and open content that can
open further opportunities for myself in the future as a Architect. From Caminos I’ve learned many lessons, and
most importantly, I’ve met professionals that I would not have been able to meet if I weren’t in the Caminos program.
Thanks to having met these professionals now I have their phone numbers in my contacts, I know that if I need a
favor I can just give them a call and see if they can help me. With this I’ve kept in mind the quote; “It’s not what
you know, but who you know.”

My name is Gabby Gonzalez, I’m 18 years old, and I’m a senior in high school. I’m very passionate about music, art, politics, and activism. With Caminos, I’ve enjoyed connecting more with my culture through what I’m most passionate about. I have also loved the experience of trying new creative things and learning something from everything we do in Caminos.

Hi my name is Natalie Hernandez. Im 17 and a senior in high school. I am passionate about social justice and education. I mentor at my school with at risk middle school girls. We work on leadership skills, anger management and character building.

Hello, my name is Natalia Dominguez, Im currently a senior and also going to be the first in my family to apply to college. Something that keeps me motivated is the people that need help. With Caminos, i have learned that in order to keep a community working together, then relationships need to be built. I enjoy being in the program because I like to try new things and also meet new people.

Hello, my name is Esmeralda Rodriguez ! In general I love volunteering at animal shelters and I enjoy spending time with my hamster. I also enjoy being an intern for the creative arts internship called Caminos at the Mexican American Cultural Center!

My name is Anna Martinez and I’m 17 years old. I’m a very sensitive person ever since I was little and I never really found a way to express myself until I learned how to play my guitar. Now I can play my feeling away but  with the help of Caminos, I learned how to express myself through different forms of art, especially making little mosaic pieces.

My name is Bianca Rojas, I’m 18 years old and I want to be a tattoo artist. I’ve always had a great interest in body art. I’ve been trying to find an apprenticeship to learn more about this art form since 1. There aren’t many females in this work industry and 2. Not many are latinas. I hope to one day have my own tattoo shop. I’ve also began to produce my own shirt designs. Screen printing has been a good way to show my work to others, shirts you wouldn’t find anywhere else. At Caminos I’ve learned about Comics, Mosaics and things have been going very good for me. I’m a very curious person and I love to learn different art forms I can get my hands on. I’m very proud of the things I’ve produced and I hope to begin selling my work soon. IG: lyn.artx

My name is Sammie Seamon, I am 17 years old, and I love being part of the Caminos program! I’m passionate about journalism and animation and hope to one day be a journalist and write about political and social issues in the U.S. and internationally. I’m an editor-in-chief of the Polaris Press, captain of my school’s cross country and track teams, and am currently working on a solo traditional animation for my senior thesis! I’m very grateful for the exposure Caminos has given me to new art forms and creative projects, and I’m super excited to showcase our zine at the Staple Expo!

My name is Abraham Hernandez, i'm 18 years old and i have a puppy husky named Luna. I like to watch Naruto and memes. I want to become a owner of my own business( business type to be announced).

We look forward to participating in STAPLE, which will be the students first public presentation of their own forays into self-publishing!

___ _________________ ___

NAVA is a mexican-american artist, cartoonist, photographer, Augmented Reality pioneer and editor of the international Latino Toons Collective. Since 2017, he has been working with the CAMINOS program teens in developing comics about their own experiences. His works have been published internationally and he has participated in individual exhibits in Mexico, as well as group exhibits in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and the United States. In Austin, he has presented his collective's work at Nerd Nite and other venues. The group's travelling exhibition, is slated to arrive in Austin to the ESB-MACC main gallery in fall of 2019. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Interview with Jeremy Holt,

Jeremy Holt will be returning to Texas from Vermont for this years Staple! A talented writer, Jeremy's bibliography includes Skip to the End and Skinned (Insight Comics), Southern Dog (Action Lab)  Pulp (Comixology), which IGN has called, “…one of the best one-shot comics of the year,” and will be debuting After Hodini (Insight Comics) latter this year. Jeremy  was kind enough to take the time to do this interview.

Jeremy will be participating the the LGBTQIA Comics Panel at STAPLE! 

MH - In preparing for this interview, I got the chance to read Southern Dog and Skinned. I feel that each book plays around seeming.  Characters are not physically as they seem to appear. At the same time, they’re not emotional and/or ethical as they seem to project.  Is this something you see in your work, and if so why?

JH - That’s an interesting take on those two books. For me, it’s less about seeming and more about the exploration of one’s identity. For Skinned, I aimed to tackle the topic of gender identity, and for Southern Dog, more of a focus on ethnic identity. As an adopted, Korean-American, non-binary writer, I cannot help but incorporate my own experiences (both positive and negative) with identity into my stories.

MH - What titles are you bringing to Staple?

JH - I will have copies of Skip to the End, Skinned, and Southern Dog available for purchase. A little something for everyone!

MH - Your latest and upcoming books Skip to the End and After Houdini draw from historical figures that were also public performers. Do you see this as a creative shift for you? Is there a connection between appearance, performance, and writing?

JH - I’d definitely agree with that assessment. While developing, writing, and producing those books, I wanted to stretch my creative muscles by writing outside of my wheelhouse. Of the two books, Skip to the End was a massive departure from the types of stories that I tend to gravitates towards. Also, the fact that these both are works of historical-fiction, there was a considerable amount of research that needed to be done. I’m a stickler for details, and wanted to be sure to appease fans of either Nirvana or Harry Houdini, while also providing an accessible story for everyone.

MH - A lot of Staple guest are creators themselves. Do you have any advice on how you balanced writing with a personal life, day job, and networking?

JH - Tough question! Mainly because what works for me may not work for someone else. However, I will say that you must love what you do. Before you ever show any of your work to a friend, collaborator, or hopefully an editor, the act of creating should feel more like a reflex than a conscious decision. That has provided the foundation I’ve needed to forge on and build up my imaginary worlds. As for balancing everything outside of that? Well, that’s the real challenge in my opinion. I believe having a separate space, like an office, to do the work greatly helps in disengaging from it when Life comes roaring back in around you, after hours upon hours of isolated writing time. I also prefer structure, so I definitely designate blocks of time for just writing, others for just admin stuff like emails, and sprinkling in social media networking when I have a free moment at my day job.

 MH - Who are writers that influenced your storytelling?

JH - This list is ever changing, but currently my go-to inspirations are Patrick DeWitt, Haruki Murakami, Neal Shusterman, and Stephen King.

MH - Are there any other Guests or Exhibitors you are looking forward to hanging out with at Staple?

JH - I can’t wait to see my buddy Vanesa R. Del Rey!

Jeremy Holt

More interviews with Jeremy...                                                                                                                                    

Friday, September 8, 2017

Interview with Andy Hisch

This is one of the most overdue interviews I have. I found Andy’s work and Staple! back in Wizard World Austin 2010 and he continues to impress year after year. As a storyteller, Andy is a magician in the tradition that runs from Jack Cole to Jeff Smith. He makes fast-paced motion and action (occasionally even physics-defying action) seem seamless. He tells stories that have strong hooks and distinctive characters. Do yourself a favor and swing by his table at Staple tomorrow.

MH: What are you bringing to Staple, and are you bringing your folio, debuting any new books, and/or prints?

AH: My big debut for this year's show is a new entry in what I've started calling my Constructed Comics series. Previous ones have used side-scrolling frames, transparency effects, and fold-out 3D forms. 4-Way Stop is a road trip story told in conflicting parallels, kind of a "Road Rashomon".  I'll also have a bunch of dog stuff -- pennants! pins! -- in advance of Science Comics: Dogs, my graphic novel out in October.

MH: One the things that stuck me about your work is how well you tackle a page a physical object. How do traditional page layouts influence your Constructed Comics and what things have you taken from Constructed Comics back to traditional page layouts?

AH: None of the Constructed Comics so far have used the typical panel/page format. They're more about exploring ways to physically present a sequence. Like, if I reveal moments in this way, does that change the reader's role? Can it heighten a mood or make a joke land? Making them is my vacation from traditional comics, and I don't know that I've found anything that I can take back and forth between them. There are some things I can do with hand assembly that just aren't feasible at scale. We'll see what #5 brings!

MH: What do you think are strengths of comics as an educational medium?

AH: Their biggest strength is that students want to read them. It sounds too basic to mention, but it's so much easier to teach something if students want to engage with it. Beyond that, they're more visually interesting than a textbook, you can control your own pace unlike a video, and they've got better jokes than your teacher. I think the Science Comics line in particular is great because they're contained, digestible amounts of material of which no two are the same. Have you read Science Comics: Volcanoes? It's a sci-fi dystopia, for crying out loud! Dinosaurs is as much a history of science itself. In Dogs, you come for the adorable host and stay for the surprisingly robust introduction to genetics. To my knowledge, the line is an utterly unique undertaking in educational literature.

MH: As a Dog owner, what was the most useful thing you learned working on the upcoming Science Comics: Dogs?

AH: Body language! Communication is key to any good relationship, right? Learning the meanings behind how dogs hold each part of their body has really helped me understand what my dog is trying to say to me, and I'm a lot more conscious of what I might inadvertently be saying with my own posture and movements. We can communicate on the same level now! Making a play bow at a dog and having it be immediately, enthusiastically answered is just the best.

MH: Baker Street Peculiars, The Royal Historian of Oz, and Varmints all have very large casts of visual distinct and expressive original characters. What are you secrets of character design?

AH: I was taught that the best way to differentiate characters is through silhouette. If their silhouettes are distinct, your characters will read no matter what size they are on a page. I also try to pay extra attention to characters' posture. For example, the Peculiars all hold themselves in different ways, and that tells you a lot about their personalities -- authoritative, shy, laid back, or whatever that may be. Personally, when I start a project I want to get right to drawing pages, but I'm continuing to learn that extra time and effort put in during the design phase really pays off.

MH: What tips do you have for finding and maintaining an all ages audience? 

AH: Get hired to draw Garfield? So much of my work has been on existing properties or, now, as part of a bigger series. It's much, much tougher with an original project. I hope by doing good work when I'm invited to those projects that already have an audience that some of them will follow me when I go off to do my original stuff. Building a relationship with publishers who know how to connect to these audiences helps, of course, but it's no sure thing.

Are there any other Guests or Exhibitors you are looking forward to hanging out with at Staple?

AH: I mean, everyone, right? Staple is home to so many of my favorite people. I'm particularly excited to be tabling back-to-back with the Skweegie Island guys - Austin Bedell, Chris Sweet, and Zach Taylor. Usual neighbor and super crafter Amanda Michael is going to have loads of cute new toys. Also, my good, good pal Kyle Starks is coming to Texas for the very first time, and he's gonna charm the socks off of everyone. He's a real special boy, Kyle.

Find More of Andy's Work Here...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Interview with Kyle Starks

Eisner nominated writer/illustrator Kyle Starks has written and drawn several hilarious graphic novels and a boat load of mini comics in just the last few years.  He has a strong presence on the con scene and is still taking commission. You can (and should) get a great crosses section of his creative output by clicking over to As writer and sometime artist, he is currently helming the ship that is Oni’s monthly Rick and Morty.

MH: How do you manage you process when you are writing and illustrating a book?

KS: When I'm writing for someone else I do a full script with occasional layouts and reference stuff – normal comic writing stuff. 

When I'm doing both the writing and the illustrating I don't do any script. I spend a lot of time before one of my projects thinking about how the story is going to go and what it is, so when it comes time to my story it's just the way I want it. I will do a page by page outline per book but otherwise everything is “written” on the page. This keeps it fresh and fun for me and saves a step that for me as both writer and artist I don't think is really necessary. Which isn't to say I never write anything – rarely, but sometimes I have to work out dialogue exchanges – but I don't have a single scripts for Rock Candy Mountain, Kill Them All or Sexcastle.

MH: What is the editorial process for Rick and Morty?

KS: I'm not super certain on the editorial side, per se, but I can certainly share the gist of how a Rick and Morty book is made. 

Basically, it goes like this: I have a story idea, I tell my editor, she tells Cartoon Network and Justin Roiland, they always approve it, then I write or draw it, then at the end it goes to Cartoon Network and Roiland. Cartoon Network very rarely has any changes – mostly things to keep in line with their all ages intent, Roiland I'm told only just laughs and laughs. Then it goes through the steps of getting a comic made and back to Roiland and Cartoon Network again. Mostly we just make the book within the Oni Team – Cartoon Network and the creators almost never actually say anything, so it's rarely a part of the process. 

MH: Do you have any tips for people tabling at Artist Ally?

KS: This is a tough one. Make sure you have change (I probably jinxed myself by saying that), have more than one item, get a table cloth, be friendly. For me the most important thing not only tabling but day to day is that I want as many people as possible to see me work and very few things sell themselves. Also, try to have enough change.

MH: How did Chris Schweitzer get involved in Rock Candy Mountain?

Chris recently moved within an hour of me - maybe a year or two ago - so as the only professional comic creators in the area we quickly became fast friends. Chris, as you probably know, is an incredible, next level cartoonist and not a colorist but while I was going through test pages with prospective colorists it wasn't quite working like I wanted and I showed them to Chris to get his advice. He decided he loved the book so much he would color it and I'm forever thankful. He really brings life to the book that couldn't exist without him.

MH: What advice would you give someone wanting to launch a comic on Kickstarter?

KS: Start small, be prepared, do you math, don't over do it. And, personally, have the book done before you start. In my opinion, when someone buys something they don't want to wait a year to get it.

MH: Are there other exhibitors you are looking forward to hanging out with a Staple?

KS: I've been wanting to do Staple for awhile specifically because of the number of creators in the area who regularly attend the show that I absolutely adore. Andy Hirsch I consider one of my best friends and in the discussion, in my opinion, for the most underrated cartoonist in America. Robert Wilson IV is someone who's friendship I legitimately prize who I've done a ton of shows with and am always happy to see, Fabian Rangel Jr is the best dude and a real, impressive talent. Alexis Ziritt is as nice as he is talented, Gavin Guidry is a solid dude who's starting to make a name for himself. It's a great show and I'm looking forward to meeting a bunch of new folks and hanging, for sure.

More stuff at ...