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18 May 2011

Aww Fluke yeah 2011.

The 10 anniversary Fluke Mini-Comics and Zine Fest was at the end of last month.  I know you may be questioning why I should even bother commenting on a show that happened so long ago.  Well, I'll tell you why.  In a few months from now I'll start thinking about what the best stuff of 2011 was/is/will be and I'll need this post to refresh my memory.  And, maybe you will need this post to refresh your memory.

I've been meaning to post about Fluke but things beyond my control have left me either too busy or physically unable to.  A few days after Fluke I had surgery.  I was certain that I would be able to get back to work and comics as soon as I got home from surgery.  The doctor laughed at me and told me that there was no way I would be able to function on the drugs she was going to give me.  It turns out, the only thing a person can successfully do on lortab and oxycodone is watch Twin Peaks and Doctor Who. 

So um, better late than blah blah blah.

My adventure began when... wait, stop right there.  Before I forget, let's talk about how I forgot to take my camera so all of the photographs in this post are stolen from Heather and Seth at Exile on Plain Street.  Exile is a really nice blog.  You should check out.  Who am I to tell you what to do?  A freaking genius.  That's who.  Seriously, they have multiple reports on Fluke and an enormous Flikr collection of Fluke pics.  And Heather and Seth are fine people.  Thanks!

Where was I?

Let's dial up the wayback machine to to Thursday, April 21 11:30 PM.  There I am.  Everything is under control.  Things at work ended up being a lot more hectic than they should have but I've got my PDF ready to print my new minicomic.  I've got the cover read to roll.  I've got Friday off so I'll have all morning to print the mini and then drive to Georgia.  I should be in Georgia before dark and have plenty of time to visit family before heading over to Lattaland.  Yeah.  This is going to be just fine.

Friday, April 22 10:00 AM.  Things spiral out of control at work.  I end up stuck working almost the whole day.  But that's okay.  Nothing can stop me.  I'll just shoot my PDF over to the UPS store via the magic of teh intronets and they will have my new minicomic ready for me as I roll out of town. 

Friday, April 22 4:00 PM.  I roll into the the UPS store to get my book.  Turns out the file did not send.  No worries.  I have the flash drive.  The clerk is really busy but I wait.  Eventually he prints a test copy.  The pages are flipped.  The printer does not want to print it as a booklet.  No worries.  Adjustments will be made.

Friday, April 22 6:00 PM.  Adjustments failed.  I can't wait any longer.  Gotta hit the road without my new minicomic.  Destination Lattaland.

So, since the UPS store is so far away from my house, this puts me hitting the road from the Bristol area instead of my home in the Shire.  That puts me driving south toward Georgia through Tennessee and both the North and South Cackalakies. At some point, close to dark, driving down Interstate 26 in Tennessee, I notice some Bible folk on the side of the highway.  It looks like a live Nativity scene.  Or at least that is how my brain processes the images I see.  Eventually, my brain comes to terms with the fact that a live Nativity on Good Friday does not make any dang sense and I realize that it is a live crucifiction!  

There were a bunch of Christmas padgent shepherd looking folk standing around three crosses.  On the crosses were three fellows wearing not much more than what appeared to be white bed sheets dipped in red paint.  Now, I love me some Jesus for sure.  But, that was odd.  And still I drove on...

It got dark.  Real dark.  Foggy dark.  It was hard to see so I let two cans of Red Bull handle the navigation.  They would argue between themselves at points about which exit to take and about which way was the fastest.  But it worked out.  I had written down directions to Lattaland but it was too dark for the Red Bull cans to read them.  By the time we hit Asheville, I knew the Red Bull cans were going to need some help.  I did what I could do to help by calling my wife on the cell phone.  I greeted her with a panic attack and then had her tell me exit by exit which turns to take.  I relayed this back to the Red Bull cans and we made it through greater North and South Cackalacky alive.

Let me just pause to ask a question of any Cackalackians out there.  Is "Future I-26" ever going to become "Now I-26".  It's been years folks.  Can we get to work on that?  Call a congressman or something?  Thanks.

Eventually I hit Interstate 85 South and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks.  It would be close to 1 AM when I made it to Lattaland, home of Josh Latta, his gracious wife Beth, three large silent dogs, at least one cat and many, many, many comics and toys.

Josh is a good friend of mine so it was super cool to talk comics and look at toys with him.  I even got to look at some original Rashy Rabbit stuff.  But, we were both really tired.  So by 2 AM we were asleep.

Saturday, April 23 7:30ish AM.  I open my eyes to see the face of large silent dog about six inches from my nose.  I think it was smiling. Josh had good coffee ready in the kitchen.  I hit the shower.  I got dressed and came down stairs just as Beth was putting the final touches on a breakfast feast.  Eggs, hash browns, sausage gravy and toast.   A very good breakfast.  Thanks Beth!

By a bit after 9:00 we were ready to hit the road for Athens so we did.  On the way there, Josh and I worked out everything that is wrong with comics.  If Marvel and DC would like to purchase this information for a great many dollars they are welcome to email me.

Saturday, April 23 10:30 AM.  We got to Fluke and there was a really long line from the entrance of the 40 Watt to the street.  Longest line I've seen for Fluke.  Saw some old pals in line.  The weather was perfect.  It was a nice morning.  At 11:00 sharp they started letting us inside.  The line moved quickly.  I've never been to the 40 Watt but it's a nice venue.  It has a big open room which turned out to be a great place for a small press show.  The tables filled up... well, pretty much instantly.  I find one half table near the back.  I was bummed that I was not near my pals but then The Top Shelf/Wide Awake Press Axis of Comics Goodness shifted things around and made room for both Josh and I over in their area.

It's always great to hang out with team WAP and team Top Shelf.  I've known most of those guys for as long as I've been making comics.  I worked with Robert Venditti at Borders back in the day.  I met Josh Latta through absent WAPpie Brad McGinty who I also worked with at Borders.  I met J. Chris Campbell at a comics show through Brad and Josh and I met Andy Runton at the show where he had his very first Owly minicomic.  It was sad that Brad could not be there.  I can only think of two or three shows I've set up at without Brad.

It turned out to be a great location.  We were just past the entrance and near the rest rooms so I think every one that entered the show came by our tables at least once.

Before I was even settled in I was selling comics and drawing in sketch books.  Robert Newsome came by and presented each of us with a lovely "certificate of table".  The show flew by for me.  I stayed busy the whole day to the point that I did not get to talk to everyone I wanted to.  Which is good but bittersweet.  

I've been making minicomics and going to conventions since 2002 so I've made lot of great friends that I only see once or twice a year at these shows.  I wish we all had the time and money to just hang out for another day without the business of comics.

And now some pictures I pasted in here weeks ago in totally random order.
That is Adam Daughetee of the Dollar Bin and his hat.  He is the Serpico of comics.  In the back ground of this pic I am talking to Rich Tomasso.  Rich used to live and work within walking distance of a Borders where I worked.  He was also at a lot of the first comics shows I went to as a creator.  He's a great guy and I've always liked talking with him.  And I happen to be a really big fan of his comics.  I think he is easily one of the most underrated cartoonists of the past decade.  Don't take my word for it though, you can check out a lot of his stuff online.  Rich said that he would have some new stuff in print in the US in the near future.  That will be super cool.
My pal Brad McGinty moved far far away from Fluke and could not attend this year.  This made the water come out of many eyes.  In tribute to our pal Brad a bunch of us put together a piece of jam art called Brad Fest.  This is not the finished version but it's close.  This features J. Chris Campbell (I think he started the thing), Josh Latta, Ashely Holt and myself.  I drew Brad as the naked cherub thing.  Because, that's how I always see him in my mind and in my heart.
This is Chris Sims on the left and Chad Bowers on the right.  They work on a bunch of comics together that are knee slappin' ha ha funny.  I've been reading Chris's blog since back when it was on blogger and I also read his stuff on Comics Aliance so I wanted to say "hi".   I did.  He and Chad also said hi.  And we traded comics.  Fluke magic.  Josh Latta and I are in the background of that photo.  I'm almost certain that we are looking at Patrick Dean's hair.
That's J. Chris Campbell creator of wonderful comics about robots and cowboys and firemen and bugs and all things good.  You want to know who is nicer than J. Chris Campbell?  No one.
That's a bunch of people getting their Fluke on.
That's Drew Weing on the left.  I wanted to say hi to Drew and get a copy of his new book but his table was super busy all day and I never got to it.  I think I'll see him at HeroesCon.
That's Henry Eudy seated and wearing the light red shirt.  Henry is a swell fellow and I like his comics lots.  I did not get to speak with him as much as I would have liked but, again, there is always HeroesCon.
There's that jerk J. Chris Campbell again and his pal Andy Rutton.  Andy is a super nice guy.  You want to know who is nicer than Andy Rutton?  No one.

Hey, it's Dustin Harbin.  Or as I call him in my mind, "The Dharbin".  I've known Dustin through HeroesCon for several years but this was the first show I've been to where he was set up as a creator as opposed to running the thing or promoting HeroesCon.  I've been following his comics online since right at the time he started posting them.  It was cool to pick up a couple of his books that I was missing.  I even got an original from his Diary strips.  One of my favorite of his strips to be exact.  Thanks Dustin!
That is Josh Latta making the magic happen.  I love tableing next to Josh.  He's one of the two or three funniest guys on Earth so his exchanges with his vast army of Rashy Rabbit fans are worth the trip to the show.  It's also neat to watch him draw.  He draws really small.  I learn a lot every time I hang with Josh.  I think Josh sold a lot of Rashy books that day.  He was busy.
Here are some guys I don't know actually making minicomics at the show.  As it should be.
Here is a drawing Patrick Dean did of Pinky and the Brain.  I heart Patrick Dean's drawing.
Oh, and that's Patrick Dean commanding someone to obey.  Patrick Dean is Doctor Who only without two hearts, a TARDIS and an English accent.  Oh alright, he has two hearts.
That's me on the left and Josh Latta on the right.  I think that was right as we were finishing setting up because we were both sold out of some of the comics pictured really early.  Oh what we could do to help the world if we could just get back the hours we spent agonizing over what t-shirt to wear.
Some of my comics.  I'm sure it was the Phillip cover that the camera was after.
This was the stuff I had for sale.  I sold out of Small Bible and SSAD1.  I think I sold out of Brush and Pen but I might have a few of those stashed away.  If you missed out on those books then,  at least you have your health.  Unless you don't.

After the show we made the traditional visit to the great Bizarro Wuxtry comics shop.  I had to get out of there fast before I spent money.  After that we had dinner with team Dollar Bin, team Exile, team WAP and team Top Shelf at Transmetropolitan.  I think that was my 3rd post-Fluke dinner at Transmet.  They have good cheap pizza and enough room upstairs to seat a large group.  It was swell.

And now, let's take a look at some of the loot I scored:

Rashy Rabbit Droppin' Anchor by Josh Latta.
I'm not going to say a whole lot about this one at this time because I'm already working on a full length review.  The Cliff's Notes version of that review is that it is a great comic.  I expected the art would be great and that it would be very funny but I think the overall storytelling is getting stronger with each issue.  Love this comic.

Not My Small Diary 16 edited by Delaine Green
I was very exited to pick this up.  I love Not My Small Diary.  It is an anthology series of diary comics.  Some great.  Some not so great.  All interesting.  John Porcellino, Julia Wertz, Noah Van Sciver and a lot of my favorite diary cartoonists are in this thing.  I always discover a lot of new folks through these as well.  It might be the best anthology in minicomics.  Certainly the best value.

This is not a minicomic and totally not my normal thing but I'm glad I got it because it has a backup story by Chris Sims, Chad Bowers and Rusty Shackles.  The backup story takes place near where I used to live so that was funny.  Both the main story and the back up were really good.  Good dialog.  Good art.  The colors were not over bearing.  The letters were not annoying.  (I tend to hate computer lettering.)  I can't afford monthly pamphlet comics but I would certainly be happy if someone shoplifted a trade paperback of this and let me borrow it.

This is the alternative manga anthology that Top Shelf is putting out.  I've only had time to read about a quarter of it but I really love this thing.  They had me at Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

Double Click by J. Chris Campbell.
This is one of J. Chris's beatifully made pocket sized minis.  Somehow I had missed this one before.  It's just  a collection of odds and ends but it's full of fantastic little characters, robots and gags.

Franklin's Rescue by Allen Spetnagel.
This is a great looking little full color minicomic.  The cover has this out of focus thing going on that gives it a 3D feel.  Very nice colors. Nice little sci-fi story.  Neat style that blends art comics with sunday funnies.  I dig it.

Dharbin No. 2 by Dustin Harbin.
This is a very well put together minicomic.  Simple but strong.  Nice yellowish paper.  Red staples!  Did you know they made red staples?!?  Great comics.  I had seen most of this before online but Harbin's drawing style really looks best on paper.  This is basically a one man anthology comic.  I love that type of thing.  Harbin did a good job picking out the order for the comics.  He breaks it up really well.  He juxtaposes styles nicely and breaks things up with some lovey sketches.  A very well designed minicomic.

Diary Comics Number 1 by Dustin Harbin.
This book collects Harbin's diary comics.  I've already talked about the online form of these comics quite a bit in my 2009 and 2010 best of lists.  I read a lot of diary comcis and Harbin's are some of the best.  This book is gorgeous.  Koyama Press did a wonderful job.  Just six bucks! Amazing.

Hairball by Chew.
Straight up black and white minicomic with a nice color cover on shiny paper.  Great cartooning in this thing.  Funny stuff.  A bit slight.

Our Lady of Sweet Revenge by Joy Taney.
This is a pamphlet sized comic but it has the home made feel of a minicomic.  The cover looks like a hand painted ransom note.  The story is a fantasy thing that is not my cup of tea but the art is amazing.  Great drawing.  Great colors.  Wow.

The 2011 Fluke Anthology edited (I assume) by Patrick Dean and Robert Newsome.
This is the big thick anthology minicomic that came with the price of admission to the show.  I've got a three pager in there that I'm pretty proud of.  It's a great comic.  Great stuff from Joey Wiser, Sally Madden, Mark Campos and a new Blar comic by Drew Weing.  Yes, I would have two cans of Red Bull drive me six hours to Georgia for this minicomic.

The Chronicles of Frogshway by Allen Spetnagel.
This is a pocket sized mini that uses the trick where you cut and old one piece of paper to make an 8 page comic. I love that trick.  I've not seen anyone do it in few years.  It's perfect for minicomics.  The comic is good too.  Funny.  Clever stuff from that Spetnagel fellow. 

Bit Lip by Patrick Dean.
This minicomic collects a lot of Dean's dirty comics for grown-ups.  "Twelve Couples In Love" is the subtitle.  It is hilarious and amazing looking.  Dean is one of my favorite drawers.  I just love his style so much.  Very glad to have a copy of this one.

The Hightlight of the Prague by Allen Spetnagel.
Another clever little mini from Spetnagel.  There is some dark, twisted and funny stuff going on in that guy's head.

Public Domain Catalogue by Ashley Holt.
This book collects a bunch of characters that Holt has created for anyone to use.  Holt's drawing here is wonderful and the characters are hilarious. Vlad the Undersea Vampire Monkey.  The Wax Tadpole. Autobiolad.  Jonny Kafkaesque.  Hilarious!  Ashley also gave me a CD with four songs on it.  It's great.  Reminds me a bit of Faith No More.  That is a compliment.

Our Trip to Fluke by the Dollar Bin gang and pals.
This is a neat little mini that collects a bunch of one page gags about folks' previous trips to Fluke.  Good idea.  Good looking little minicomic.

Interchapter Issue One by Shawn Daughetee.
This is a neat looking pocket sized color minicomic.  I'm not sure how it was printed but it looks like each page was hand colored.  It's really well made.  Nice paper.  The story is about a turtle crossing the road.  It says that is is based on Chapter 3 of the Grapes of Wrath.  All I remember about my high school reading of the Grapes of Wrath is horrible, horrible depressing sadness.  I prefer the turtle story.

All in all a nice stack of comics.  It was encouraging to see so many people still in love with minicomics as a medium.  Great to see so many new young faces making minicomics.  I've been afraid for a while that the ease of the web and print on demand would put a dent in minicomics but so far it seems to keep on growing.  Much love to Patrick, Robert and all the folks that helped make Fluke happen.  God bless us everyone.

After the show and dinner I made the six hour drive back to Virginia already missing my pals before I was out of Georgia.  I made it home in time to set out my Easter Bunny traps but, I'm sad to report, that once again, the Easter Bunny out smarted me and evaded my traps.  Well, there is always next year.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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