Running Through FLUKE 2010

OK, I suck. Let me count the ways. Well let me count the ways, when it comes to FLUKE 2010, the ninth annual mini-comics and zine festival held in Athens, Georgia on Saturday (April 17).

Last year when I covered FLUKE 2009, I committed to staying longer than 45 minutes this year. And I did--but I really planned on staying longer than 90 minutes (which is how long I stayed this year).

I have to apologize to Joey Weiser. I contacted him on Twitter, specifically going out of my way to confirm he was attending FLUKE 2010 with every intention of catching up with him. According to Weiser, he saw me a couple of times and I was always catching up with other creators. I suck. But I promise it was not intentional Joey--and I hate that I did not get a chance to see issue 1 of Mermin.

Here's my defense. Logistics in Atlanta prevented me from leaving earlier for FLUKE and family commitments (yeah, same excuse I used last year, but both times it was true) back in Atlanta demanded I leave Athens about two and a half hours after I arrived. Also in the positive column, I  made it by Bizarro Wuxtry this year, at least! Bizarro was one of the festival's sponsors, along with Ciné Bar/Café/Cinema, Flagpole Magazine and Inch-High Button Guy.

This is the ninth year for FLUKE, and the first year it was held at Ciné, a movie house that aims to offer "a variety of intriguing films from a broad spectrum of countries and cultures, including the newest domestic and foreign productions as well as movie classics, retrospectives and documentaries." (as detailed at the festival's press release).

After you read my rundown of FLUKE 2010, be sure to checkout the FLUKE Flickr set, which can be found here.

I hit Athens around 2 PM and got into FLUKE for the incredible bargain price of $5. I love the FLUKE button that comes with your admission--along with the FLUKE 2010 24-page anthology (featuring the story and layout by festival co-organizer Patrick Dean and inked by a range of talent including Michele Chidester, Hunter Wook-Jin Clark, Judson Culver,  Eleanor Davis, Aaron Fu, Claire Houser,  Falynn Koch, Chelsea Ray Lea, David Mack, Mandy Mastrovita, Robert Newsome [FLUKE's other co-organizer], Chris Schweizer, Allen Spetnagel, Devlin Thompson, Drew Weing and Joey Weiser).

I listed those folks, because as talented as all of them were, the floor was so jam-packed with attendees and artists talking and I did not have a chance to talk to everyone. Here's a sampling of who I did catch up with while there. In some instances, I was able to catch up with the creator's after FLUKE to get their reactions to the festival.

First up was Rob Ullman, who I was pleased to recognize from our past interviews (and conventions). He appeared at FLUKE this year for the first time. "I've learned to always kind of lower my expectations the first time I go to a show, since it's often the first time the attendees have seen my work," explained Ullman. "But even still, I had a good crowd and a lot of browsers all day.

"I liked the venue too," he said. "Cine is a cool building, and having the bar and drinks readily available right outside the convention room was great. I also loved the fact that it was right downtown, and nearby so many restaurants . . .I've been meaning to take the trip from Richmond (Virginia, where Ullman) for years, as many of my pals are from the area and talk it up every year."

In talking with creators at the festival, it's interesting to notice how many different platforms some are using to promote their work. This was the first festival where I had folks directing me to Tumblr, Twitter and etsy sites, as opposed to traditional websites. With Ullman, he said: "I'm always happy to direct folks toward my sites, atombombbikini.net and robullman.com, where you can expect at least a few updates a week . . . I'm on the twitter (@robullman) and the facebook (robert ullman) too, and I encourage people to look me up, but I caution that  doing so will subject them to a great deal of ranting about hockey, for which I apologize in advance!"

Ullman was good enough to also share some of the creators that caught his attention: "I picked up Josh Latta's new Rashy Rabbit book...he's a pal, but I really love his stuff and can't wait to read it. Also grabbed some minis from Dan Boyd that look pretty slick. I got some books from David Mack, and a beautiful little sketchbook from Eleanor Davis, too. Honestly, I'm sure there's stuff I can't even remember picking up...it'll be interesting to see what gems emerge from my suitcase once I get back to Richmond."

Next I ran into Joy Taney, who had a selection of mini-comics at her table, including her most recent work (W) as well as the first chapter of her prose project, Love the Sinner. "This was my second Fluke, and my second one sharing a table with my fellow SCAD-Atlanta alumnus Allen Spetnagel," she said. "Fluke is my favorite con--the opportunity for anyone to sell their wares means some really unique minis, zines, and merchandise show up every year, ones that might be overlooked at a larger con. The creative atmosphere around this expo makes me positive that several of the people who attend are going to be famous--some of them are already enjoying some notoriety--and I'm delighted that I've gotten the opportunity to meet them before they rise to comic book superstardom."

Down the way from Taney was Steven Trimmer, a musician who recently returned to pursuing his interest in art. Trimmer's art deals partially with dreams, as evidenced by his most recent work for sale, Ziska's Dream (Vol. 1). Another storyteller/musician at FLUKE, Jacob Hunt (creator of My Doomed Affair) was also selling copies of his band's latest release, Tracer Metula.

Next to Hunt was Joe Havasy, who was offering folks the sixth volume of Misanthropic Cavalcade, with art that at times reminds me of a comedic Michel Gagne. I really got a kick out of the blurb on the cover: "The most cutesturbing volume yet!"

SCAD  and SCAD-Atlanta always have a presence at FLUKE, it seems. And this year was no different. In short order, I ran into Drill Drakes who was offering a uniquely bound (trifold cover with a cut-out element) mini-comic, Narco Polo. Then there was SCAD student Erin Gladstone (a recent product of SCAD's mini-comics course, according to Professor Chris Schweizer] who had a variety of mini-comics (including Kick Some Ass).

In addition to bringing his latest book Crogan's March, in the spirit of FLUKE, Schweizer had produced a new mini-comic, Robot Teenager Goes to a Barn Show. This was Schweizer's fourth FLUKE. "Fluke is a very special show to me, as it was at Fluke that I became friends with most of the cartoonists whom I'm now closest to," he said.  "I love the vibe, it's always a lot of fun.  The new venue was, I think, an improvement, in that it felt like more people were able to set up.  The liquor (as the show is held in bars, it's the one comic show where liquor is a part) is a little more expensive, but only because Tasty World's was so very, very cheap - aside from that I didn't feel as though there were many changes.

In terms of the new venue, Schweizer noted it "seemed more enthused to have us there; I remember last year the final hours were overly loud because downstairs the evening's band was doing sound checks at full volume. Cine really seemed to bend over backwards to cater to the show."

Schweizer is always a great barometer of a show for me, as he takes a great deal in, every time. This FLUKE was no different: "The artist who caught my attention the most at this show has also caught my attention at three other shows in the last month or so. Her name is Alex Meijas, and she does these really well-executed, adorable minis. They're kind of in a similar vein to Laura Park's work, but with a chunkier inking style. I first saw (and picked up) a lot of her minis at Savannah's Mini-Comics Expo while I was in town for a signing; last week I was in Savannah again for their editor's day/SCAD-Con and she had a whole bunch of NEW minis, just a few weeks later. I grabbed those, and then just a week later, at FLUKE, she had even MORE new minis! Maybe she had a bunch in reserve, maybe she's really, really prolific, but either way, I'm swimming in these incredibly well-crafted minis. And speaking of well-crafted, I picked up a new mini by Pranas Naujokaitus, whose previous work includes the wonderful Beard! and Boxcar minis. It's three monster-themed minis in a slipcase. Pranas does really great production."

Schweizer also noted that he "got a couple of comics from Matt Wiegle, a Brooklyn-based artist who made the trip down, that look really good, and Eleanor Davis's sketchbook mini. Plus lots and lots of trades that I've yet to have the chance to go through, but am anxious to give a good reading."

In addition to Wiegle, Brooklyn was well represented by Sally Bloodbath, one of the forces behind the Always Comix anthology.

Before I had to get back on the road to Atlanta, I was able to briefly talk with the following creators:

  • Chelsea Ray Lea, regarding the latest issue of Pipe Bomb 42: Mermaidia Bomb
  • Henry Eudy, about his Fugly Animals anthology
  • J. Chris Campbell
  • Lou Copeland, with a variety of works, including Think You're Bad?; Exotic Sharks of the World; and Finger Crossing
  • Kate Howell

I'm going to agree with Schweizer's final words on FLUKE: "It was a really great show, as usual. It's small, casual, and intimate, and I always have a great time just relaxing and talking shop."

Clearly, there were a great many creators that I did not get to chat with--if you were a creator or attendee at FLUKE this year, please feel free to chime in with your thoughts on this year's FLUKE in the comments section.

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