AUSTIN, Texas — Jeremy Martinez’s passion for art runs in the family. 

“It was always something I felt inclined to do,” he said. 

His father is an art teacher. 

“Any time I had, like, a clipboard of paper and was able to draw a little bit, I was always happy, so it’s something that’s been a lifelong pursuit for me,” Martinez said. 

He went to college, got a degree with a focus on graphic design and worked as a graphic designer for years. Illustration was an afterthought.

“When I was in college, I always thought it would be like a hobby or something I did on the side when I had some time on the weekends,” he said. “Life’s unpredictable and I realized what I really want to pursue is illustration work.” 

So he put all his energy into it. Martinez learned how to do his own comics and self-published several books. 

“It’s been about 12, 13 years and my illustration portfolio is far more expansive than my graphic design portfolio,” Martinez said. 

According to his website, his career highlights include designing puppets for Season 1 of the Fox sketch comedy show, “Let’s Be Real” and as a tech artist for Season 2 of Amazon Prime Show, “Undone.” 

But he’s most proud of the fact that he’s completed three successful Kickstarter campaigns to fund self-published art books. 

“I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve got while being here in Austin and choosing this passion of pursuing illustration,” Martinez said. 

Martinez isn’t sure he’d be as successful as he is today without Staple! Independent Media Expo

“I had no idea how to look for other artists, how to start my artistic career, any of that,” he said

He remembers walking into Austin Books and Comics early in his artistic career and seeing an ad for the convention. It was a turning point for him. Martinez would booth his first table at the show in 2012

Jeremy Martinez says he wouldn't be where he is in his illustration career without the Staple! Expo. (Spectrum News 1/Agustin Garfias)
Jeremy Martinez says he wouldn't be where he is in his illustration career without the Staple! Expo. (Spectrum News 1/Agustin Garfias)

The inaugural Staple! was held in 2005. In 2003, Chris Nicholas and artist David Lamplugh started self-publishing comics, which includes putting the staples in them, hence the convention name.  

While trying to showcase their work, they met a lot of other people in the Austin area doing the same things. A primary way to distribute their work included tabling at conventions, but at the time there were only a few shows in the United States that focused on indie or DIY comics.  

“A person would have to get a plane, a hotel and pay the table fees to go sell mini comics for very little money,” Nicholas said. “It’s a losing proposition.” 

Nicholas says it took about a year to plan the first show in Austin and the rest is history. The last show was in 2019 before the pandemic swept the nation in 2020, causing events and businesses to close.  

The venue remained closed for a couple of years and then Nicholas had family matters that kept him busy.  

“I didn’t have the spoons as they say to do it,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas says he couldn’t visualize the expo’s return because it was expensive to put the show on and he wasn’t sure what the next steps were after a long break.  

He credits a professor at St. Edward’s University, Jeremy Johnson, for helping him bring it back. Johnson said he missed the show and offered space at the university.  

“Looked good. I ran the numbers and said this is doable,” Nicholas said. “People need this. They need art in their lives and the people need a place where they can connect.”

And so Staple! is back on in 2024.  

Nicholas, also known now as Uncle Staple, describes it as the artist alley section of the more mainstream comic-cons the average person might know.  

This year’s expo will feature over 100 creators, panels, presentations and board games.  

“Tabletop gaming and people making their own games exploded over the pandemic, so we wanted to feature that in the show this year as well,” Nicholas said.  

Martinez is known as a chameleon artist because he can pick up different styles and accommodate the project that’s needed. But his preferred genre is horror. He’ll be at Staple! debuting his new horror brand.  

“I’m a huge enthusiast of creature design,” he said.  

Staple! 2024 is scheduled for April 13-14 in the Mabee Ballroom at St. Edward’s University.