The annual Fluke Mini-Comics and Zine Festival, which is quite a bit different from your run-of-the-mill bi-mon-sci-fi-con, is happening Saturday, Mar. 30 at the 40 Watt Club, and it is now officially old enough to vote.
For anything to last for 18 years in Athens, it has to be run by devoted and reliable people who care about continuity, and such is the case with Fluke. The event was once held upstairs at the now-defunct Tasty World, and although that was nice, the current digs are the best it’s ever had. There’s plenty of space to spread out, a cozy merch area, a good sound system for the carefully selected playlist and a large bar, which allows those who might be nervous about talking to strangers to acquire a little social lubrication.
Said bar also serves as a good place to put cake—another important differentiator for the fest. Co-organizer Robert Newsome says the genesis for that aspect of Fluke was just an attempt to amuse themselves.
“A couple of years ago, we thought it would be funny to buy a gigantic sheet cake from Kroger and have them write ‘Fluke’ on it,” he says. “And you know what? It was funny. So, we did it again. Then we got that sheet cake and a vegan cake for people who have veganism. Then we decided to get a gluten-free cake for friends with celiac. But those aren’t always easy to find.”
You’ll also find nearly 70 exhibitors, some local and many not. You can find the whole list of people who will have tables at flukeisawesome.blogspot.com. If they have a website, it’s linked. If not, you’ll find a video of monster trucks. It’s like the best ever game of Russian roulette, because both possibilities are delightful.
Newsome says there are some new exhibitors whom people seem to be excited about this year, including Yumi Yamaguchi, who’s coming all the way from Los Angeles—a fact Newsome says makes him nervous, because he’s never thought of Fluke as the kind of thing someone would travel all the way across the country for. He also highlights Jorge Santiago Jr., Andrew Peña, Klée Schell and Raeonda Ramoutar, some of whom have attended in the past and others of whom are brand-new to this thing. (Want to know more about the Athens folks who’ll have tables? Check out last year’s article, which covered many of them.)
Part of the delight of Fluke is encountering new folks and browsing through undiscovered material. There’s stuff for kids, stuff for grown-ups, stuff for people who like serious autobiographical narratives and stuff for people who’d rather read a mini-comic about mice shaped like a wedge of cheese.
The playlist is an important feature as well, in that it sets the tone for the whole event. Asked how long he spends putting it together, Newsome says, “Longer than I should, honestly. There are some jams that are on there every year, like Christopher Cross’ ‘Ride Like the Wind’ and Adriano Celentano’s ‘Prisencolinensinainciusol,’ but the important thing is striking the right balance between everything, while at the same time limiting the number of Garth Brooks songs to no more than four. We have quite literally never played a bad song during Fluke, and that’s a tradition we intend to continue.”
Also, there will be T-shirts this year, something that hasn’t happened in a while. “We’ve made two different T-shirt designs in the past, and we made way too many of them each time,” Newsome says. “But we finally, finally sold out of them a year or two ago, and we decided to continue our trend of never learning from our mistakes and have some more made for this year.”
What makes this year’s shirts special is that they feature a drawing by Fluke’s other organizer, former Flagpole cartoonist Patrick Dean, who has been diagnosed with ALS, which makes drawing a lot harder than it used to be.
So, what makes Fluke special? Newsome says that’s hard for him to answer, partially because he doesn’t go to a lot of other conventions. He falls back on the cake answer and the fact that it’s in a bar—and, honestly, that would be enough. The cake is a weird symbol of hospitality, of trying to give people a gift in a way that they may not quite understand, partially because it’s a joke turned reality. The bar is, of course, a bar, without which Athens wouldn’t be Athens.
Really, the answer is the people. Newsome says he loves to see folks come back year after year.
“They’re really important, and we quite literally would not be around without them, but my absolute favorite part every year is the people who show up for the first time,” he says. “There are lots of artists out there today for whom Fluke was their very first show. That’s nice to hear. And, of course we take 100 percent credit for any and all success those people achieve for the rest of their lives, post-Fluke.”
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