- Posted by Johanna on June 10, 2009 at 7:47 am
- Category: Comic News
This year, I went to the MoCCA Art Festival in New York City for the first time. (So, of course, this was the show everyone was complaining about. It was always better before.) Overall, it was a great experience, even though I was an idiot for flying up, going to the show, and flying back all in one day. (I’m too old to be awake from 4 AM through 1:30 AM the next day.)
A Slow Start and Other Problems
The show opened over an hour late. Explanations varied: cash registers weren’t there, badges weren’t there, publishers’ books weren’t there. The organizers extended closing time an hour, but that didn’t help people, like me, who had evening appointments they couldn’t miss. It totally bollixed up the programming schedule, too. I heard someone saying that the experienced show folks left the sponsoring museum organization last year, so the organizers may have had to re-learn some skills.
I had had breakfast beforehand with Ed, Rivkah, and her friend Matt Bernier, also an artist. (His minicomic Out of Water, the story of a boy and a dolphin based on a Greek myth, reminded me of Craig Thompson’s Goodbye Chunky Rice. He’s also contributed to Flight 5.) That was good, because I was fortified for the delay, and they were wonderful to talk with as we waited. I’m eagerly awaiting Rivkah’s next book, a huge autobiographical tale about coming to recognize when a relationship is bad for you and how to escape.
And who should appear in line behind us but Douglas Wolk! We’ve both contributed to the same two websites, but I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him before. Later, I also met Rick Marshall while chatting with Gary Tyrrell during a much-needed rest break. Otherwise, the show was big enough that I didn’t find anyone I hoped to bump into. It was definitely a place to make arrangements and phone calls instead of relying on chance.
Once we got in, the show was much warmer than I expected, which meant that promotional postcards came in very handy as substitute fans. There was no air conditioning in one big barn-like room, although I’m told that it was much improved over last year’s upstairs sweatbox.
I was also disappointed by the lack of identifying table numbers. Many of the artists I was interested in finding had been diligent about posting where they’d be, and I noted down the numbers… but digits were nowhere to be seen on the tables themselves, and it was very hard to see where one table stopped and another started, so counting was impossible.
Oh, and because I kept tiring myself out, I didn’t check out any programming, although Ed did. He’ll have a post later.
Some of the books I was most looking forward to buying were by Lucy Knisley. I have fallen in love with her art. Pretty Little Book is, like Radiator Days, a collection of journal comics, but in color this time! (Which means it’s the same price for fewer pages, but oh so pretty. And funny.) I also got Heart Seed Snow Circuit, her graduate school application project, a large-format comic with a talking apple, snowman, and refrigerator who discuss hunger, passion, and creation, all with food undertones (as I’ve come to expect in Knisley’s work). Thought-provoking and inspirational. Although an essay in comic form, the unusual characters are well-cartooned and keep the reader interested.
Probably my favorite is Drawn to You, a collaborative comic by Lucy with Erika Moen. They each drew themselves, sending pages back and forth online. It’s like reading a combination interview and letter series. They discuss why they do autobiographical comics, gender distinctions, sexuality, and compliment each other. It’s fascinating, in part because it stays so interesting even though it’s just two representations talking.
I also picked up these great-looking titles, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet:
- Johnny Hiro, collecting the three previous issues with a lot more
- Lamar Abrams’ Remake, which looks like silly action fun
- Side B, a music-themed anthology
- Ghost Comics, a benefit anthology out of Minnesota
- Undertow, a story about not fitting in the 1950s. Author Ellen Lindner now lives in England, which I found fascinating.
Top of my list for minicomics were new issues of Jumbly Junkery by L. Nichols. I was complaining about non-descript covers on earlier issues, so I was tickled to see the day-glo pink skeleton on yellow background on the new #7. That’s certainly not going to be overlooked!
The longest story in #6 really touched me, too. It’s about scientists inventing a time machine, and in the future, the traveler discovers that souls can be measured by quantum physics and as a result, science and religion have become one. As someone else who gave up the hard stuff for creative functions, I could really identify.
Cathy Leamy (Geraniums and Bacon) put out “Greenblooded: An Introduction to Eco-Friendly Feminine Hygiene”, which I had to have just because of the unique subject matter. She’s right, no one talks about this stuff. I learned a lot. Not willing to give up traditional products for the alternatives, but it’s good to know they’re out there.
Tim Kelly caught my eye because he had a puppet named Max the Meanie. He draws comics about it. He also has done diary comics about his daughter, who has autism, so we talked about the manga With the Light, which covers the same subject.
(I have a lot more to talk about, but that will have to be a second post, since I’m over 1500 words here already.)
Raina Telgemeier had postcards promoting the collection of Smile, due out in February. The cover takes a minimal approach, featuring a smiley face wearing braces. I can’t wait to read the whole story!
Hope Larson’s new book, Mercury, will also be out in 2010. I know nothing about it except for the intriguing postcard image she had, but it’s by her, so I’ll buy it.
Matt Loux, who looked younger than I expected (but then so did everyone), told me the third volume of his Salt Water Taffy series, The Truth About Dr. True, is due out a little later than expected, probably September.
I missed saying hi to Neil Kleid, although NBM had promo booklets for his upcoming book The Big Kahn. It’s a nice presentation with a substantial chunk of story, and it worked — I want to read more.
I closed the visit with a very nice sushi dinner at Japonica with my brother and sister-in-law. I like coming back to family after comic shows, because it grounds me.
On the way back to the airport, I wound up sitting next to a young woman who leaned over and gave me information about a subway stop. I asked her, “how could you tell I was a tourist?” She replied, “You smiled at me.”
My very deepest thanks to Jim Ottaviani, for giving me a place to sit when I really needed it.
Reading other people’s reports, I feel like there was so much I missed. Heck, Ed and I came away with almost totally different stacks of reading material. (Time to swap and share!) I don’t mind — I’d rather leave wanting more than feel burned out early — but I wish the environment had been more conducive to browsing (lower temperature, places to sit down, easier table navigation).
The biggest problem I saw at the show was that of pricing. Minicomics are more often $5 than $1, and books start about $15. Which means it’s a lot harder to sample widely (unless people pay attention to the press badge, which is the only reason I came back with as much as I did). I spent $60 right off the bat on must-haves (six books), which made me pickier afterwards. With news that table fees are increasing to $400 next year, I fear for what that means — artists will have to have higher-priced items just to have a chance to make a profit. For a normal visitor paying a $10-15 entry fee just to have a chance to shop, this becomes a pricey weekend.
The biggest hope I saw was that there is no reason to fear for the future of comics. All these young creative people were almost too much for one huge room. It’s astounding, what’s being done out there, and even though I exhausted myself physically, I feel energized by it all.