MoCCA Art Festival 2009 (Johanna)

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.

Matt, Rivkah, and Johanna at breakfast diner

Matt, Rivkah, and Johanna at breakfast diner

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.

People in line before opening as far as the eye can see

People in line before opening as far as the eye can see

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.

Exciting Books

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.

Chris Pitzer and Mike Dawson at AdHouse table

Chris Pitzer and Mike Dawson at AdHouse table

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.

Many Minicomics

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.)

Upcoming Promotions

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.

End Thoughts

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.

12 Responses to “MoCCA Art Festival 2009 (Johanna)”

  1. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes Says:

    […] from last weekend’s MoCCA Festival in New York City: Matthew J. Brady (with sketches), Johanna Draper Carlson, Josh Flanagan, CBR’s Kiel Phegley, Chris Pitzer and PW Comics Week. […]

  2. Bill D. Says:

    Sounds like a good time, despite the heat. I found French Milk through the library a few days after your review, and as a result I’m now a big Lucy Knisley fan, too, and am looking forward to more of her work.

    Please post a review of Side B when your done with it. The publisher sent me a review copy of the previous volume, Side A (one of the few review copies I’ve ever been sent… I felt so important when the mail came that day!), and I really liked it, so I’ve been anxious to hear about the new one.

  3. Johanna Says:

    It was a good time. I was kind of surprised to see so many complaints — although having to be in the building all day both days was probably a lot harder than what I did.

    And Side B is on the review stack, yes. Glad to know you’re looking forward to hearing about it!

  4. Hsifeng Says:

    Meanwhile, speaking of conventions, there’s IGN’s contest for a trip to Comic-Com – only open to men age 18-24: Anyone know why they’re excluding entries from women and people age 25+?

  5. Johanna Says:

    That’s really weird. I wonder if my writing about it will turn up any more info?

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » June 11, 2009: Shorter Journalista 22 Says:

    […] MoCCA Art Festival Link: Tom Devlin, Tucker Stone, Johanna Draper Carlson and the 2D Cloud minicomics […]

  7. Cathy Says:

    It was a pleasure to finally meet you in person, Johanna! Thanks for the shout-out for *Greenblooded*!

  8. Why the Heat at MoCCA Matters » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Spurgeon brought to my attention that cartoonist Julia Wertz called people complaining about the heat at MoCCA “whiney bitches”. I think that’s handwaving away a real problem. The heat at […]

  9. Fleen: Enjoy Our Semi-Abusive Opinion Mongering » Foggy Says:

    […] at least it’s not Too Damn Hot, which is a recurring theme in the discussion of the just-concluded MoCCA ‘09 which we will now mention for (promise!) the last time. Short form: yes, the fact […]

  10. Steven M. Bergson Says:

    Had I know that was you behind me in line on Saturday, I would have told you in person how yours is one of my favorite comics review blogs.

  11. Johanna’s MoCCA Books and Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] are some quick thoughts on some of what I picked up and enjoyed at this year’s MoCCA Art Festival. For more coverage, see Ed’s comics, Ed’s books, or some anthologies I got […]

  12. Geraniums and Bacon by Cathy Leamy » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] been remiss in not talking about Cathy Leamy’s comics before now. I mentioned her Greenblooded a couple of years ago, due to its unique subject matter (“an introduction to eco-friendly […]




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