MoCCA Art Festival 2009 (Ed)

by Ed Sizemore

Everyone has mentioned that the show started an hour late and the show staff weren’t very good about keeping the people in line informed of what was happening. The delay actually turned out to be beneficial because I was standing with Rivkah and her friend Matt. Behind us in line was Douglas Wolk. So this meant listening in on some good conversation. Douglas also showed off his sketchbook, which was a who’s who of independent/alternative artists. (You can see some of the pages on his website.)

It’s also well documented that the Armory doesn’t have A/C and the dealer’s room was hot and stuffy. I would recommend putting fans at the rear doors to get some air flow going. I know that fans create wind and that’s not really desirable at a comic show. However, the humidity isn’t good for comics either, so fans that create a light breeze should be a good compromise. Contrary to the opinion of some, the panel room was not air-conditioned. They opened up the windows and cooled the room that way. I guess living in the South has some advantages I didn’t think it was THAT hot or THAT humid. At least not compared to a few of the days we’ve already had here in Richmond.

The spacious aisles at MoCCA

The spacious aisles at MoCCA

My complaint was the lack of chairs for attendees to use. It would’ve been nice for us older folks to be able to sit in a chair as we took a break instead of on the floor. There certainly was more than enough room to put chairs up along the walls without disrupting traffic flow.

I liked the Armory and thought it had a few good points. First, the stairways and doors were large and easily accommodated heavy traffic flow. There was plenty of elbow room as people moved between the panel room and the dealer’s room. Second, this is the first convention I’ve been to that actually had aisles wide enough for everyone to move around without tripping over each other. The aisles were about four to five people wide, which meant you could have people standing around tables on each side and still have room for two lanes of traffic. Kudos to the MoCCA staff for a nice room layout. Third, there was room for the expansion in the Armory. MoCCA could hold at least one more show there, if not two. Although it would be nice if MoCCA could find a permanent convention hall. Finally, the Armory was surrounded by little eateries so it wasn’t hard to find food.

I attended two panels. The first was Making Good Comics in a New Era, moderated by Heidi MacDonald. The guests were Randy from Bodega Distribution, Tom Neely, Dylan Williams of Sparkplug Comics, Julia Wertz, Brett Warnock of Top Shelf, and Mats Jonsson of Galago. This was an interesting look into the current state of small press publishing, self-publishing, and comics in Sweden. Remarkably, the biggest effect the economy appears to have on small publishers is a reduction of upfront capital. So projects are being moved back. Everyone hates Diamond and is hoping that someone/some company will step up and became the distributor for small press comics. Sweden is enjoying a comics boom with largest number of new artists in their history. The enthusiasm has helped staved off the effects of the poor economy in Europe for Swedish publishers.

Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee

Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee

The second panel was on the short-lived 50s humor magazine Humbug!, moderated by Paul Karasik. The guests were Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee. Karasik asked a few questions to get the conversation going, then sat back and let Roth and Jaffee just tell stories of working for Harvey Kurtzman. It was a great hour filled with funny stores very well told. I hope someone taped the panel, because I can’t do justice to Roth’s and Jaffee’s delivery.

I also meet a few people. I got to talk to Erica Friedman, a thinker/writer/blogger whom I have tremendous respect for. I also got to meet Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content and Richard Stevens of Diesel Sweeties and tell them both how much I love their comics. Of course, I said hi to Tania Del Rio and her husband Wil Staehle.

Tania Del Rio and Wilhelm Staehle

Tania Del Rio and Wilhelm Staehle

This was my first time at MoCCA and only my second alternative/independent comic convention. I didn’t have nearly enough money to pick up everything that caught my eye. Thankfully, all the artists I was interested in had websites. Which brings me to my first observation: all the artists had either business cards or postcards available. Equally important, these were well-designed items that gave you a sense of the artist’s style. So when I look through them now, I can see why I picked up each card.

MoCCA postcards

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to put real thought into your business cards or promotional material. I picked up an equal number of business cards at SPX last year, and most turned out to be generic in style and design. I ended up throwing those out since I couldn’t remember if I put them in my bag because I was being polite or because they had something I liked. So if you want people to visit your website after the show, give them a business card that honestly reflects who you are as an artist.

Second, I thought too many artists were more focused on being cool, ironic, or provocative than in making good comics. Not many, if any, seemed interested in exploring the limits of comics either visually or thematically. Related to this, I was disappointed in the a lot of the art I saw. It seems that the new fad is to make your style look crude and sloppy. I realize some of those people may not be good artists and what I saw was the best they could do. But there were too many for that to be the case with everyone. The art is your chance to make a first impression with the audience. You should want your art to attract new readers. You’re going to have to be the Plato or Einstein of comics for me to read your material if the art looks like it was done by a grade-schooler in a rush to finish up before recess.

Third, I know it’s NYC, but many of those mini-comics and self published comics were overpriced. I saw asking prices of $5.00 for a twenty-page mini-comic that was only three inches square. For that price I could get a full-sized comic professionally printed from either Evil Twin Comics or Blacklist Studios. I know the tables were expensive, but you have to price yourself competitively.

Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente of Evil Twin Comics

Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente of Evil Twin Comics

Fourth, I was impressed to see all the international publishers there. It was great to see comics from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Canada, and England. And those were just the ones that caught my eye. I’m sure I’m missing a couple.

Finally, there was an amazing variety of comics and merchandise there. All genres and formats of comics were represented. If you couldn’t find something you liked or wanted to try then you weren’t looking. I can’t complain about the amount of selection available.

Overall, I had a great time. The complaints I had about the venue are minor compared to the value of just being there. All the artists and publishing companies were nice and approachable. No one let the heat get to them. I wasn’t the only one excited to be there; the crowd had a good vibe. Even though I only attended two, I thought there was a nice selection of panels. I enjoyed myself and would like to go back next year.

11 Responses to “MoCCA Art Festival 2009 (Ed)”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    To my shame it didn’t hit me until this morning, that Matt runs the Comic Tools blog ( It’s an amazing blog that discusses the nuts & bolts of being a comic artist. Matt really should be teaching some where.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Oh how nifty! I wish we’d had a chance to talk with him more about that.

  3. James Schee Says:

    “I would recommend putting fans at the rear doors to get some air flow going. I know that fans create wind and that’s not really desirable at a comic show.”

    Okay, I’ve obviously not had nearly enough sleep, as I was SO thinking you were talking about a different kind of fan (a person that is:) ) when I read this at first.:)

    Good point on the cards/promotional material as I remember doing just as you did after a trip to SPX years ago.

    I guess I am getting old, as that price for minicomics just sounds so insane.

    Thanks for the panel recap.

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

    […] MoCCA coverage comes from Zane Austin Grant (Part 1, Part 2), Jog (Part 1, Part 2), Ed Sizemore and Tucker Stone. Sean T. Collins also shows off additions to his David Bowie Sketchbook. […]

  5. Thomas Hall Says:

    “$5.00 for a twenty-page mini-comic that was only three inches square. For that price I could get a full-sized comic professionally printed from either Evil Twin Comics or Blacklist Studios.”

    Actually- Robot 13: Colossus! Issue#1 has a $3.00 cover price. Have your local comic shop order it from us & save yourself postage… :-)

  6. Pitzer Says:

    They actually ended up using fans on Sunday at the front, and I kept feeling a small cool breeze every now and then. Not sure what, if anything, was done at the back.

  7. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Thomas, sorry I didn’t mean to misquote the price of the comic. Thanks for the correction. Stay tune for the a review of Robot 13.

    Chris, of course, the day I’m not there they bring in the fans. I’m glad they were doing something to alleviate the heat. I’ll also be posting a review of the Pope book.

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

    […] 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 that it was […]

  9. Sarah Says:

    The promo postcards are great. I actually used a handful I snagged at MoCCA two years ago to decorate an entrance hallway in my old apartment (Scott Pilgrim riding T. Rex from Dinosaur Comics! awesome!).

  10. Hsifeng Says:

    Ed Sizemore Says:

    “However, the humidity isn’t good for comics either, so fans that create a light breeze should be a good compromise.”

    Sweat dripping from the palms of overheated people’s hands also isn’t good for comics either! I know a few people who had to take exams in overheated rooms and had issues with their test papers getting damp.

  11. Ed’s MoCCA Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] make the reviews more manageable, I divided the material I bought at MoCCA into floppies and books. Here are floppies; the book reviews will follow […]




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