Johanna’s MoCCA Books and Comics

Here 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 there.

Ellen Lindner’s Undertow is a fascinating portrait of 60s Brooklyn. Rhonda and Estelle are bored young women, dating and drinking because they don’t know what else to do. Chuck, a Harvard man training to be a social worker, is looking to Rhonda’s brother Johnny for his entree into the group to study them after a tragedy. There’s some great atmospheric work here, establishing the feel of the urban setting and the lives of bored, crazy kids.

Marguerite Dabaie had the second volume of her Hookah Girl and Other True Stories, short stories about the cross-cultural struggle of being American Christian Palestinian. Subjects range from the minor and mundane — how to eat sunflower seeds — to the disturbing — reading scary editorial cartoons. I liked the historical and cultural ones best, such as her guide to the Arab-American lifestyle or the drawings of embroidery.

Peter Quach’s Transit, a well-illustrated, affecting piece about life in the big city, can be read in full online. It’s got good, realistic conversation and strong figure work.

Johnny Hiro cover
Johnny Hiro
Buy this book

Johnny Hiro, by Fred Chao, collects the three previous comics with more new material. It’s imaginative and inventive, as in the first story Johnny tries to rescue girlfriend Mayumi from Gozadilla, a dinosaur attacking Brooklyn. What’s striking is that Chao captures all the adrenaline of an adventure story but paces it with the meaningful flashbacks of a modern novel and weaves in the everyday reality of living in New York. It’s an outstanding approach that’s unique and yet seems perfectly natural and well-chosen. It’s also well-drawn.

In other stories, Hiro is sent to steal a lobster; gets attacked by samurai at the opera; catches a giant tuna with his boss; and goes to Night Court. Plus, there are cameos by Alton Brown and Judge Judy. I really like this book and I hope there will be more.

Molly Lawless gave me two samples of her Infandum comics. (Whereupon I learned that “infandum” is Latin for “unspeakable”.) They’re large-format, the size of a sheet of paper (unfolded), the better to show off her detailed pages. I don’t get her fascination with old-timey baseball, but otherwise, I enjoyed these glimpses inside her mind and what she finds interesting, including childhood memories and training for a marathon.

Ken Wong's origami comics

My favorite minicomic acquisitions were Ken Wong‘s origami comics, three-dimensional paper creations that still told a story. Ed’s already praised them, and they’re much deserving. Ken developed them as a rejoinder to the idea that webcomics were superior to print — he wanted to show that paper comics could do something comics on the web couldn’t. And so he built a box to tell Pandora’s tale. (My version is flat, with instructions on rebuilding it, because I thought it was easier to travel with.)

But it’s the fortune teller that really captivated me. The idea of picking living or dead under one of the folded tabs is funny enough, but when you unfold the device and look at the opposite side, it’s the drawings of the various cats famous in comics and animation that really tickled me. It’s so multi-leveled: honoring different styles and characters while evoking the multiverses of DC and Marvel through each label: clones, irradiation, robots, manga stylings, comic strips… it’s a tiny little encapsulation of so much comic history, all on one page. He’s got a listing of the various earths on his website, but the list of cat homages is up to you. I know I’m missing a couple.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn cover
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(Manga Edition)
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Hyeondo Park, the artist on the webcomic Sam & Lilah, was kind enough to give me a copy of the manga adaptation of Huckleberry Finn, which he did the art for. It’s good storytelling, with plenty of adventure, but I look forward to seeing more individual work from him.

The last thing I’ll mention is the work of Sean Lynch. We had a great conversation about his sketchbook — he creates on the pages of an old programming book, the Borland C++ Programmer’s Guide to Graphics. It was bizarre to see art done with bits of sample code peeking through.

Whew! Some really neat work being done. Even with the issues with the show, I’m looking forward to going back next year.

3 Responses to “Johanna’s MoCCA Books and Comics”

  1. A Couple of MoCCA-Generated Reviews « Hooray for Mollywood! Says:

    […] and Johanna Draper-Carlson at Comics Worth Reading  mentions Infandum! #’s 3 and 4  in this post.  Thanks to both  of you for reading, and glad you liked them. Leave a […]

  2. SPX 2011: Quick Thoughts and Mini Reviews » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] is always cool to see the origami comics of Ken Wong, and he had three new entries. He’s making comics that could be nothing but, and […]

  3. Good Comics Out March 21 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] week, so maybe it’s a good time to check out a graphic novel from a smaller press, maybe Undertow (Soaring Penguin, $19.99) or Dinopopolous (Blank Slate, $7.99). Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow and […]




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