- Posted by Johanna on April 30, 2012 at 10:39 am
- Category: Comic News
I took a long weekend in New York City to visit this year’s MoCCA Fest held to benefit the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. My mother and I were traveling together, since after the show, we planned to do some sightseeing and shopping in the city.
We stayed at the Ramada Eastside, which I heartily recommend. For about $200 a night (it is New York), we had a recently renovated room much larger than I expected with a bathroom with plenty of space as well. Plus, they provide free wifi and free breakfast (bagels, donuts, pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, cereal). This was all four blocks from the show location at the Lexington Armory. If you’re interested in visiting the MoCCA show and staying within walking distance, it’s a great choice. Now that I know of a reliable place to stay in the area, that makes it much easier to make this trip a yearly habit.
I was at the show at opening on Saturday, 11 AM, and was surprised to find myself done at 3:30. I had seen many wonderful artists, talked with old friends, met some new ones, and acquired a lot of terrific reading. I could have done another sweep of the floor, and I’m sure I would have found more great comics to try, but I was tired — we were up for our flight that morning at 3 AM — and I didn’t feel like I could carry much more.
My show strategy this year is to avoid overdoing, to enjoy what I what find and not stress about what I might have missed. (So I’m sorry I didn’t get to say hello to Stephen Robson of Ponent Mon or Ed Chavez of Vertical, but I’m sure there will be another opportunity in future.) This show can be done in an afternoon or take the full two days, especially if, unlike me, you remember to go to some of the panels and programming. By mid-day Saturday, the show floor was nicely crowded. I would get bumped every so often, which I don’t care for, but that many attendees hopefully meant good business for exhibitors.
The Comics, Artists, and Publishers
This show didn’t have one standout book for me. Instead, it was about continuing enjoyment of the medium and its artists. I should say to start that I didn’t spend a lot of time shopping with big publishers such as Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, or Drawn & Quarterly. They all had books I was interested in, but I can easily get them when I’m home, without worrying about how to carry them back there. I had limited packing space this trip, so I focused on small press and minicomics, many from artists who are long-term favorites of mine.
That was the best thing about this show — seeing creators whose work I’ve enjoyed for years continue bringing out new and exciting works. Take Kris Dresen, for example. I’ve been loving her work since the mid-90s, and now she was debuting the print edition of She Said. I also picked up Gone, which is almost an illustrated poem about trying to fly.
I enjoy Alisa Harris’ Cooking Up Comics web recipes, so I bought the three issues of her Urban Nomad minicomic about living in New York City. (Great reminder of how much fun it is to visit the city but how glad I am that I don’t live here. It takes a special kind of person to survive it.) And my mom was actually interested in taking the bookmark I brought back — Cooking Up Comics might be the first webcomic she reads!
Lucy Knisley had two minicomics I hadn’t bought yet, and I got to hear a little bit more about her upcoming book Relish, coming next year from First Second. Given the food focus, I expect to share that with Mom as well. The key to converting comic readers: subjects they’re interested in.
John Green didn’t have a table, but I bumped into him setting up for a sketch session. They are debuting Teen Boat with a release party on a real boat! Ok, it’s a stationery barge, but on Friday, May 11, the authors will be appearing at the Waterfront Museum in Brooklyn. What a neat idea!
There was also the fun of catching up with old buddies, such as former Richmonder Chris Irving, who was working with PowerHouse Books. They were at the show to promote their anthology of Golden Age Western Comics — which has a cover with holes in it, as though someone shot it! — and Chris’ interview book Leaping Tall Buildings, with impressive photographs by Seth Kushner. This beautiful volume is aiming to introduce some of the key figures who made American comics to non-fans.
Archaia was at MoCCA for the first time in four years. Mark Smylie and I chatted briefly about their convention strategy, how they hope to make more appearances at smaller shows with targeted samples of their diverse line, which sounds like a great idea to me.
Also fun to catch up with was Ross Richie of Boom! Studios. Someday, we’re going to get a chance to get a drink together and really swap stories about all the comic history we remember; this time, we chatted about the Austin comic scene, remembering Sam Hurt and Hepcats. Plus, Ross, who was there then, told me the real story of why Marvel bought Malibu. I shouldn’t neglect to mention the pleasure of meeting Rich Tommaso, there promoting his just-out Pete and Miriam.
I picked up a copy of Luci’s Let Down by Marjee Chmiel & Sandra Lanz. I saw this at SPX last year, and I think I was going to borrow Ed’s copy from him, but you know how good intentions go. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing this shortly.
It’s always a pleasure to see Bill Roundy, who has a weekly comic called Bar Scrawl about “the drinking establishments of Brooklyn”. He’s smartly collected them into minicomics arranged by particular neighborhood, a smart idea for locals.
A lovely lady named Patricia Burgess had the most darling tiny fruit slice earrings. Amazingly, they matched a bracelet I bought online for summer, so I had to have the little oranges.
My last stop of the show was the kind of coincidence that ends the experience on a high note. While in one far corner of the room, an artist I knew introduced me to a Center for Cartoon Studies student. He wanted to show me his comics, but he had just left his table on the other side of the room for the first time in the show. I said I’d work my way back across the room and meet him there.
When I got there, he wasn’t back yet, so I looked around and discovered he was sharing a table with one of my favorite young webcomic creators, Melanie Gillman. I’ve talked before how much I enjoy her comic Smbitten, and now I own the print copies. Which are hand-stitched with pearl trim! If Billage, the student, hadn’t asked me to come by, I would have missed one of my favorite purchases. Serendipity!
I also got Bill’s comics, along with another tablemate’s, Amelia Onorato. I look forward to telling you more about all the many great minicomics I picked up in a future column.
The Food and Art
We’re done with comic stuff now — the rest of this is just me talking about dining out, because one of the goals of the trip was to eat some really good meals, and at that, we were successful.
Dinner Saturday night was at Artisanal Bistro, a French restaurant with an amazing cheese selection. They even have a cheese consultant, similar to a sommelier for a wine cellar. We chose a soft, Brie-like cheese (but with a stronger taste that was evocative of scallops) and discovered Shropshire Blue, a sort of blend of Stilton and Cheshire.
I love dining out with my mother, because we both love the same kinds of elaborate dishes and we like to share and taste. At Artisanal, she had a light and classic trout almandine with haricot vert, while I enjoyed a braised lamb shank with ratatouille and an amazing goat cheese polenta. It’s a good thing we ate early, because after all that and the early rising, we crashed early and slept well.
Sunday began with brunch with Brigid Alverson and her friend John, another Boston comic fan. The Tick Tock Diner, just across the street from Penn Station, was swamped, but the food was diner classic and made for a filling breakfast.
Instead of returning to the show, Mom and I were interested in another kind of shopping. We went to Macy’s, which was overcrowded with international tourists, and then Lord and Taylor. Mom was looking for a particular purse style which unfortunately isn’t in style this season, so no luck there.
We wrapped up the afternoon visiting the Museum of Modern Art. We only had a couple of hours, so it was a quick walk through the history of art, but we saw work by Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse, Warhol, and Monet’s Water Lilies. I recall two standouts of the experience:
* I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which I will always remember.
* We had a lovely conversation about how to define art and the influence of the academy in declaring what is and isn’t. As modern art becomes more current, the piece becomes less about the craft and representation and more about the concept.
Dinner was at the MOMA restaurant, the Modern. After a delicious arugula/watercress salad and a liverwurst appetizer, I had an astounding duck breast with pistachio/truffle dipping sauce and surprisingly different peppercorn-crusted green apple slices. It was hard to tell they were apples, but they tasted terrific with the duck and the sauce. Mom enjoyed a pan-seared skate wing with creamy grits and brown butter vinaigrette. Everything was so intensely flavored, it was wonderful.
One more note for NYC visitors: It is not an early-rising city. We found ourselves relaxing in the morning, since there was nothing to do before 10 AM, and we were up and ready before 8. I suspect everyone else was sleeping in from a late night.