Con vs. weather. Traditionally held in June, the MoCCAComics arts festival has had a knack for drawing heat. If there's a way forunseasonably warm weather to hit during the show, it will, a timing issue whichculminated last year, when 90 degree temperatures, and the non-air-conditionedLexington Avenue Armory combined to create a comics sweatlodge that put gettinga cool drink over buying new indie comics.
In response to the threat of heat, MoCCA, held annually bySoho's Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, was moved to the more temperate monthof April, with the result of a pleasant weekend that put the focus back oncomics.
One drawback of the early start: on Saturday, MoCCAoverlapped with the annual Kids Comic Con, a one-day show held annually at theBronx Community College that focuses on offering comics, workshops andcomic-related activities specifically for kids. While KCC founder Alex Simmonssaid attendance was good—about 500-600 kids and parents—and the workshops werefilled, nevertheless there were fewer cartoonists available to exhibit at KCCbecause of the conflict with MoCCA. Read on for more on KCC.
With the show coming earlier on the schedule there werefewer big books debuting, and no definitive "buzz" book emerged,although there were a few trends. Perhaps echoing McSweeney's recent newspaper edition, there wereseveral comics collective anthologies in newspaper format, including Pood, anew anthology from the producers of the Blurred Vision anthologies, and Caboose,a similar newsprint comics supplement produced by students from the Centerfor Cartoon Studies. In addition, a Philadelphia cartoonists collective produced Secret Prison #1.
Fantagraphics was one of the few publishers to bring asizable line-up of new books, including works by Jim Woodring, Megan Kelsoand Kim Deitch; by Sunday, the cupboards were nearly bare of all copies.
Top Shelf debuted a slew of books by several Swedishalternative cartoonists, and co-publisher Chris Staros said that three of themhad sold out by Sunday. The troup continues its tour of the US next weekend atC2E2 in Chicago.
Guests from faraway were few, anotable exception being Love and Rockets master Jaime Hernandez, who wasthere to promote the new book The Art of Jaime Hernandez from Abrams ComicArts.However, New York has enough native comics talent to make even a local event astar-studded affair, including a panel featuring magazine cartooning legendsArnold Roth, Al Jaffee and Gahan Wilson.
Saturday's panel on "The Art of the Superhero: WhenSingular Vision Meets Popular Mythology" drew a huge crowd, with itsmega-watt panelists: Hernandez, Kyle Baker, Paul Pope, Dean Haspiel and FrankMiller, who was making an extremely rare public appearance. The line for thepanel stretched the length of the Armory, and several attendees had to beturned away. Moderator Jeff Newelt led the panelists though an appreciation ofJack Kirby and Steve Ditko to a discussion of various elements of makingheroes, including costuming. "I study body armor. If you're going to fight crime, you wouldn'treally wear a purple leotard," Baker quipped, prompting Miller to startchiding the bad footwear chosen by many superheroes.
Sunday's biggest panel was "Sequential Activism: Savingthe World One Panel at a Time," moderated by Brian Heater, featuring Josh Neufeld, Tom Hart, Peter Kuper,Ward Sutton and Weatherman-turned-teacher, Bill Ayers, who discussed theevolution of political activism through comics. In regard to his Hutch Owencharacter Tom Hart said "Everything is political if you are trying to livea free life in society." Ayers spoke of his love of the comics medium andthe importance of comics' tradition of political cartooning.
Also on Sunday the "New Genres, New Readers, NewTechnologies: The World of Comics To Come" panel addressed, like justabout everything else these days, the move of comics to a digital platform. The mood was mostly upbeat, asthe differences between paper and online comics was stressed and even selfconfessed "dead cartoonist" enthusiast Craig Yoe admitted that thekinds of historical books he publishes wouldn't be possible without the internetto promote them and keep an interest in obscure cartoonists alive. CartoonistLiz Baillie mentioned that putting her new comic, Freewheel, on the web allowedher to promote it enough to get a big enough following to be able to print it.
Despite the conflict with MoCCA, up in the Bronx, Kids Comic Con displayed its usual blend of excited kids looking for comics and a host of professionalsoffering them an opportunity get hands-on lessons about the making of comics.There were workshops on careers in comics, manga, portfolio reviews, comics asan educational tool and more. Among the exhibitors in the Bronx on Saturdaywere Papercutz's Jim Salicrup, Archie Comics, East Coast Black Age of ComicsCon founder Yumy Odom, Buzz Boy creator John Gallagher,James Barry, artist for Erin Hunters's Warriors graphic novel series andothers. Scheduling is always a problem for shows but perhaps in the future KCC andMoCCA can find a way to avoid having their shows on the same weekend.
Despite the general good mood, some lingering issues seemed tohang over MoCCA and its future. Even though no one was sweating to death, someobservers noted a general lack of energy around the show, and the addition of a"cocktail table hang out area" in the back of the room seemed toindicate fewer exhibitors this year. New York may be the comics capital of theUS, but it is also one of the world's most expensive cities and manycartoonists and publishers complained privately about the price of tables,which is much higher than at similar indie comics shows such as SPX andStumptown. Even with strong comics sales, the rising costs for all can cut intoprofits.