The busy spring schedule of major indie comics shows kicked off in New York with the 10th Annual MoCCA Festival last weekend. Held as a fundraiser for the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art in Soho, the event was one week before Stumptown, a similar event in the similarly comics-heavy Portland, OR, and four weeks before The Toronto Comics Arts Festival.
Although some previous MoCCA's featured a "buzz book," this one was mostly about the big books by acknowledged comics masters like Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring and Chester Brown. Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly sold all but a handful of books, including debuts of Browns' Paying For It, Reunion, by Pascal Girard, Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki, and The Klondike by Zach Worton.
Girard was one of a trio of foreign cartoonists featured at the D&Q booth that included Joe "Mid-Life" Ollmann, and Brecht "The Wrong Place" Evens, a fast-rising Flemish comics star. Burns said it was the most successful MoCCA they'd had since the show moved to the Lexington Avenue Armory three years ago.
Over at Fantagraphics, they had a similarly impressive list of debuting books including Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals, Yeah! and Hate Annual #9 by Peter Bagge and The Comics Journal #301, a massive paperback edition of the venerable comics magazine which quickly sold out.
Elsewhere, it was mostly known quantities that people were raving over -- Last Gasp had copies of the US edition of Pinocchio by Winshluss. Although little known in the US, the book won all the awards at the Angouleme festival a few years ago, and under his given name of Vincent Parronaud, Winshluss is the co-director of the Persepolis movie.
U.K. publisher Fanfare Ponent Mon was on hand showcasing Farm 54 by the Israeli sister/brother, writer/artist team of Galit Seliktar (sister) and Gilard Seliktar, a graphic novel first previewed last year at San Diego. The book was nominated for an Angouleme award in 2009; touts impressive blurbs from the likes of the New York Times' Dwight Garner and artist Emmanuel Guibert and the writer, Galit Seliktar, who lives in New Jersey, was at the Fanfare Ponent Mon booth.
Top Shelf had several books Spring debuts, including Jeffrey Browns’ Incredible Changebots #2 and the nourish mystery Liar’s Kiss by designer Eric Skillman and artist Jhomar Soriano.
The biggest local splash was made by the six cartoonists of Pizza Island who starred in a packed panel. While this collective has perhaps gotten the most notoriety for being an all-woman comics studio, the group—Kate Beaton, Sarah Glidden, Domatille Collardey, Lisa Hanawalt, Julia Wertz and Meredith Gran—has had a remarkable degree of success. Beaton and Hanawalt also participated in an SRO comics reading, Cross Hatch Carousel, which had the audience in stitches.
Although the golden era where publishers scoured the floors of MoCCA to sign young cartoonists to book deals is over, the book market continues to be important to indie comics publishers. NBM announced a new distribution deal with IPG -- publisher Terry Nantier was excited to finally had a dedicated book distributor that was graphic novel friendly to rep their line. Although their kids imprint Papercutz line is distributed by McMillan, this is a first for the NBM's main line.
Elsewhere, a few new very small presses had some news. New York-based Zip Comics announced they would publish Harvey Pekar's posthumous book Cleveland, a history of the city, with art by Joseph Remnant. Zip has teamed with Top Shelf for marketing and distribution.
The existence of the indie selling circuit is a key for most small publishers who rely on direct sales as a significant part of their income. The compressed schedule —three major shows in five weeks—met with a mixed reaction. D&Q's associate publisher Peggy Burns noted that it meant it was easy to get new books into aa series of major shows —and new books equal more sales. But Fantagraphics director of publicity & promotions Jacq Cohen pointed out that paying for three shows in a short amount of time strained cash flow and cited the physical stress of so may shows in a short amount of time.
MoCCA continues to mix the old and the new of the NewYork cartooning scene – while Pizza Island has some of the newsest comics stars, The Klein Award, a lifetime achievement recognition for cartoonists, was presented to 91-year-old Al Jaffee on Saturday.
MoCCA chairwoman/president Ellen Abramowitz said that attendance figures wouldn’t be in for a few days but was very happy with the event.