Indie comics got a stunning year showcase at this year’s Brooklyn Comics and Graphic Festival, held December 3rd at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Although set in a church basement and gymnasium, most of the region’s finest cartoonists—from Gary Panter to Benjamin Marra—happily mingled with fans guests including Phoebe Gloeckner and Michael DeForge.
According to retailer Gabe Fowler—co-organizer of the show along with publisher Dan Nadel and comics historian Bill Kartalopoulos—attendance was up from last year, with an estimated 3500-4000 people. The exhibit space was about one and a half times larger this year, with the addition of a downstairs exhibit area. [To see a collection of photographis from the show click here.]
Panels were held at the nearby Union Pool bar. The most popular panels—a talk between Chip Kidd and David Mazzucchelli on comics and design and a spotlight on 87-year-old comics legend Jack Davis—were on beyond SRO with people packed in every imaginable crevice and dozens turned away. “It's partly a function of being in a smaller space this year,” said programming coordinator Kartaloloulos. “But there's no question that Davis, Kidd and Mazzucchelli were visibly gratified to see so many people willing to stand shoulder to shoulder in tight quarters to hear them speak. Davis got a rousing standing ovation from everybody at the end of his talk and seemed quite moved.”
The entire week of comics-themed events definitely gave the event a feeling of a festival. Kartalopoulos said about 170 people attended a rock show featuring bands with various comics members, including Panter, the night before and two satellite events, an animation screening at Eyeworks on Sunday evening and an look at comics and theater Sunday afternoon, were both sold out with people turned away.
As for comics, the standout was a new issue of Kramers Ergot, the groundbreaking comics anthology last seen in 2008 as a table-sized $150 book. The new edition is more compact but retains much of the creative line up, including Gabrielle Bell, Frank Santoro and editor Sammy Harkham— and many were there to sign.
While tightly curated by the organizers to reflect the art comix side of the business, the show drew a bevy of fans who happily went shopping at just about every table—among them Simpsons creator Matt Groening who was given as many books as he purchased by star struck young cartoonists.
While big statements about where comics are going as an artform will await some digestion of the varied offerings at the show, Brian Ralph, himself a member of the legendary Fort Thunder collective and currently a teacher at SCAD and author of this year’s Daybreak declared it the best comics show he had ever been to. Questioned at a raucous afterparty held in one of the participants loft Ralph observed “Something awesome was at every table.”