The Society of Illustrators announced plans to return to the Lexington Avenue Armory April 5-6 for the 2014 MoCCA Arts Festival, the annual showcase of indie, self-published and small press comics, and will feature as guests of honor cartoonists Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Fiona Staples and painter/cartoonist Robert Williams. Comics curator/publisher Bill Kartalopoulos will oversee the show’s programming and, in a major change, the show will drop its admission fee to $5 per day.

This is the second MoCCA Arts Festival to be organized by Society of Illustrators after the SoI acquired all assets of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art last year. The switch in ownership has provided MoCCA with financial stability and logistical support and gave the MoCCA Arts Fest new services and amenities—from curtained tables and a café to a curated exhibition and annual show prizes. Responses to the 2012 MoCCA Arts Festival under SoI direction were very upbeat. Many exhibitors called the show “more professional,” and the comics community is primed to see what new changes and upgrades SoI has planned for the newly invigorated MoCCA Arts Festival.

Society of Illustrators executive director Annelle Miller told PW she was excited to announce that veteran comics curator Bill Kartalopoulos “will do all the [show’s] programming. It’s great to have him; we’ll have a more international presence at the show.” Bechdel, Cruse and Williams are guests of honor but more artists and exhibitors are to be announced.

The SoI will again mount an exhibition at the Armory taken from its deep permanent collection of works by great cartoonists/illustrators, as well as mounting a complimentary comics exhibition in the galleries at the SoI building on the Upper East Side. While the uptown show will feature Drew Friedman’s Old Jewish Comedians drawings, the show at the Armory, Miller said, is yet to be determined.

While moving the show away from Lexington Avenue Armory has long been under consideration—the Armory is considered expensive to use and inflexible in negotiations—Miller told PW that it is very difficult to find a comparable, affordable space in Manhattan. “There’s nothing else in Manhattan at our budget,” she said.

And what about dropping the admission fee from $15 to $5 per day, a major drop in revenue that will also impact the budget for MoCCA? Miller said she believes the move will attract more fans and make buying works more attractive. “We’re looking for more sponsorships also to help cover our costs,” Miller said, “but we believe lowering the admission fee will effect buying on the floor and encourage the fans to buy more comics.”