This weekend local indie comics shop Desert Island will host Comic Arts Brooklyn, a newly launched festival of independent comics creators, held at the Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The first annual Comic Arts Brooklyn will feature such special guests as cartoonist Jeff Smith, famed novelist and City of Glass author Paul Auster, and the show will also highlight the launch of Hang Dai Editions, a new limited edition comics publisher launched by cartoonists Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner and Gregory Benton.
The spiritual successor of the former Brooklyn Comics and Graphic Arts Festival, Comic Arts Brooklyn is a “first annual show” in name only. Desert Island owner Gabe Fowler was a key organizer of the BCGF as well, but decided to move away from the old name and strike out on his own after internal struggles with his BCGF cofounders. “But I don't want to wallow in fruitless arguments,” said Fowler of the festivals previous incarnation, “so my only choice was to move forward with positivity on my own with a new identity.”
CAB officially kicked off Thursday night at Fowler’s shop with a special exhibition of rare, self-published work by Charles Burns, just the first of several special events surrounding the show. Comic Arts Brooklyn is free and open to the public. The main show kicks off Saturday, November 9, at Mt. Carmel Church from 11am to 7pm. There is also off-site programming and panels at The Knitting Factory nearby and several special events throughout the weekend, including an after-party at Union Pool. You can see all of the exhibitors and programming information on the Comic Arts Brooklyn website, comicartsborooklyn.com.
Mt. Carmel Church will play host to the show offering two floors of independent and small-press exhibitors, including special guests like Paul Auster, Jeff Smith, and Dean Haspiel. A highlight of the programming on Saturday is the panel “City of Glass: It was a Phone Call That Started It,” featuring Auster, novelist and author of City of Glass, which was adapted into comics by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik and generally considered one of the most iconic, innovative comics adaptation of all time. Auster will be joined by Mazzucchelli, Karasik and Art Speigelman and discuss the genesis and adaptation of a book considered to be among the best comics of the 20th Century.
Haspiel will be making a debut of his own at the debut show with Hang Dai Editions. Announced earlier this week, Hang Dai Editions is a new imprint from Hang Dai Studios, based in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The imprint is founded by and features work by Haspiel along with Seth Kushner and Gregory Benton. All three men will be premiering limited-edition comic books at the show.
“I've learned a lot about online web-based publishing from doing Trip City [an online] ‘Brooklyn-filtered, multimedia, literary arts salon’ for two years. One of the main lessons involves value,” says Kushner. “I think printed matter, which everyone says is going the way of the dinosaur, is becoming more special and more vital than ever. I want my works to be on paper and to have weight and be made up of molecules and not just pixels.”
Kushner’s debut will be Schmuck Comix #1, a collection of three chapters of his ongoing Schmuck series, packaged and designed by Kushner witih a cover by Benton. “As much as I'm proud of the series online, I LOVE it in print. This comic is also a precursor to a 200 page book collecting the entires series which I plan to produce as my first book for the imprint,” he said.
Benton’s CAB premiere is titled Force of Nature. “Force of Nature is a rumination of having what we create and love being suddenly ripped away, told light-heartedly from the perspective of an artist wandering a forest in search of a lost sketchbook,” said Benton of his work.
Haspiel, also a featured special guest for the weekend, will be premiering Psychotronic Comix, which he describes as “a mixed bag of the kinds of comics I'm interested in pursuing and expanding, which included Silver Age Comics-inspired superheroes, romance, memoir and New York Stories.”
“Hang Dai Editions is about putting your money where your mouth is,” said Haspiel. “I'm excited to pursue self-publishing during an era that supports the concept more than ever before.”
And if there ever were a show that proves that support, it’s CAB. Fowler describes the show as a “grassroots, indie-focused event” and the list of exhibitors backs up the claim. From small-presses like Koyama and AdHouse to tiny-presses and single names like Spider’s Pee Paw and Jo-Jo Sherrow, there is bound to be something for every indie comics fan at the free show. Other exhibitors include Nobrow Press, John Pham, Box Brown and more.
Comic Arts Brooklyn is shaping up in its “first year” to be a success, but there is always room to grow, and Fowler isn’t content with staying stagnant. “I'm constantly wracking my brain to find a way to make this show more efficient for me and more beneficial for the exhibitors. At this point, I'm considering creating a non-profit organization for the show, which would be a great way to formalize a structure and create more specific roles for volunteers.”