The good news about this year’s MoCCA Arts Fest, the annual indie comics show organized by the Society of Illustrators, is that its new venue in Manhattan’s Chelsea art district was a big hit among exhibitors and attendees. The bad news is that the show will have to move again next year—the building housing the event has been sold and will be converted to other uses.
This year’s show drew approximately 7,500 attendees over the weekend, just a shade more than attended last year. The majority of the exhibitors PW spoke with seemed pleased with the venue, with the overall organization and, for the most part, sales activities. Indeed, PW noted dismay from many exhibitors upon hearing that the show will have to move yet again. Photographs of the MoCCA Arts Fest 2015 can be found here.
This year’s venue, 548 Center on W. 22 Street in Manhattan, is a loft building designed for events and the show took up all three floors—and offered a rooftop deck where attendees could sit in the breeze on one of the first nice weekends of the year. Some events—including public interviews with Scott McCloud and Aline Kominsky-Crumb—were held at the nearby Highline Hotel.
There was speculation that the show might move to the Javits Center’s North Pavilion or even Brooklyn, but SoI executive director Anelle Miller said that was not the case. “Neither of those possibilities will be explored,” she said. “We have nothing on the radar at the moment but will begin our search for a similar venue in the next few weeks.”
The show featured about 400 exhibitors showing off the usual array of small press, literary, and self-published comics, minicomics and graphic novels. The buzz book of the show was a slim 32-page edition of Youth in Decline’s anthology Frontiers, which had sold out by Saturday afternoon. It features Jillian Tamaki’s “SexCoven,” a haunting mock-essay about an internet phenomenon of the 1990s and how it affected people in real life. Tamaki is riding a remarkable wave of critical praise, with this project arriving soon after her acclaimed This One Summer, and just before her solo graphic novel, Super Mutant Magic Academy, publishes next month.
A notable debut at the show was Secret Sauce by Seth Kushner, who was on the floor on Saturday, to the delight of his many friends and comics colleagues, after many months recovering from a serious illness. Kushner’s was one of several debuts from Brooklyn’s Hang Dai Studios, including Heart Shaped Hole, a Billy Dogma collection from Dean Haspiel. Michel Fiffe also had a sellout with the second collection of Copra, his adventure-tinged pastiche of 1990s Suicide Squad comics.
Other debut books at the show were Julian Voloj and Claudia Ahlering’s Ghetto Brothers: Warrior to Peacemaker (NBM), a remarkable nonfiction account of the life of Benjy Melendez, the peacemaking leader of the Ghetto Brothers gang, who forged a truce among the violent Bronx gangs of the 1970s, and Don’t Get Eaten by Anything by Dakota McFadzean (Conundrum Press), a collection of his Shuster Award-nominated daily web comics. Uncivilized Books debuted Incidents in the Night: Book 2 by David B., the second volume of his hallucinatory obsession with bookstores, libraries and secret histories, and Fantagraphic debuted new graphic novels from Robert Goodin (Kurdles) and Richard Sala (Violent Girls).
A few publishers rolled out their falls lines: Koyama Press is bringing out new books by Michael DeForge, Julia Wertz and Jane Mai. Secret Acres, which has joined the line-up at of graphic novel publishers being distributed by Consortium, announced Palefire, a graphic novel written by MK Reed (The Cute Girl Network) and drawn by Farel Dalrymple (The Wrenchies), a team up of indie comics notables.
The recent boom in YA comics was evident in guests—Raina Telgemeier was a special guest and had a ticketed panel on Saturday—and the evolving careers of some of the exhibitors. Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona, a comic fantasy about a supervillain and his young and impulsive girl sidekick, taken from Stevenson’s web comic, is out next month in hardcover from HarperTeen and drawing strong reviews. Laura Terry, a recent grad of the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, has a deal for her graphic novel Graveyard Shakes with Scholastic. On Sunday, cartoonist R. Sikoryak presented a program of comics slideshows for children that drew one of the biggest crowds of the show.
The effects of crowdfunding were also felt, with countless books for sale funded by various means, and Kickstarter itself exhibited to promote some of its notable comics success stories. According to Kickstarter, about 50% of its comics projects are funded, making it the fourth most-funded category.
Other models are being explored as well. DeForge recently started a Patreon campaign where, for $3 a month, he’ll give backers a first look at new monthly comics. He started it as an experiment but “I think I’ll stick with it” he said. “It’s easy and I can try things out.” His campaign is currently up to nearly $800.