New York’s comics festival season wound up with Comic Arts Brooklyn, held November 7-8 in Williamsburg. The event, put together by Gabe Fowler, owner of Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, spotlights independent comics publishers and artists and drew 72 exhibitors to the one day book fair, and hundreds more to a second day of panels and talks. Although Fowler doesn’t attempt to quantify attendance numbers, he estimates that there were “several thousand guests” and that “for whatever reason, this seemed to be a particularly happy iteration of the show.”
Headline guest Daniel Clowes attended to promote his graphic novel Patience (Fantagraphics), although he missed finishing it in time for CAB. Instead, fans got a small color preview, which offered a glimpse of a book that mixes Clowes’s trademark intimate drama with science fiction elements. Interviewed by critic Naomi Fry at the Wythe Hotel on Sunday, Clowes was affable and chatty. He says he works "a 9 to 5 day" in his studio, says he's "not obsessive about drawing 15 hours a day," and never makes corrections until the end of a project. Why? When he waits until he's finished, "Sometimes I forget why I wanted to correct something in the first place."
Although graphic novels are usually the talk of the show, smaller, periodical-length comics have been showing resurgence. A collection of small single issues in a higher end format—white paper and cardboard covers—was pioneered by Retrofit, a small press founded by cartoonist Box Brown, with James Kochalka's Fungus in 2011, and been adopted by publishers including NoBrow and Youth in Decline. The smaller page count allows creators—among them Tom Hart, Jillian Tamaki and Emily Carroll—to present “novella” length stories, exploring themes without the pressure of a full-length graphic novel. Tamaki’s SexCoven in YiD’s Frontiers #7—a series that spotlights individual cartoonists with a 32-page LP single sized format—won the Best Story Ignatz this year, and the new issue by Michael DeForge sold out at CAB.
Uncivilized Books is starting Uncivilized Labs, a line of shorter mini comics that showcases emerging creators, according to publisher Tom Kaczynski. Kuš Komiks, a Latvian collective that publishes a slate of international cartoonists including Jesse Jacobs, Theo Ellsworth, and Ines Estrada, announced a new series of thicker books by a single creator, all in a charming “big little book” size. Roman Muradov is the first in the series.
Peow Studios, a Swedish publisher, just launched a Kickstarter for a line of comics by Guillaume Singelin, Wai Wai Pang, Mathilde Kitteh, Luca Oliveri, Mackenzie Schubert and Patrick Crotty—although some are full sized collections, many are 64 pages long.
Foreign publishers had some of the most talked about books. England’s Breakdown Press sold out of almost everything, including Sasaki Makia’s Ding Dong Circus, a collection of avant-garde manga from the late 1960s. And Finland’s Tommi Musturi debuted his collection from Fantagraphics,The Book of Hope.
However, there was at least one notable no-show. For the first time, Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly didn’t exhibit at CAB due to becoming more selective about attending shows. D&Q publisher Peggy Burns told PW that “with the proliferation of shows around the world in the past five years, we have decided to try new shows and not be locked into one schedule and be more thoughtful about why and when we are doing a show, and who we are bringing.”
With social media and better distribution via the internet, readers can purchase comics and interact with their favorite creators without having to attend an event. Sending a single creator with a new book can be more profitable than setting up an entire booth. For CAB, D&Q sent Brian Chippendale with his new book Puke Force, and it sold 70 copies, “by and large one of best show debuts ever,” according to Burns.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an erroneous reason for D&Q's absence at the show.