Despite doubts that it would be held at all, this year’s Comic Arts Brooklyn, an annual indie comics festival held in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, turned in another successful year. Although the show, held November 5 at the Mt. Carmel Church, was scaled down from previous years—there were fewer exhibitors, including major publishers, and a day of programming was dropped—sales were still strong for those publishers that did exhibit.
The crowd was a bit smaller than in years past, but the fans seemed just as enthusiastic to pick up the latest art comix from their favorite creators.
Earlier this year, Gabe Fowler, owner of the Desert Island Comics bookstore and organizer of Comic Arts Brooklyn, suggested he might take a year off from the show.
Indeed when asked this weekend, Fowler declined to promise there would be a CAB in 2017. However, he was enthusiastic about this year’s event. “We had an unbelievable amount of talent under the same roof this year, and I'm always humbled to see the huge crowds celebrating the lesser-represented work that we champion,” he told PW.
Despite a smaller turnout, the show, which is free to attend, was still a success with fans crowding the two floors of exhibitors late into the day on Saturday. “I had anticipated that the attendance would be smaller,” Nobrow sales and marketing director Tucker Stone told PW. “So sales were a bit lower, but it remains one of the most sales-friendly shows in North America."
CAB also survived being held on the same weekend as two other indie comics shows, Seattle’s Short Run, a similar one day comics fair, and Thought Bubble, a sizable weeklong event in Leeds, England, that drew many publishers and creators from around the world.
Despite the competition–and despite having only a handful of guests from farther than a few hours drive–CAB functioned as a vibrant showcase for the area’s cartooning talent. Guests included such nationally acclaimed comics artists as Gary Panter and Charles Burns, as well as local creators like Katie Skelly (whose collected My Pretty Vampire is coming out from Fantagraphics next year). Also at the show was Ron Wimberly, who debuted a new expanded, oversized hardcover of his acclaimed Prince of Cats, a Hip-hop influenced recreation of Romeo and Juliet.
Because the show was planned a bit later than usual, there were fewer debut books. Indie mainstays Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly were represented by artists like Drew Friedman and Adrian Tomine, but did not have booths. Nevertheless the books that did make it sold out quickly, including several very limited editions from even smaller publishers, such as the third volume of Connor Willumsen’s Treasure Island, an experimental comic from Breakdown Press; and Charles Burns’ Free Shit from French art publisher Le Dernier Cri.
Although the event served to spotlight the number of talented cartoonists who still call New York home, many of the same artists cited the difficulty of maintaining a small press comics scene amid the rising costs and rents of New York City. “It’s harder to have a scene when everyone is broke and stressed out about money,” Skelly observed.
Performance artist/cartoonist Dame Darcy, a former fixture on the pre-gentrified Lower East Side, returned to the show with her retrospective volume, The Meatcake Bible. She extoled the virtues of her new home in Savannah, Georgia.
“Real estate is so much cheaper that I can afford to buy my own haunted mansion,” she said.