Comics maintained their place in the catalogue of cool even as local temperatures soared at this weekend's MoCCA Art Festival in New York City. Surviving interruptions—Saturday's show opening was delayed when an exhibiting cartoonist passed out, and Sunday the entire show was evacuated by a fire drill—and sweaty conditions for seventh-floor exhibitors, it was another busy, vibrant showcase for the art comics scene.
| Chip Kidd (l.) and David Heatley. Photo by K. Culkin |
As it has for the past few years, the show also proved how firmly entwined the art comics and graphic novel publishing business now are. Panels spotlighted graphic novel offerings from publishers as indie as PictureBox (artist C.F. and his book Powr Mastrs) and as big as Pantheon (Chip Kidd's Bat-Manga! and David Heatley's My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down). Alt.comix regulars Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf were joined by Toon Books; Houghton Mifflin, promoting the next Best American Comics volume; Pantheon; and Disney, a first-time exhibitor who co-sponsored the show. Disney's offering included both Artemis Fowl and Misako Rocks. First Second showcased its upcoming fall line, including the new Eddie Campbell and the Prince of Persia graphic novel. Vertigo joined Minx to give away more than 600 periodical copies, while over 500 books in the Minx line were given away as well.
|Skim creators Mariko and Jillian Tamaki|
New projects that most excited attendees included Alex Robinson's Too Cool to Be Forgotten, a comedy about a man who returns to high school; Josh Cotter's slice-of-life with talking cats, Skyscrapers of the Midwest;and Lauren Weinstein's long-delayed Goddess of War, an oversized fantasy spectacular. Another buzz book at the show was a Star Wars-themed mini-comic called Harvest Is When I Need You the Most. Printed in full color, the print run of 50 sold out faster than attendees could mop their brows with the Chiggers-themed bandannas being sold by Hope Larson.
The festival was preceded by a one-day symposium held in conjunction with the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. Art Spiegelman and his old RAW magazine comrade Gary Panter engaged in an entertaining talk, while Lynda Barry's free-range conversation on pop culture had everyone in stitches.
|PictureBox publisher Dan Nadel|
Barry had perhaps the longest lines at the show; returning to the publishing spotlight after a long period on her Wisconsin farm, Barry was delighted by the reception for her graphic novel/how-to book What It Is and charmed fans who lined up for a signature with her wit and reminiscences.
Another cartoonist with long lines was the Norwegian sensation Jason, whose strip for the New York Times Magazine has given him a whole new fan base. The other star was director Michel Gondry who debuted a comic called We Lost the War but Won the Battle and drew caricatures of purchasers in every copy he signed. Another buzz book on the floor was one about which next to nothing was known, Buenaventura Press's upcoming epic art comics anthology, Kramer's Ergot #7. Priced at $125 for 96 oversized pages, it's already become the object of much Internet discussion and controversy over the high price tag—especially since none of the contents has been disclosed yet. Publisher Alvin Buenaventura declined to publicly name any of the contributors, but promised they will be "everyone who's anyone."
|Matt Madden and his new textbook (done with Jessica Abel) from First Second|
Panels were held at the MoCCA Museum on Broadway as they were last year. On Saturday David Hajdu discussed The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great American Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America. Describing it as a story about a “controversy that blew into full-blown hysteria,” he argues that criticism of, and local legislation against, comic books was already growing by 1948, earlier than generally assumed. Hajdu also showed an anticomic propaganda film produced for television in the 1950s, drawing howls from the audience.
Later that day, four Minx authors offered their views on the benefits and challenges of working with artists and writing graphic novels for young adults. Although only novelist Rebecca Donner (Burnout) and comics writer Brian Wood (The New York Four) were on the schedule, YA novelist Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes; Janes in Love) and Mariko Tamaki (Emiko Superstar) also took the podium. “You don’t want to micromanage everything the artist does,” Donner said. “They know what they are doing better than me” Tamaki noted that it can be difficult to find a balance between true-to-life and appropriate when writing for young adults.
|Cartoonists Jason Shiga (l. ) and Keith Knight|
On Sunday a standing-room audience saw acclaimed book designer Chip Kidd discuss Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan. The book offers a collection of the Batman comics created by Jiro Kuwata in Japan in 1965 and 1966. Kidd illustrated his talk with Kuwata’s images, as well as pictures of Japanese Batman toys and other memorabilia. He added that Kuwata is still alive and is excited about the project and noted that the book is the result of collecting the comics, as DC, despite licensing it in the 1960s, does not hold any of Kuwata’s work.
Kidd later introduced a talk by young comics artist David Heatley on his upcoming Pantheon release, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down. Heatley discussed “the process of the past 10 years, which it took to get me to this project.” He offered an illustrated tour of his life as an artist, from a childhood drawing to his work from film school, from his early comics in college to his most recent strip. He concluded that his future work may be less autobiographical and more collaborative.
Despite the high coolness factor on display, the heat led to some unexpected problems. On Sunday afternoon, smoke from a basement boiler tripped a fire alarm, and everyone had to be evacuated onto the broiling hot sidewalk in front of the Puck Building. While a few people decamped across the street to Puck Fair, the unofficial cafeteria for the show, even the 30-minute wait proved a chance to schmooze and show off purchases. Show organizers kept the floor open an extra half hour to make up for the fire delay. It was a happy, if sweaty, ending to the weekend's festival.