Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

April 1, 2014

Festivals Extra: It's Comics Comics Comics All Week In New York


The MoCCA Festival is this weekend. That's an interesting show for a few reasons. If you follow conventions closely as their own thing, you might recall that last year was the first attempt at the long-running small press and arts-focused comics show by the Society Of Illustrators. What I found intriguing about them is that they seemed to learn on their feet, even at one point rearranging the floor a bit mid-show. That willingness to tweak and figure things out has seemingly continued: one noticeable move was bringing in the very-good-at-what-he-does Bill Kartalopoulos to help with programming and to help facilitate bringing more European creators to the event. They've also dropped the attendance charge to "person that didn't expect one will likely shrug shoulders and pay" levels, and rearranged the floor a bit more generally. It's also worth noting that they enticed Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly to return, and I wasn't sure this time 50 weeks ago they'd be able to do that.

The MoCCA Festival has some disadvantages. I didn't mind the location, but attending last year's I heard people complain about it and the surrounding neighborhood all weekend. New York is expensive, which puts a lot of pressure on the show to be profitable for its exhibitors. The New York cartooning community while strong may not be at its mightiest point right now, and those people provide both the bulk of the exhibitors and a core attendance crew. It also takes place during a very crowded Spring, with Emerald City in the immediate rear view mirror and a new show in Portland arriving next week at the same time as the traditional Midwest small press how SPACE. This doesn't effect attendance as much as it might limit the attendee pool over the next several years.

Still, I'm bullish in part because one thing New York can do better than just about any city currently-with-festival is facilitate support events, and that's become an increasingly important part of several shows. This year, after a long winter, I think the idea of a rolling five-day comics party is going to be super-appealing. Here are a few events I will definitely regret not being able to attend, in addition to my dismay about the show itself.

1. Art Spiegelman Is Doing A Bunch Of Stuff Over The Weekend Including Talking To Neil Gaiman And Introducing People To His Window Installation
Art Spiegelman continues his run of interesting public events with a pair of doozies this weekend. Drawn and Quarterly has a succinct write-up on the whole bunch of them here. Spiegelman is in conversation with Neil Gaiman on Friday at Bard; those are two guys on the Mount Rushmore of talkers-about-comics. This one is at the show but worth mentioning: while he'll be signing at D+Q and I imagine generally around, Spiegelman is doing a panel with Joost Swarte. That should be great. Swarte will also appear at a breakfast Spiegelman is hosting for the High School Of Art & Design featuring his little-seen -- by comics people! -- glass window design, something I know of which he's very proud.

That's sort of a whole weekend right there. I've traveled pretty far for much, much less.

image2. There Are Two Worthy Institutional-Type Events Tonight
The New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium is one of the best things in comics, hands down. Tonight over at the New School they'll feature Ernie Gehr.

By the time this post rolls out it is likely too late to score tickets for a women in comics panel presentation at SVA. Congrats if you're going; that should be a good one.

3. If You're From Outside Of Town, You Get To Spend New Comics Day In New York City
I always have a good time enjoying the energy of New York comics shops on Wednesdays, particularly the ones in Manhattan that do a big chunk of business in serialized comic books. I've spent a fun few Wednesday hours in the last year at the Midtown Times Square location and the Forbidden Planet NYC location with the giant windows.

One store that you might consider visiting if you're in town this week is Mysterious Island, the former Time Machine, which apparently may move soon. Those are some finely curated back issues they make available, maybe the best I've seen in a store that size in terms of the quality of what was offered.

image4. There Are Two Great Store Events On Thursday
The cartoonist Katie Skelly is launching her Operation Margarine with a signing at Desert Island on Thursday evening. This is Skelly's second book after Nurse Nurse, with Sparkplug, which I think is still underread. You can see what the new book looks like here. Part of Operation Margarine was serialized in mini-comics form, and the work seemed to have a number of fans there. I had a really good time at the event I attended at Desert Island last year in conjunction with this weekend.

Over in Manhattan, Tucker Stone will be at the Strand talking to Nick Abadzis in support of his new book, The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe. That's one of those events where you pay to get in by buying the new book from the store or making a similar donation. I would imagine Stone would be very good at this kind of directed interview in front of an audience, and I'm always interested in what Abadzis has to say.

5. There Is An Edie Fake Event Thursday Night For Memory Palaces
Memory Palaces is the monograph of the show that I think originally ran in New York back in January/February; this is its event in support, featuring a presentation from the artist.

6. There Is A Robert Williams Film Being Show Friday, With Q&A Afterwards
Robert Williams is another considerable artist who is very, very good in a Q&A setting. I look forward to seeing the movie, although Robert Williams won't be in attendance when I do.

image7. Three Small Publishers Are Holding A Beer Fest On Friday Night
Here. I have a feeling this may skew young, or at least younger than me, but so does every square inch of New York when it comes to social events of this type.

8. James Kochalka Will Be Doing A Store Event In Brooklyn On Friday
Kochalka is doing a mini-tour in support of his new "Glorkian Warrior" book. I'm honestly not sure how frequently Kochalka travels and does these kinds of events these days, but he has a deserved fan base that I'm betting will be happy to see him. That's a nice store at which to attend events, too. You can always shop. Looks like he'll be around all day by one listing, but the others I've seen have it starting at 7 PM.

9. You Can Drink And Draw Like A Lady Friday Night
This group's pre-Mocca event will be at The Productive starting at 7 PM the night before the festival proper. Ladies only, please. Sixth year, whoa.

10. Society Of Illustrators Has Shows Up Right Now Featuring Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Joost Swarte And Drew Friedman
I believe there's an opening reception at next weekend's hosting entity on Thursday night -- I cleaned out my inbox yesterday -- but I'm also pretty sure that's invitation only. Last year's was really fun, so if you're invited, go. In fact, if you're just going to go up during regular business hours to see these shows, it's hard for me to imagine anyone coming away disappointed considering the quality of work each of those comics-makers has done. That would seem a perfect half-a-day anchor event for someone visiting town, for instance.


If there are more not part of the weekend itself -- I made an exception for the Spiegelman/Swarte -- . The photo at top was provided by Spiegelman.

posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink

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