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

November 24, 2013

A Few Notes About Comic Arts Brooklyn 2013


Tom Spurgeon

* hi, I'm the guy that attended too many comics shows in 2013. Here's the story of my second to last show, Comic Arts Brooklyn 2013.

* Comic Arts Brooklyn was a first-year show organized by Gabe Fowler of the retail location and sometimes-publisher Desert Island. Fowler was one of three organizers for the Brooklyn Comics And Graphics Festival, with Bill Kartalopoulos and Dan Nadel. That organization called it quits after last year's show and Fowler's similar, new show has stepped into the breach.

* this report is appearing a staggering 2+ weeks in the rear view mirror now. That this seems like an extraordinary amount of time I think is a clue as to how a lot of professionals and devoted fans process these shows now: as anticipatory events, intense immediate experiences, and then something to be shaken off like the fizzier effects of alcohol when an authority figure approaches with a flashlight. I suspect more people in the small press comics world will think about MoCCA 2014 than about CAB 2013 in the next 10 days.

* I'm not saying that's a bad thing, either.

* so: New York.

* I went to New York City several days in advance of Comic Arts Brooklyn. I went in order to get a bunch of New York City work done that might sustain me until my next trip sometime in 2014.

* it did not work out that way.

* things began to unravel a bit when I had a professional engagement that kept me from speaking at Ben Katchor's symposium, which I'm dying to do some day. I don't know if a bunch of you are paying attention to that, but basically people present in front of a small audience in a series of informal lectures sponsored by one of our great cartoonists. For an art form that seems starved for different ways to organize itself in a non-commercial manner, Katchor's symposium seems like an idea more people should look into and emulate.

* as for the remainder of my time leading up to CAB, I'll admit I shot out of that particular travel cannon a bit soul-weary. I needed as much of a break as I could squeeze out of my non-committed time. New York can be good like that, too, affording the opportunity to just kind of lose yourself in crowds and walking around and eating in random places when the mood strikes and scanning the front of movie theater marquees to see if there's anything in the next 20 minutes and stopping at museums just because they're museums and wandering into stores that strike your interest the moment that interest is struck. I saw old college friends whose interest in comics stopped at around 1983. I slept in. I circled Central Park. Because it was necessary rather than an indulgence I can't say that I enjoyed myself the way you do on a vacation you seize by the throat, but travel is a tremendous privilege that eventually leaves us and I had a wonderful time. Thank you, New York.

* I did see a few comics people.

* I talked to Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for our usual 90 minutes of fixing the various American comics industries, followed by our also usual quarter hour of telling one another we have to get back to work, followed by our also very usual final 45 minutes of intense, random comic-book industry talk. The CBLDF office was covered in retailer incentives waiting to be mailed. They were nice enough to let me use their office for 45 minutes and get on-line. Brownstein was awaiting the imminent return from leave of new daddy Alex Cox.

image* I had another drink with Charles and the occasional writer-about-comics and writer-of-comics Sean T. Collins later that week. During that sit-down we talked about the breaking news story of the Fantagraphics crowd-funder, and about comics-making more generally. One idea that was introduced that kind of hung over my entire two week trip, to Brooklyn and then Indiana and then to Columbus, Ohio, was the idea of a book of the year, or at least a short list of books that one found thrilling and compelling rather than comfortable and classy.

* on another occasion saw the translator, writer, editor and book producer Anne Ishii, who was not going to CAB in favor of hitting Burbank and Bent Con in support of her gay manga related business, Massive. We talked about a bunch of stuff including news just then-announced that Chip Kidd, her collaborator on the Gengoroh Tagame book The Passion Of Gengoroh Tagame from PictureBox earlier this year and one of the great designers of our time had just been married. So congratulations to Chip.

* snuck in a lunch with Brendan Burford, my one-time day-to-day editor at King Features and the person whose public profile -- alternative comic book cartoonist turned primary editor of one of the great and powerful companies in all of comics -- always seems to be a bit under-played. He's a quiet man, though, so it's never going to come from him. I respect him a great deal.

image* I also saw my friend the publisher and PR director Peggy Burns, whom I joined mid-makeover at some giant store full of lotions and eyeliner and customers that scowled at me without ever actually scowling at me. Burns was shopping in too nice of a neighborhood to have a lot of bars, but we found one anyway. Comics.

* near the end of the week, I visited the First Second offices, which I had never done before. Calista Brill invited me over and then turned around and blew me off to finish her lunch errands, stranding me in the lobby; Mark Siegel was off creating another 500 page graphic novel or riding around New York on a boat or whatever the hell he does. Luckily, Colleen AF Venable told the security guard in the lobby to let me up and I get to sit on the tiny metal stool in her tiny but yet -- other than the stool -- comfortable office and look at some of her book designs. That was a very nice visit; apparently Paul Pope has use of an office in the Flatiron building now because First Second is in the Paul Pope business. I smell a sitcom.

* my visit with Brill -- when she got there -- and Gina Gagliano was nice and very comics-industry chatty, meaning a kind of mutual assured destruction on all sides when it comes to sharing any details of what anyone said. They seem to be in a comfortable groove over there at First Second: they know what books work for them, they have the confidence of MacMillan when it comes to putting their books out, and they're selling pretty well across the board.

* I had lunch on one of the mid-day weeks with the young cartoonist Meghan Turbitt, who is very funny and whose cartooning is still very raw. She both teaches and makes comics, something that sounded terribly odd twenty years ago but is a frequently encountered hybrid now. While there's been a lot of talk about the dangers of people that are a bit older in comics having contact with those starting out, the ability to connect across generations is one of comics great strengths. It's humbling to be reminded of those initial steps of getting your work seen, and making it, and working a room for connections. It keeps you centered, and appreciative of those journeys.


* ran into Frank Santoro that week as well. We went to a comics shop called Mysterious Island (the former Roger's Time Machine) and looked at their impressive back-issue stock of weird old 'zines and oddities of the 1970s and 1980s indy-comics movement. The shop also had some 1990s material; Frank bought an issue of Destroy All Comics he's never owned. I really enjoyed Destroy All Comics as much as it's possible to enjoy a magazine that all of your same-age peers liked more than the magazine you were doing at the time. Frank and I talked comics over pierogies (me) and eggs (him). We talked about the Pittsburgh scene and the desire to enter into a long-term relationship with a publisher in order to produce work at a steady pace.

* I really liked that store, by the way. I am enough of a small-town, Midwestern kid to still be weirded out when stores are on the second floor of buildings, and tromping up the stairs to Mysterious Island reminded me of the first time to Village Comics. Although come to think of it, I think they eventually moved downstairs. There's so much material out there in terms of comics from about 1965 to 1995, minis and indy/alt comics in particular, that don't have the hook of popular characters and is really fun and hard to collect. It's the collection I would pursue if I had idle millions.

* the only other comics shop I got into that whole week was a Midtown Comics when I was too early for an appointment. I stared at the new comics wall for 45 minutes and left.

* wait a minute. That sounds like a ton of comics stuff.

* Hm.

* well, it didn't seem like a lot compared to the usual trip. And I missed a bunch of folks for sure, so it's not as busy as it could have been. I remember not being able to find the time or a companion to head to the Jack Kirby pop-up museum, which I found out about late in the week. I did spend a lot of time alone, and time with people who don't know Marvel's The Avengers was based on a comic.

* incidentally, what struck me with folks not in comics is how much the conversations were the same as the ones with my comics-related pals, at least in broad strokes. Everyone wants to do meaningful work and this is more keenly felt from one's late-thirties to one's mid-forties; everyone wants to get to a point where people are working for them in some way rather than their having to constantly hustle to be provided work from elsewhere; everyone worries about money but usually not enough to want to switch off their current career course. Comics is life.

* on the best night of a lot of good nights, I had Korean barbecue after midnight with old friends I had to squint to see in their faces now and told old jokes and slipped into old patterns and found a bit of myself again.

* New York will always be a comics town because it's New York where comics feel most and least important. It's where the syndicates are but no model comics page. It's where the companies started but not where they make most of their money. It's where the company lies that's going to put a shop in every household across America and Europe that wants one. It has the New Yorker and its office visits. It's where Jack Kirby was born and where Jules Feiffer did alternative comics a quarter century before they had a name. The reason why New York shows are important is because New York is important. I'm grateful Gabe Fowler stepped up, and I hope the experience was enough he'll stick with it. God bless Comics New York.

* on Thursday I began to concentrate on comics events.

* my formal comics weekend started with Osamu Tezuka. I didn't see a whole bunch of comics people at the Japan Society's Tezuka event on the Thursday before CAB, which I wrote about here. There were a few folks there. The cartoonist Katie Skelly was moderating; Sean McCarthy, Paul Karasik, Sam Alden and Sophia Wiedeman attended. It's always nice to see a comics event bringing in tons of people one doesn't know because it makes comics feel less like a local "garage theater" scene where the same 20-person audience is shared like those Greek soothsayers that have joint custody of an eyeball and a tooth. We treat comics sometimes as if there's no audience at all, as if those closes to the medium are the only ones that matter, and I suspect the opposite is true.

* after Tezuka it was my great honor to attend Art Spiegelman's Jewish Museum exhibit reception for fellow artists and various friends from comics. He had already done a press event and a more formal reception earlier that week. I took a cab up with Paul Karasik -- who has terrible cab mojo for someone that has actually lived in New York. We talked about career minutiae and oddball projects from the four cartoonists he put together on a "Young Cartoonists" panel at Comic Arts Brooklyn, still a couple of days off. They weren't chosen by random or by reputation. Karasik is one of comics kinder souls and nimble conversationalists: if there are universal donors, I can imagine Karasik being listed on some doctor's chart somewhere as a universal dinner companion.

image* anyway, the invites had asked us to print up tickets but they weren't checked -- my apologies to anyone in the large entourage I could have apparently swung. We were checked for weapons, though, and I spent the rest of the evening trying to decide which of the Arcade crowd would be most likely to show up packing heat.

* that was an amazing crowd, and to be honest I spent most of the time engaged in talking to people rather than looking at the show. Francoise Mouly of course, Jeff Smith, Vijaya Iyer (Spiegelman later called Iyer the more impressive get), Jesse Fuchs, Bill Kartalopoulos, Dan Nadel, McCarthy, Skelly, Wiedemann, David Mazzucchelli, Charles Burns, Santoro, James Sturm, Patrick McDonnell, Chris Ware (who I understand was out just for the reception), Chris Oliveros (ditto), Peggy Burns, Gary Panter, Adrian Tomine, Ben Katchor, Gil and Amy Roth, Dave Filipi, I think maybe Lisa Hanawalt, Lorenzo Mattotti (again, I think), Bob Sikoryak, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, Ariel Schrag and a bunch of people I've probably forgotten, including people I talked to directly. My apologies. Anyway, it was definitely one of those "everybody tell the meteor hitting the museum joke" nights. I was lucky to be there and definitely out of my league, which was nice because at least there would be no time spent negotiating for any seat at an afterparty.

* as an ex-Fantagraphics employee, I was pigeonholed for several inquiries about that company's then-nascent crowd-funder, all from people sympathetic and concerned.

* this isn't comics, but I wasn't aware Ariel Schrag had a novel coming out next Spring from Putnam. That's great news; she's a very skilled writer.

* Gabrielle Bell was enjoying some time away from not doing comics. I hope she has been better at it than I apparently was.

* I'd like to return to get a more considered view of the Spiegelman show. It was very impressively mounted -- for instance, they treated his originals so that they could be displayed under light. Taking in what I could in between bursts of conversation there seemed a lot of pleasurable aspects to it: seeing that Spiegelman worked so small in some cases and much larger than others; seeing some of the many development sketches and the choices made from concept to page, and seeing some of the projects with which I've had very little exposure. There was a sumptuous quality to seeing that much work. The show seemed very much intended to make a case for comics through Spiegelman, as opposed to making a case for Spiegelman as a significant artist within or without comics, but that's almost a hunch on my part rather than a studied observation. I lack sophistication when it comes to writing about art on walls -- art, generally -- but my impression was the show was user-friendly rather than the explication of a thesis. In terms of comics, my single solid takeaway was to be reminded how much work Spiegelman has done despite a reputation that he's one of the slower, less prolific cartoonists.

* I don't know Art Spiegelman at all well, but he looked relaxed and happy and amongst his people.

* a few folks I spoke to slipped out of the gallery where Spiegelman's work was hosted and to a different part of the building to see the Chagall exhibit running concurrently.

* I later read a negative review of the Spiegelman show. I linked to it from Random News at some point. I expected to read a few. Like most of the negative articles on Spiegelman, what I read was primarily a review of his celebrity rather than his comics. The typical construction of that kind of article is a summary dismissal of Spiegelman's skill on the page according to the writer's measure of the approbation received, followed by an optional sidebar about celebrity or publicity being a concern of Spiegelman's in order to justify this attention, and then swinging into an indictment of the critics that enjoy the cartoonist's work or of the culture more generally for rewarding the cartoonist. It then usually gets followed by a bunch of people writing about how brave it is to take Spiegelman on, and there's a little piling on in terms of incredulous exhortation for the rest of us to see past this avalanche of undeserved praise. I never know what to say about those kinds of reviews where an art exhibit is treated as a prize rather than an exploration, and thus is an affront to someone's particular sensibilities; there's usually very little in terms of engagement with the art in them. In many cases they seem to come from people with a very strong sense of personal worth when it comes to their own work. I don't necessarily think Art Spiegelman is the finest cartoonist of his generation, but I think he's a considerable one and an influential creator in a variety of areas. I wish all the cartoonists of his skill and greater received twice the attention and four times the reward.

image* the next day was the time hanging out with Peggy Burns and visiting First Second. Later that evening I attended Dash Shaw's film/video presentation after Sean Collins came up the street and found me because I text-whined at him. He led my confused, lost self to the theater by hand. Joe Ollmann came and sat next to me in the front row and we did an eyeball old-guy high-five. The program was a bunch of Shaw's short pieces wrapped around a full episode of Robotech. I have even less of a sophisticated palate for animation than I do for visual art, but I did enjoy the Shaw cartoons and can see a continuity of concerns between those works and his comics. I also really wish Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes would just get together already.

* that night I went out with Karasik, Sturm, Mark Newgarden and Ollmann to a beer and wine place while the younger crowd went far enough out of that immediate Brooklyn neighborhood I think so as to discourage any of the olds from walking that far to join them. We were definitely being cranky comics guys, but there's no wrong way to be a comics person except maybe desiring to be a kind you're not. So a fun evening. I wish I could remember details of the conversation, but, you know, beer.

* for the weekend I moved from the city and stayed at a more affordable, comfortable bed and breakfast near Prospect Park. I decided to walk to the comics show because I felt super-fat. It was about 90 minutes. That was very interesting, how quickly -- even within the same block -- Brooklyn seemed to be still gentrifying even though many of my friends claim it's already gone through that process and is now on the other side. I saw the first drug deal I've witnessed since leaving Chicago in 1993. I saw three grocery stores nicer than anything for a half-mile in any direction. It was a lovely walk. There's a neighborhood south and a bit west from where the show is that's basically been described to me in joking fashion as "16th Century Poland" for the Jewish community that lives there, many of whom were out and about that day.


* I hit the Knitting Factory programming first. In case I was unclear, this was arranged by Paul Karasik, and he went less is more -- very focused, heavy-hitter panels, but only three of them. There was a reserved press section and a seat with my name on it -- I guess because I told them they were coming. This was a relief because I'm shy and not very assertive when it comes to scoring seats. Although there's really no way to say, "You're in my seat; seriously, my name is on it and everything" and not come across as a massive tool. But still: seat, seat, seat. Very grateful. Despite their reputation the New York folks were very respectful of the reserved seats in a way most audiences usually aren't.

* that's a cool space to hear people talk, and it serves booze, so it has a lot going for it. It's very small. There was a big crowd wanting to get into that City Of Glass panel and the place was packed for all three panels. It seemed about three percent less crazy in terms of crowd intensity than the final BCGF's slate in 2012; take that for what it's worth. Video was apparently prepared, but I've heard nothing about it showing up quite yet.

* the City Of Glass graphic novel adaptation reunion panel -- featuring Paul Auster, Art Spiegelman, David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik -- was delayed about 35 minutes because of technical issues. When it finally went off moderator Bill Kartalopoulos did not have control of the screen like he had during last year's panels. I admired how quickly Kartalopoulos moved the panel along -- not an easy panel to begin with -- considering how much time had been burnt away and the distraction of having to ask for help with every image. He asked a couple of questions where I felt like screaming out Marge Simpson-style "Don't fill up on bread!" because I thought they were extraneous that ended up being the best questions asked of the panel. That guy is really good at moderating.

* that was a fun panel. I'm not sure what was new and what was just new to me, as I'm not up on my City Of Glass graphic novel details, but it was enjoyable. I liked most the similarities drawn between the careers of Spiegelman and Auster, and the comparison between pages that Mazzucchelli did on his own and the pages after Karasik joined the project. Karasik had been breaking down the book as a personal exercise so he'd have something to talk about with Auster during a parent/teacher conference -- Karasik had Auster's kid in class -- and that was the first of about a half-dozen synchronicities about the project that the panelists decided were very much like the events in one of Auster's novels. I also wasn't aware the novel wasn't initially offered as a new book -- it was a backorder-only release.


* I stayed for the Young Cartoonists panel, equally stuffed with festival goers. That was Karen Green moderating for Michael DeForge, Lisa Hanawalt, Joseph Lambert and Katie Skelly. That was an extremely good panel in terms of the level of insight into each artist. I thought they were all good on their feet (they were actually on stools; the Knitting Factory set-up looks like one of those concerts they play on PBS or MTV where everyone has a guitar). Each panelist provided slides as to influences and then talked about them, the idea being that as young cartoonists they may have a different set of influences than the older creators that get asked that question and that grew up in a more monolithic pop culture.

* that the artists had a variety of influences turned out to be a smart assumption. There were beautiful nuggets of information every 23 seconds or so. DeForge talked about how much he enjoyed the way the musician Prince worked at a furious pace and bounced back and forth between making music and producing it, which is a fair template for the prolific nature of his own early career. Lambert was the only one to say he was directly influenced by superhero comics, but what was interesting about that part of his presentation is the way he talked about the way in which those comics came at him: in a scattered and random fashion that meant re-reading and obsessing over specific details and having to do without the kind of context that might come easily to the kind of fan dropping 75 bucks a week on the things. Lambert's low-whistle admiration for Jim Woodring's work was also noteworthy and fun to behold. Skelly offered the most eclectic grouping of influences -- Godard, Barbarella, the work of Sam Kieth and modern Japanese visual art among them -- and was the most polished in presenting specific reasons why each appealed to her; a through-line was the absurdity of the violence involved, and I think, the absolute idiosyncrasy of these created worlds. Skelly engaged the notion, seconded by Hanawalt, that she wished she were more influenced by the prose writers she admired. For her part as an individual presenter, Hanawalt talked about being influenced directly by the materials she chooses to consume as research for a new project, like the westerns she's been watching. What was nice about that is that it shifted the conversation out of the idea that influences are something that come at you while you're young and to a place where you're constantly working in new material and new things you see. Hanawalt also got a big laugh when she showed a few rocks from the avalanche of kids' books she had related to horses and said that it probably wasn't right to say she was "influenced by 'horse'." All four artists were routinely articulate; I overheard a woman in the lobby saying she was going straight to the table of one of the artists on the panel with whom she was completely unfamiliar. Like I mentioned earlier, I know that Karasik struggled a bit as to the exact make-up of the panel, and had read deeply of those he selected. Good panel.

* then I had to go get lunch with someone who needed to eat and leave the borough. Sorry, Jeff Smith. I heard his process presentation killed, though. Smith is really good in front of an audience and there were a lot of cartoonists and comics fans in attendance at that show for whom Smith is a primary influence for reading/making comics.

* after lunch, I walked over to the show, which had a bigger sign, I think, or at least I noticed it a few blocks away.


* the show itself I think went very well. Solid. This is particularly noteworthy for it being a first show in certain ways, at least in terms of Gabe Fowler taking the lead (both of his fellow, former BCGF organizers were on hand, Bill Kartalopoulos moderating a panel; Dan Nadel exhibiting). Brooklyn is a good buying show no matter what it's called, and it's one where the audience and the exhibitor seem to exhibit a certain level of synergy that's hard not to enjoy. Those that aren't into specific comics works on hand seem interested in finding out about stuff or are at least open to looking. I heard about very good but maybe just short of spectacular sales for most people, with a few folks selling out. The space seemed less crazily stuffed than at the last version of previous same-space event BCGF. Part of that I think was a tiny drop in the fervor of the attendance -- I talked to one or two exhibitors who were worried about the crowds until 2 PM or so -- but some of the ease of movement was definitely purposeful adjusting by Gabe Fowler and his team. For instance, they used soft corners on the aisles (think an open square where you could stand and touch the two table ends rather than table ends touching along the sides), which made walking around easier, and adjusted where tables were set up and how deep into the room. The exhibitors were only slightly off in terms of overall numbers, Fowler told me that day, but I thought the traffic was significant and sustained.


* saw a bunch of my peers, including Calvin Reid, Joseph Hughes and Timothy Hodler. I also ran into Chris Mautner and Joe McCulloch, the Karkas and the Reject of writers-about-comics -- I don't know which is which -- up from central Pennsylvania. Mautner and McCulloch I'd probably see once or twice a week if we lived in the same town, so these twice-yearly meetings have a bit of melancholy to them, really. Whenever I ask Joe about comics at one of these things he usually ends up pulling some odd-looking manga volume out of his bag and talks abut that for ten minutes before he mentions anything I've actually heard of, which is funny in that it's sort of a real-life street theatrical version of his weekly comics column at TCJ.

* everybody looked pretty good. There was no one about who anyone savagely gossiped due to their general physical well-being.

* spinning the wheels to focus my older brain on the show and the conversations had walking up and down the aisle, I remember nice exchanges with Connie Sun and Lauren Weinstein. Weinstein is looking forward to a change in her workday structure with kindergarten coming on for her kid. I made a point of going back and seeing one of the nicer people in all of comics, Rina Ayuyang, for an across-table visit. She told me that Renee French couldn't make it in support of her new Yam Books effort. I like that work very much. Leigh Walton said they sold a bunch of kids' books. It's always fun to see Andrew Aydin working behind, he seems very excited and on that day the publisher and the creators were still coming down off of the sales bump from Team March appearing on Rachel Maddow's show.


* my two big surprise run-intos were Jay Lynch early and Eleanor Davis late, both there in support of the work they do for TOON Books. Lynch I don't know very well, but I'm an admirer and I like the TOON work as well. Eleanor Davis is someone whose work I enjoy very much, and I'm not used to seeing her at shows if I've ever seen her at a show. I think I heard about her attending the 2012 SPX but she stayed away from the con floor itself. It was great to talk to her, and in fact I kind of overplayed my time chatting with her. Sorry, Eleanor. I greatly look forward to her collection from Fantagraphics. She was my Fantagraphics crowd-funder incentive choice. When I mentioned that Davis was there in the list of people I'd seen while talking to others at the show the reaction was usually "What?" and once or twice people charged away to track her down, leaving me in a conversational lurch.

* speaking of Fantagraphics, I did have quite a few younger cartoonists ask after their crowd-funder, more than I expected. This had been something we had talked about on Friday night, whether or not Fantagraphics was even on the radar of a lot of young people at the show making comics. I assume that for many of them, that company might not be anything more than a far-off institution and kind of irrelevant to what they do, but I also think there are plenty of cartoonists that have emerged in the last half-decade giving serious thought as to how they might keep doing it, and certainly all of the major publishers of that type of material factor into those plans.

* one thing I heard about and had confirmed that was funny is that Dan Nadel declined to sign a pair of boots as an incentive.

* anyway, there was a lot of general career anxiety around New York that week, more than usual, I thought. I think a lot of younger cartoonists are settling into a realistic assessment of what's out there for them.

* this year's mainstream comics maker on the floor of the show enjoying it as any fan might was writer Sam Humphries. He was in town for a Marvel creators meeting. I was happy he introduced himself. One of the weirder lines of discussion I had with comics people at CAB and at the following week's Billy Ireland Opening Festival was the current nature of the divide between commercial comics and art comics. I think there's actually more people with a kind of contempt for doing the other kind of work than there has been in recent years, or at least it seems like there's a bit of move back to "that's not even comics" thinking. I don't know, I think creative work is more same than dissimilar even on the highly commercial gigs, but I can only work from the outside in on that one.

* I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of personal encounters. I saw Vito Delsante and his family. Ayo. Annie Koyama. Hellen Jo, an artist I like a lot. Leslie Stein. Ryan Sands, who I think told me had just gotten tattoos with Michael DeForge. Sean Ford, about whom I worry. I just worry about that guy, no real reason. Box Brown. Ian Harker. Tom Kaczynski. Dean Haspiel. Julia Gfrorer, with a new Fantagraphics book out that's my next thing to read. Jonny Negron. Benjamin Marra I waved at.


* two cartoonists not already mentioned that people seemed super-excited to see were Simon Hanselmann and, from seemingly out of nowhere -- by which I mean I knew Hanselmann was coming -- John Pham with a new issue of Epoxy and a new fiancée in tow. John Pham and Epoxy, for pity's sake. Hanselmann was very charming, and seemed a tiny bit overwhelmed by the recent surge of interest in his comics, but in a good way. He was the appointment visit for maybe a dozen people I saw walking around the show. Pham has long been one of the nicest people in comics, and for nearly as long an under-appreciated creator. If there was a comic of the show, I would vote for Pham's; if there was a cartoonist whose appearance might mark this show as different a few years down the line, I'd say Hanselmann. There were a lot of books garnering attention. I believe that Gregory Benton sold out of his work again over at the Adhouse table this time, making it two New York arts festival in a row for that guy. I'm not sure that I heard a lot of excited about specific projects as much as a kind of overall desire to have a lot of stuff -- a sign that the generation served there is kind of locked in that state where they are at least a few years into their careers, and people come to shows wanting their new things as much as a new thing.


* I stood outside for a while with Jeff Smith and Art Spiegelman. Two younger cartoonists tried to drag me up the street to a bar, but I wasn't quite ready to leave -- I joined them later. They told me they thought I was trapped talking to a couple of boring looking old comics dudes and wanted to rescue me. Sorry, Jeff and Art. Anyway, that was nice, too, to get the perspective of two major figures on a show like that, and the level of visual culture enjoyed by the emerging cartoonists, and who had caught their eye and who hadn't, all while talking about things they were up to themselves. Chuck Forsman stopped by and talked about his comics and his distribution set-up. It's always nice to see that guy. I like the front of that church on the festival days as a comics place.

* I had dinner with a few younger but not super-young peers and in addition to the usual gossip and post-show sorting out of what each of us saw we talked about books of the year. A lot of admiration was expressed for Frank Santoro's Pompeii. I walked through the formal afterparty, knew not a soul, smiled and sort of -- now that I look back on it -- invited myself to Mark Newgarden's post-show gathering where most of the folks I knew from Sammy Harkham and Adrian Tomine and older had gathered. Sorry, Mark. Actually, some of the Chicago guys were there, too, and some of them seemed young. Newgarden has amazing bookshelves, as you might expect. I talked exhausted nonsense. It was a great time.

* the remarkable thing about CAB 2013 to me is that no one seemed blown away by this tremendously high-functioning comics show. Almost everyone seemed to be having a really good time, and a lot of great comics-makers and comics were there, but I never got the sense of anyone going, "Whoa." I mean, I'm sure that was a part of it for several people -- every show is someone's life-changing show -- but I didn't feel a collective wow. That sounds like an indictment, but it's so not. I realized at one point standing outside, in the cold, waiting to be seated for dinner that we simply expect good comics shows now. And that's a whoa of a different kind. Festivals and cons are one of the few things in comics that in the last couple of years have finally caught up with how good the comics themselves are. We need to have really good shows now. All the time. The comics deserve them.


extraneous travel notes, because two of you told me you keep track: 1) I stayed here, here and here; they were all fine although certainly you have to engage with what they are rather than what you might hope for them to be; I did not spend over $120 for any individual night, by haunting travel sites until they gave me the price I wanted 2) I flew American and chose to go LAX from Tucson and then across country because that's more miles for about the same length of time on a plane as Dallas or Denver; be careful with LAX that they give you enough time to get on your next flight when you book; I like the American terminal at JFK for its expansive size, public transport options and relative lack of use


* picture of the outside of the show including the big signage
* Sean T. Collins, from later in the week than this contextual use
* Peggy Burns with Adrian Tomine, from later in the week than this contextual use
* Frank Santoro and his buy
* always liked this Art Spiegelman image
* Joe Ollmann
* the crowd waiting patiently for the City Of Glass panel to start
* the young cartoonists: Lambert, Hanawalt, DeForge, Skelly
* Paul Pope signing, which gives you an idea of the indoor crowd
* Calvin Reid, David Mazzucchelli, Paul Karasik
* Timothy Hodler, Chris Mautner, Jog
* it was a huge surprise seeing Eleanor Davis
* the great John Pham
* Jeff Smith and Art Spiegelman
* another picture from outside of the show, including the steps where people congregate (below)



posted 9:50 pm PST | Permalink

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