Comfort Con 2007
By this point you’ve probably read so many con reports on the MoCCA Art Fest that they’re leaking out of your brain (the best place to catch most of ’em is the Collective Memory link at Tom Spurgeon’s place), but some things probably bear repeating and others definitely bear linking to, so here’s how I saw the day.
Despite physical limitations and transportation difficulties which prevented me from attending on Sunday, I found MoCCA to be one of the most comfortable conventions I’ve attended in a long time, in many senses of the word. The temperature both outside and within the Puck Building was ideal; the AC was working well and Manhattan was going through a few wonderful early summer days of negligible humidity and temps in the low ’70s, making for a great weekend to be out and about.
Moreover, the minute I walked into the first of the four exhibition halls (three on the first floor and a large ballroom on the 7th) I felt welcome and put at ease. Professional informality and friendliness abounded from pretty much every table. Nobody put on the stuck-up "we’re better than the mainstream" indie airs that had given me pause in years past. The talent level ran the gamut from folks just starting out with photocopied minicomics (and places like ComiXpress make it easier than ever to self-publish slick-looking stuff) to major imprints, from homegrown to foreigners from as far away as Scandanavia. As many have reported, the gender mix seemed to be about 50/50.
As Cheryl Lynn noted, "There was also a wide range of people from different ages attending… There were also people of different races and ethnicities there as well. There were black women! More than I could count on one hand even! Sweet!" The happy diversity truly reflected what Heidi has called Team Comics — a great example of the amazing possibilities of the medium and a real sense of "we’re all in this together."
As you can see, ComicMix was well represented at this convention as well. Shown above are Kai Connolly, Mike Raub, Martha Thomases and Mike Gold. Not pictured but present for the obligatory and always-wonderful ComicMix dinner were Glenn Hauman, John and Arthur Tebbel, Matt Raub and yours truly.
Con co-organizer John McCarthy did a terrific job, and even had a few seconds to let me snap a photo of him. More observations and photos below.
Alexa Kitchen is all of 9 years old now, and has a whole comics empire including postcards, t-shirts and hardcover books. It helps when Dad’s a publisher! It also helps if you have her prodigious talents. Look for more ComicMix reporting on Alexa in the near future.
MoCCA is always a great place to catch up with old friends I don’t seem to see anywhere else. Here’s Christine Norrie with a display of her latest works. I had a long chat with Paul Curtis about the resurgence of minicomics and microcomics and old British SF shows (he highly recommends Sapphire & Steel); greeted First Gentlemen of Hamtramck Matt Feazell (yep, his wife Karen Majewski is the mayor! and to think, I knew them when) and fellow Hamtramck’ian (Hamtramck’ite?) Suzanne Baumann, whose work has a nice Roaring ’20s feel to it; bought one of Marion Vitus’ scones from the Comics Bakery and caught up on all my Teen Boat goodness (I see my Lulu buds Marion, John, Dave and Raina at lots of cons but always find new stuff to buy at their table); gushed over Hilary Price and her book Reigning Cats and Dogs (her editor Crissy Boylan says there’s another collection out soon); met the promising newcomer Luisa Felix; hooked up with Vinnie, Dorian and Siobhan Bartilucci to seek out new entries to Vinnie’s International Norbert Conspiracy — and that was all in the first row I traversed!
Top Shelf had a big display behind the bar to celebrate their 10th anniversary. I heard the party they threw on Saturday night was The Place To Be.
I spent much of my time with cartoonist and blogger Barry Deutsch, visiting from Portland, where they’re just starting to gear up for the 4th annual Stumptown Comics Fest. Where there was once only APE and SPX, now there are at least five viable "alternative" comics festivals throughout the country each year, and the number only seems to be growing! Barry and I ducked out for awhile to the Puck Fair pub across the street, as I really needed a sit (as Cheryl also notes, the only drawback to MoCCA was the lack of sitting space for attendees; they should keep the food-serving rooms open all day as those had plenty of chairs), and most of the rest of the "Portland contingent" wound up joining us. Here’s Barry (on the left) with Kip Manley.
And here’s Jenn Manley Lee and someone whose name I didn’t catch but I think is Paul. There were lots of names and links flying about by this point, and my note-taking is much diminished from previous con report years. I heard names like Dylan Meconis and Kevin Huizenga but, well, it’s all so overwhelming it’s impossible to keep track. MoCCA has become the gathering point that sets you on the path of what you’re going to read for the next year, and it’ll take just about that long to get through your new "must-reads"! (Mine include the output from gURL.com and Monica Gallagher.)
There were also signings throughout the weekend; here are Alison Bechdel and Dean Haspiel doing their part in the 7th floor autograph area. One hallway over were the folks from The Onion, whom I thanked for running David Malki’s Wondermark, one of the best comic strips around. It was a real pleasure meeting David and having him autograph my very own copy of The Annotated Wondermark, which had me in stitches just going through the intro pages.
At the House of 12 booth to which Jen Gonzalez directed me, Nick Jeffrey and Miss Lasko-Gross re-create the expressions Miss used for their doppelganger characters on the cover of the new Friends of Lulu publication The Girls’ Guide to Guys’ Stuff. There was a hefty Lulu contingent as well; maybe next year I’ll do double-duty and volunteer to work the booth so I can get some sitting time in! I had a great chat at the Lulu table with Katherine Arnoldi, who now heads up College Mom Magazine. Katherine’s seminal graphic novel The Amazing True Story of a Teenaged Mom is being made into a movie by the Kennedy Marshall company (the folks behind Seabiscuit and Poltergeist) and she’s currently looking for a home for her new book, Clara Comes Down to Earth: Globalizaition, the Neo-liberal Agenda and Resistance. This would be a great coup for any forward-thinking political publisher looking for a quality prestige product to garner new readers to the cause of educational graphic novels!
My first and only scoop of the day was a great high note on which to end. This con energized me spiritually (if not physically) more than any gathering in recent memory, and already I can’t wait for MoCCA ’08!