MoCCA 2007, Or How Many Indie Cartoonists Can We Name-Drop in a Single Post?

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Jeffrey Brown

[Thanks to Shayna M. for the jovial Jeffrey Brown photo above. She’s also hooked us up with a full slideshow of our travels, over at Flickr, because my picture-taking abilities are nearly as stunted as my drawing. ]

Update #1: The elephant shirt mentioned below was created by a fellow named Jonathan Rosenberg, who was nice enough to e-mail me earlier today. The shirt can be found here. It is my new favorite shirt, and as such I will no doubt wear it until it is full of holes and stains. If you buy it, make sure to call me before you wear it to any social function, as it would be totally embarrassing if we both showed up wearing the same thing.

Update #2: I am an unquestionably poor judge of Evan Dorkin’s mood.

This, I tearfully confess, was my first-ever MoCCA, despite having lived in New York City for three years and change—a useful piece of trivia for those out there looking for a good excuse to revoke my comics blogging credentials. As such, I’m at a loss in terms of comparing the festivities to previous years’ events. In terms of how the two-day convention compared to a random sampling of weekends in my own life, the list of worse ways to spend eighteen hours of my life would take at least that long to compile.

MoCCA, for the uninitiated, is not unlike your standard comic con, save for two large differences. First, a larger percentage of the female patronage actually pays to get in, and as such, show up to engage in conversations about the medium, and purchase books, rather than wear tight costume mockups, and get paid money to be leered at—this, naturally, will either be regarded as a plus or minus, depending on exactly what you’re looking for in this sort of setting.

The second difference is that the vast majority of people sitting behind tables actually seem as if they want to be there, for the vast majority of the time. With a few exceptions, the people who’ve set up booths at MoCCA, have paid their own way, and are selling their own creations, many of which are black and white photo copies, providing little hope of helping them even break even.

I can honestly say, as clichéd as such a thing might sound, money seems the further thing from most of the exhibitors’ minds, in this setting. These are by and large people who work day jobs or go to school, for whom—at least at the moment—comic books are a passion, rather than a career. People who, like the non-exhibition attendees, are more than likely losing money to attend—not to mention the fact that, almost everyone on the showroom floor, whether they had a booth or not, had some manner of comic-creating aspirations. I was asked a few times, whether I had some sequential project waiting for me at home, and most were genuinely surprised when I answered with a “no.”

Jeremy Tinder

[Jeremy Tinder customizes out copy of Black Ghost Apple Factory, rabbit-style, as Owly and his creator, Andy Rutton get some quality shoulder time in.]

Even those in the attendance who had come on the bills of the relatively larger name publishers seemed more than happy to engage everyone who approached them with a question or a blank sketchbook page—in fact, the only person who seemed a bit irritated was Evan Dorkin, peddling goods with his wife, and fellow artist, Sarah Dyer, and their daughter. Dorkin’s general unease seemed to have less to do with being at MoCCA, than, you know, just being Evan Dorkin, and thereby obligated to complain about something and everything.

I apologized for shaking a hand, which I realized was in a brace, about mid-pump. Upon asking inquiring about it, the artist launched into a long story about having been punched in the arm by someone to whom he had owed money—likely a bitter old man by the name of Carpal Tunnel. I pestered Dorkin once again about that interview we have been planning since before the New York Comic Con, and despite a non-comital answer, thanks to a never-ending sea of deadlines, the artist sent us away happy with all of the free issues of Milk and Cheese and Action Girl that our arms could carry. I also picked up a copy of Dork #11—perhaps a bit too old to see a review here, though maybe a few outspoken Dorkinites might be able to convince me otherwise.

Given my limited carrying capacity (one large, green messenger bag), my newly purchased Alberto Gonzales-themed t-shirt (featuring a cartoon elephant, by a company whose name I’ve sadly forgotten–if you’re reading this, please send me your name for a little bloggy lovin’), and the review material generosity of folks like First Second and Kitchen Sink (tablemate, Craig Yoe, was nice enough to vouch for our relative validity to Mr. and Mrs. Kitchen, who sent me away with, among other things, three snazzy Crumb posters), I’m eternally grateful for having run into Sarah Morean and Will Dinski. It was my first time having actually met cartoonist and fellow Cross Hatcher, Morean in the flesh (we’ve never bumped into her, despite my many trips to Sioux Falls), and she was more than happy with the bag-clearing stash of minis that I deposited at her table from folks like Jeremy Tinder, Liz Baillie, Julia Wertz, Laura Park, a smiley Ben Rosen, our Astorian neighbors Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier, and a slew of other generous folks too numerous to mention. Look for a ton of Morean-penned mini reviews, in the coming weeks. She and Dinski were also kind enough to keep me company later that night, as I nursed a Stella and rocked back-and-forth, head between legs in the 3,000-degree heat of the uncharacteristically swanky bar chosen to host Top Shelf’s 10th anniversary after party.

Top Shelf was rather well accounted for at MoCCA itself, as well, with a huge display on the Puck Building’s first floor. All alcoholic cartoonist jokes aside, the company had set up a nice little storefront for itself in the empty bar area, with Chris Staros, Robert Venditti and cartoonists Tinder, Andy Runton, Jeffrey Brown, Andy Hartzell, Lilli Carre, and Jeff Lemire all tending. Hartzell and my walking partner and photographer, Shayna Marchese had a lengthy discussion about self-publishing, while Lemire and I spoke about hockey (about which I know next to nothing), and his hometown of Essex County (about which I know even less). I still regret not picking up one of Tinder’s amazing mini-paintings. Maybe next year, once alternative comics blogging becomes the incredibly lucrative occupation it’s surely destined to be.

Kim Deitch

[Kim Deitch displays his ever-enlarging portfolio.]

Alex Robinson and Brett Warnock were doing their own thing in a table, off to the side. I asked Robinson when his new book was due out, and he took a moment’s break from a sketch he was working on for the inside cover of someone’s copy of Tricked to offer of the fairly non-committal answer of, “next year.” On the other side of the room, we ran into Aaron Renier, who was standing against a wall, trying to decide whether he would have enough time to get to the Giant Robot art show, if he went home to walk the dog. We stopped by, between the close of MoCCA and the beginning of Top Shelf’s party, because the proposition of art by Jeffery Brown and Anders Nilsen, shiny Japanese toys, and free ice cream server by the most aloof scooper, ever, was too good to pass up.

Drawn & Quarterly had a fairly huge presence at MoCCA, too, lining a full wall of the front room, next to the kids who were recording for the Indie Spinner Rack podcast and the CBLDF table. We talked new releases with D&Q a bit, ultimately being nudged aside by the deluge of folks who stopped by to get anything and everything signed by Charles Burns and Adriane Tomine.

Kim Deitch was over at Fantagraphics’ booth, showing a select few pencils of the upcoming project on which he’s been collaborating with both of his brothers, and which, incidentally we will be previewing in installments over the next few weeks. We ran into Deitch two or three more times that day, every time at another booth, discussing a different entry into his ever-enlarging, and always impressive oeuvre.

Richard Marcej was promoting his Baboon Books spread, near the entrance of the backroom, while Sam Henderson and K. Thor Jensen stood guard at the Alternative Comics booth, with Jeff Mason sadly MIA, this time out. Jensen was hawking copies of Red Eye, Black Eye, recommending Thai restaurants in Astoria, and generally freaking out about his first child, some two months away. We ran into Tom Hart as we were leaving the floor, but as always, the habitually-friendly artist was flanked by a huge crowd of eager fans, so we passed by, having tired him out by pitching projects at the Rocketship party, the night before.

For some reason, the show was happening on the first and seventh floor of Manhattan’s Puck Building. On the elevator up to seven, I made some lame joke about one of the middle floors having been reserved for a mud wrestling match between Robert Crumb and Chris Ware—it went over fairly well, which is always a good sign of the company in a packed car.

For all of the amazing talent on the first floor, the seventh was a much nice place to take in, after a day spent walking around, with sunny windows overlooking a bit of midtown Manhattan, including the Empire State Building. A neon green, banana-like (a plantain, perhaps) representative of Kaiju Big Battel was making the rounds, passing out fliers, with a fixed smile on its face.

One-time Rock Hatchers, Raagni were at a booth, plugging their gorgeously illustrated record, and The Salon’s Nick Bertozi was in one corner, selling a huge pile of art, which he was adding to, as we spoke about our respective Queens neighborhoods.

In all, an amazing way to spend two days in Manhattan—worth, believe it or not, having skipped the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade on Saturday, and free Superchunk show on Sunday, and church and temple and bunch and all of the other things folks do to while away the weekend hours in New York City. We’ll be there next year with bells and messenger bags on, and maybe even those elusive Daily Cross Hatch business cards I’ve been promising everyone for the past six months.

–Brian Heater

8 Comments to “MoCCA 2007, Or How Many Indie Cartoonists Can We Name-Drop in a Single Post?”

  1. mark anderson | March 16th, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I put your blog to my facebook favourite sites.

  2. Radley | March 16th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Well said, finally a good report on this stuff

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