KGB Bar Comix Reading 11/30/08

Categories:  Features

It was standing room only on Sunday night—or kneeling, rather, as audience members contorted bodies around the projector’s beam cutting through the center of the room. The consensus, it seems, amongst nearly everyone packed into KGB Bar on Manhattan’s East 4th st. was that the bi-annual comics event had finally outgrown its old home amongst the strangely homey décor of Soviet-era Russian memorabilia lining the walls.

Over the years the event has become one of the best-loved in the New York indie comics scene, hosted by Tom Hart twice-yearly—on Easter Sunday and the Sunday following Thanksgiving, the latter of which happily boasts the tagline, ‘Come digest that tryptophan with comix!’

Despite said poultry-induced sluggishness, widespread jetlag, the stormy weather, and the innate desire to spend the bulk  of the weekend on the business end of a treadmill, the turnout seems to perpetual increase, year after year, thanks in no small part to the consistently stellar lineup of comics artists reading their work alongside panels projected large on a bedsheet pulled taut along the front wall of the bar.

This year Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel shared the headlining spot, the former reading from the duo’s recent Vertigo release, The Alcoholic. Also on board were fellow Act-I-Vater, Fishtown’s Kevin Colden; How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less author, Sarah Glidden; and Matthew Thurber, whose 1-800-Mice #1 debuted on Brooklyn’s Picturebox, last winter.

Colden stared the evening off with the first few pages of his recent IDW release, Fishtown. The book, which follows the based-on-real-events murder of a teenager in the Fishtown district of Philadelphia, highlighted the decided change in tone of this year’s selections, which were a touch more solemn than those of past events. All of the artists present, Colden included, however, made a point to bring a bit of levity to the otherwise serious nature of their works. Colden added sound effects to his piece, highlighting the already absurd nature of reading aloud from a comic book in front of a packed East Village bar.

Thurber was on second, with an innovative presentation that proved the surprise hit of the night. Armed with the one solidly comedic work on display, Thurber concocted a scrolling real of butcher paper to accompany the reading of 1-800-Mice. The artist directed the room’s attention to the rear window of the bar over which he had hung a large roll of paper. Panel by panel he unspooled it as he read from the work, crumpling the finished work in a large pile at the bottom, much to the audible chagrin of those empathetic audience members who could only imagine how much time the artist must have invested in the spool.

After a quick intermission Sarah Glidden read cheerfully from the opening of How to Understand Israel’s first issue. The portion focused on Glidden’s own idealistic optimism on the lead up to her Birthright Israel trip, following her journey to the airport where the narrator and her fellow travelers met with a fair amount of hassle at the hands of the security guards. At an appropriately climatic moment involving a piece of unaccompanied luggage, the slideshow app unexpectedly quit, revealing a large cartoon “Boom!” that Hart had chosen as his computer’s desktop for reasons unbeknownst to the rest of us.

Haspiel opted to stay at the bar as Ames took charge reading selections from The Alcoholic, the thinly-veiled semi-autobiographical book following the adventures of one “Jonathan A.” Having loosened up with the aid of a few vodkas, Ames launched into a few of the more comedic moments from the book, including a chance encounter with Monica Lewinsky, which, the author happily pointed out, was sufficiently meta, having taking place during a reading in the same bar in which we were all sitting.

Even Hart himself admitted begrudgingly that said bar was, perhaps, just not large enough to hold the event, should it continue to grow at the current rate. And while it would be a shame to have to leave the warm literati-friendly watering hole, the increasing popularity of the event is certainly an encouraging sign of things to come.

–Brian Heater

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