There is, perhaps, no comics show title that more accurately captures the nature of small press book browsing than that of SVA’s Fresh Meat. Even after all of these years, it’s hard not to view such shows as something of a creative meat market. It’s one thing, after all, to judge the merits of a book from a 30 second cursory glance. It’s another thing entirely to do so with the book’s creator timidly smiling up at you, from the other side of table.
It’s a lot of pressure, really, being asked to assess the culmination of some creator’s blood, sweat, and tears, stapled neatly into a pocket-sized pamphlet. It’s all the more trying in the context of a show like Fresh Meat, Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts’ annual showcase of student work. For most of these students, after all, having to deal with the constant threat of small scale commercial rejection is likely a new phenomenon.
Fresh Meat is something of a farm league of indie comics shows. After a couple of MoCCAs, Stumptowns, SPXs, or APEs, the burn wears off for the most part, even amongst many of the more fragile egos. Everyone has a bad show, from time to time, and even in the context of the better ones, not everyone who picks up a book off the table is eventually going to buy it.
Somehow the show seemed a bit thinner than last year’s—and there was a bit less of the excited nervous energy that pulsated through the 2009 show—though, it should probably be noted that during my time at last year’s Fresh Meat, Scott McCloud made a surprise appearance and the staff order pizzas for the kids—a combination that is surely an embarrassment of riches for a room full of hungry comic art students.
That said, spirits seemed fairly positive at this year’s show. I had one artist excitedly tell me, “this is the fifth book I’ve sold,” as I paid for a copy of her newest mini.
I walked away with a stack of minis seven books tall. In all, not a bad spread. It was a long, non-comics-reading weekend for me, so any sort of book review will have to be rather cursory. Fitting, I suppose, given the nature of the whole thing. After all, as they say in the business, “this ain’t a library, kid.”
Here’s what I shoved into my messenger bag, before heading out with The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald and the CBLDF’s Charles Brownstein to consume the worst matzo ball soup I’ve ever tasted in my life, across the street at the Cosmo Diner.
Adventures in Space
By Julian Rowe
A gorgeous little watercolored sci-fi horror short. It’s a little bit Event Horizon, a little bit The Shining, and a bit 28 Days Later.
A Clean Home’s a Happy Home
By Hanh Nguyen
At some point, someone turned to me and suggested (correctly, I think) that this is the first SVA class showcasing a number of books with a clear Molly Crabapple influence. No where else is that statement more clear than in the work of Ms. Nguyen. It’s Victorian-esque, crafted by an artist with clear manga influences and a propensity for drawing exotic animals. I only wish more pages were in color, but, you know, starving students…
By Steve Yurko
I picked this one up based on a single page story titled “It’s Time,” involving some smiling flowers and a skinhead prisoner. I laughed out loud. I don’t do that a lot, so Mr. Yurko certainly deserved my two bucks. The art wears adolescent influences like John K. and Dragon Ball Z on its sleeve. It’s nowhere near the strongest line work in the class, but heck, if the wild world of Webcomics have taught us anything, it’s that, if you can write funny, you can draw stick figures, for all the reader cares. Craft honing can wait for a good punchline. Right Johnny Ryan?
By Lucretia Hoagland
Lucretia Hoagland’s work is has a nice look, but not as tight or polished as it could be. It’s certainly nothing that a couple more years of drawing won’t fix. In the meantime, Hoagland has developed a consistent style, and there’s a lot to be said for that, early in the game. She seems just as comfortable drawing adorable as hyper-violent. There’s an unevenness in the amount of detail per page (some are heavily hatched, others not at all), but again, given a little more time, this will likely be great looking stuff. Bonus points for putting thought (and, surely, cash) into the physical object—and for scoring the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
Melvin Lampius Saves the Day
By Meghan Brennan
The titular geeky hero performs the titular act with the help of the two talking snakes he wears around his neck. Brennan’s work is steeped in the quirky childhood mystery books of the 80s and 90s—though some sporadic instances of foul language make the book less than kid-friendly. Should she opt to focus more on younger readers, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if a First Second came knocking on her door, one of these days.
I’m a Cartoonist, Hear Me Roar
By JP Kim
None of the artists had any misgivings laying bare their need for post-collegiate employment—particular Mr. Kim, who drops a slew of less-than-subtle hints in this 8.5 x 11 black and white book. Kim is certainly a talented young artist, crafting highly detailed panels with clean cartoony lines. The artist clearly spent much time reading some of the more seminal goth cartoonists, though his melancholy has largely been traded in for a Jhonen Vasquez/Don Hertzfeldt-sense of comedy.
By Ryan Zalis
No MoCCA class would be complete without some metal comics. Let’s call this one H.P. Lovecraft drawn by a younger, rougher Ralph Bakshi. Mechanized fighting robots captained by guys in top hats take on devil-winged monsters with tentacled faces.