I almost let this one get away from me entirely. Blame the 12-hour days at the new job or the fact that I’m still in convention decompression mode, weeks after the end of MoCCA Fest. Whatever the case, I’d somehow missed all of the notes about the upcoming Fresh Meat event, including the ones posted in Dispatches on our own site, caught completely off-guard until the afternoon of, when Heidi MacDonald sent me an e-mail, asking if we’d be reprising our annual tradition of an SVA meetup, followed by a turkey at the diner across the street.
I balked at the suggestion, having largely eschewed social engagements over the past couple of weeks, as I attempt to adjust to a new work schedule, but it was clear too, that I’d regret blowing off the event altogether, in favorite of getting to sleep at an early hour on a Friday. For one thing, there’s an irresistible appeal in the notion of discovering a promising artist’s work in its earliest state, the rough photocopied minis of some future Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly rock star, and Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts certainly has proven track record of churning out top names in the industry.
There’s also a lot to be said for show largely devoid of the trappings that define the majority of comics conventions—like the costumes that have even managed to worm their way into some of the more indie-focused show. Sure, there are affectations aplenty at SVA’s annual open house—the gentleman lounging with sleep masks on a foldout couch behind their table comes to mind—this is an art school, after all, but there’s no semblance of commercialism beyond the simple fact of young artists attempting to get some small sum in exchange for their handmade products.
And besides, all of the city’s face paint was apparently monopolized by the lines of Juggalos lined up for the Insane Clown Posse show being held at the Blender Theater, two blocks away, an obstacle course of smoke and white dreadlocks one had to navigate halfway between the subway and the school.
I suspect, having been to the show the last few years, that it is the first that many that its exhibitors will attend on that particular side of the table—a fact that can make for rough showgoing, as many of the young cartoonists likely have yet to master the art of not taking personally the inevitable parade of attendees picking up work, flipping through it, and moving to the next table. Take heart, kids, it happens to the best of them.
The setting, too, makes for an enjoyable event. Held in a school-owned café near SVA’s front entrance, the show is something along the lines of what SPX might be, were it held in the lobby of a dormitory. I sadly arrived too late for the annual feeding of the art school students, in which a roomful of cartooning majors descend on a stack of delivery pizzas.
Unfortunately, due to my late arrival, I didn’t manage to spend as much time perusing this class’s output as I have in past years, though I did stop at as many tables as possible, picking up a handful of books and taking note of this year’s stylistic influences—manga, as always, is the dominant one for about half the class. And where past years’ students have drawn considerable influences from artists like Paul Pope and Molly Crabapple, Brian Lee O’Malley and Kate Beaton have both left their marks on this batch.
A quick sampling of what I walked away with, for those keeping track at home:
Coffee Spoon Comics by Various – A diverse selection of work from an all-female list of contributors (as with the past few years, the enrollment scales have really titled in favor of female creators).
Sadness #1 by Ben Mendelewicz – A psychedelic collage dealie, derived from Gary Panter and school of cartoonists he inspired.
Badman – Sketchy joke strips about Batman. What’s not to like?
Dunderbeck’s Machine by Patrick Sinnott – A steampunky adventure book—something I’m surprised I didn’t see more of, though most of the students seem to shy away from longer form work at the beginning of their careers.
Pet Me and I’ll Tell You Interesting Stories by Yao Xiao – Grotesque stick figure slapstick apparently inspired by the likes of animators like Don Hertzfeldt.
Year of Bad Comics by Pablo Castro – Not even close to a year, for the record.