WE’RE PRETTY stupid, when you get down to it. An object in motion tends to be inconsiderate, and we tend not to consider the possible consequences of our actions when we are moving as quickly as possible. So let’s consider!
It’s obvious that death notes tend to get a lot more eyeballs than love letters (see: the internet). The conversations about the future, or lack thereof, of MoCCA the festival and museum, which happened in the comments of our blog (and offstage) were many and got the attention of several of our heroes in this comics world. We were thrilled about this. We were not thrilled that the only person voicing MoCCA’s positives (which exist) was a volunteer. The volunteers are the best constant of all things MoCCA. And no one speaking in any official capacity from the museum had a word to say. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.
As for stupid us, we also took a jab at one of the big boy pants comics publishing houses. We may not be smart, but we’re a bit oversensitive, very overprotective and certainly smartasses, so when our feelings are hurt over any kind of perceived slight, we break out a zinger or two. Our reward for a lousy assumption was a long and fascinatingly honest conversation with someone we didn’t think knew we existed. Of course, this makes us even less likely to consider our words when we are miffed. To the target of our snarkiness: thank you for treating us like grownups; it’s more than we deserve.
Apologies should also be extended to Sean T. Collins and Tom Neely (of Sparkplug and Tom Neely fame), who tried to warn us that bringing a comic like Wayward Girls over the border for a Toronto Comic Arts Festival debut was maybe not a good idea. Last year, Tom and Sparkplug were held at the border and had their books confiscated for six months. The year before, Ryan Matheson was arrested and jailed for carrying manga over the border. None of these people were transporting anything remotely as provocative as Wayward Girls, the content of which stretches the limits of plausible deniability. Still, M.K. Reed, our ridemate (poor woman) didn’t try to stop us, either.
We can’t say we didn’t know. We can say we didn’t care, at least until we met a very unfriendly border guard. A fellow mumbler, we kept asking her to repeat herself until we were certain we were going to jail. Finally, she sent us to pay our taxes. As we were leaving, we saw a troop of men carrying machine guns heading over to check out the car that showed up after us. Only after we were pulling away did we start freaking out. Why are we so stupid?
Haunted by our idiocy, we didn’t get much sleep. We did have a hell of a view from the large balcony of our guest suite in a building that houses both Annie Koyama and the Toronto International Film Festival. With all those goodies, there was still no soap, because weren’t clever enough to remember to pick any up. We spent the entire weekend shrouded in the subtle bouquet of Nivea Cashmere Moments hand soap.
In this state we arrived at TCAF to find our table, which took us a while because it was in the middle of nowhere and behind a pillar. Mike Dawson immediately christened it Pete Campbell’s Office. We did, however, get everything we asked for from TCAF. We were next to the Sundays table (again, always and forever, we will be sitting with Chuck Forsman and Melissa Mendes) so Joseph Lambert could two-time us. Sundays was next to Beth Hetland, who was next to John Chad, all by request.
As you might expect, being out of the way and behind a pole didn’t do wonders for business. We asked to be relocated, which the TCAF folks set to work on and they immediately produced and handed out flyers to tell people know where our small press area was. It worked. There were other convention impressarios taking notes on TCAF’s organizational skills. As well they should because TCAF is untouchable. No one flips their lid when the hall is too hot, or there’s a video glitch at the Doug Wright Awards because bringing a problem to the attention of the TCAF gang is the same as getting a solution.
We had so much fun at TCAF last year that we’d have come back even if we’d lost money (which we didn’t). This year, we sold of out of almost everything, praise be to Annie Koyama, because sneaking Wayward Girls over the border twice would be pushing even our dumb luck. Major congratulations are in order for Michiel Budel aka Slechte Meisjes for a sellout debut. Sean Ford, on his way to selling out of Only Skin, had the thought that the crowded aisles may have worked against us last year. Our books are all over the map and it takes a little space to look them over, fondle them a bit, buy them a drink and get them in the mood before taking them home. We even had room for guest star Brendan Leach, selling his new and excellent mini, Ironbound, at the Acres table after selling out of his Pterodactyl Hunters at the Top Shelf stand.
Once again, we sold the vast majority of our wares to women. Generally, there was the sense that we were selling comics to civilians, not Comics People, which is the benefit of both free admission and to the scale of TCAF. It’s big enough to take over the uber-worldly supermetropolis of Toronto. Shocking as it was, the pathologically shy Mike Dawson was the only one who didn’t like Pete Campbell’s Office because he felt like he was missing the party.
There is no missing the TCAF party. We made an excellent new pal of Derf Backderf, who was there to sell out of My Friend Dahmer. Nate Bulmer should expect our company on the regular. Josh Bayer was lurking at dinner time, which was a banquet every night. We got all blushy and toed the floor when Zak Sally came by to say hello. We saw our old pals, Alex Kim, L. Nichols (and lovely wife, Christina), Kevin Czap, Becca Lambert (yes, Joe is married), Robin Nishio, Laila Emir, Scoop MacDonald (no longer a TCAF virgin), Michael Deforge and still failed to so much as say hello to Tom Devlin for the second time in as many weeks.
Speaking of friends, our panel was really fun, especially for those of us on the panel, which were Annie Koyama, Pat Grant, Sarah Howell, Matthew Sheret, John Retallick and us. We learned a lot about comics in the UK and Australia (!) and how they’re developing the indie comics scenes over there. We’re fascinated by their community building efforts, which for the Aussies included renting a former communist youth camp and inviting the entire country’s comics population to hang out and just play, no show involved at all. TCAF brings you the world.
It’s hard not to fall in love with everyone over a weekend like that, and we’re too foolish to protect our hearts. The one thing TCAF is missing, organizationally, is a helpline to deal with the massive separation anxiety after it’s over. Love hurts. That’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. It hurt a little less when we got home to find a ton of messages from folks wondering if we were in jail.
Also, that little drawing up there of a plane flying in a pink sky? That’s a sliver from a new comic by the artist formerly known as Ken Dahl. We’ll have more on that when come back here to talk about CAKE. Right now, it’s time for more tears of loneliness.
Leon and Barry
Finally, we are hitting the asphalt for our first road trip of the year. It's a long drive to the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and we are carrying some precious cargo as usual. Theo Ellsworth is being delivered via airmail, with fellow Acres Brendan Leach, Joe Lambert and Edie Fake meeting us there. Sean Ford has called shotgun, and Capacity 8 is in the boot. Capacity 8 is one of those surprise births with which we are regularly blessed here at Secret Acres. It's also the first time anyone in our gang has dropped a new story for a series that we've collected. Capacity, Theo's big, fat book, is a complete thing, for sure. The eighth issue is all new territory, but it's still all true. In a way. In that Capacity way. Oh, and we'll be kicking off first thing Saturday with a small press panel featuring pals and heroes, Koyama Press, Rebus Books and Grimalkin Press, too. This year's Acresmobile comic mule is the legendary Dash Shaw. Alas, last year's hitcher, MK Reed, is too lazy to make it to TCAF. Everyone else better be heading up - or catching Eamon Espey's Ishi's Brain show in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yeah, we're looking at you. We're standing right behind you. No, the other way. Anyhow, there's explicit instructions up on Scuttlebutt.
PEOPLE OF THE SEATTLE: Tonight's the night! Go watch Eamon Espey and Lisa Krause as they bring their show, Ishi's Brain, to Hugo House. Which is in Seattle. Ishi's Brain is based on Eamon's story of the same name from his Secret Acres collection, Songs of the Abyss. Lisa Krause is an artist and puppeteer of Bread and Puppet fame, among other things. It's quite a unique experience and pretty much beats the hell of out any old, regular reading. They are on tour all over the country, but there's something fitting about performing Ishi in Seattle. You know, because Seattle is strange and dark and there are scary woodlands and coffee. The Richard Hugo House is also something to see in itself. They have a writers' residence for zinesters (currently held by ZAPP), classes on seemingly everything, a focus on a local writing community and, of course, performances. Go. Have fun. Report back to us. Even the Stranger says to check it out. See...
Stranger things have certainly happened, but it would appear our man, Theo Ellsworth, will have not one, but two debuts at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Yes, we will have the eighth issue of his ongoing Capacity (the first since our enormous collection of that title), but we'll tell you more about that later. Meanwhile, we knew Theo was working on a comic for an anthology, but we didn't realize it was the fourth Alternative Comics anthology. You may or may not be aware, but Alternative Comics published some truly amazing things, like Jeff Lewis' True Swamp and Steven Weissman's Yikes (yes, this was before Fantagraphics took over). Then they took some time off. Now they're back. Also included in this anthology are Alternative Comics graduate James Kochalka, this guy named Craig Thompson, the adorable Noah Van Sciver and #cybergang leader, Alex Schubert, to name a few. Get up to TCAF because it's amazing, and Theo and most of the Alternative Comics crew will be there to sign the thing. Collect them all!
On a more important note than usual: 282 Broadway is where the party has been for, well, seems like forever now. What the hell is that, you ask? It's the home address for Domino Books and Revival House and Rebus. It's known sometimes as Bill K's Place, as in Bill Kartalopoulos. Just about everyone who has ever attended or exhibited at a comics event in New York City or, hell, ever drawn a comic while in city limits, has been exhausted, high, drunk or lost in that apartment while rubbing elbows with their heroes. We've written plenty on our blog, about their comics and their parties, too. Now they're moving out. We're telling you this because these guys need a new home. Go buy some comics from them. Forget the good cause, their books are amazing and we've been seethingly jealous of their good work, so if you like us, help them and get some great stuff for yourself. Everybody wins!
Not a joke! Not a dream! Our man Edie Fake has gone Ivy League at last, in a duel with Gil Kane - to the death! Well, not exactly. It's the Illustration, Comics and Animation Conference at Dartmouth College and it's happening right now this weekend. You might be wondering what, exactly, Edie Fake, author of the superduper, super queer Gaylord Phoenix, and Gil Kane, artist and co-creator of Green Lantern and Iron Fist, might have in common. So did we. We'd paraphrase, but we're very stupid, so here's a quote from a study by Brian Cremins, who has a Ph.D. and stuff: "Fake’s emphasis on the “cross-pollination” of ideas informs my reading of Gaylord Phoenix and of Sweetmeats, which, in this paper, I will place in dialogue with the work of the Gil Kane, an early innovator in the graphic novel form who produced his best known work on superhero titles published by DC and Marvel Comics in the 1960s and 1970s. Both Edie Fake and Gil Kane are fascinated with the transmogrification of the body." Yep. You heard it here, folks. We typed transmogrification. Cremins is fleshing this out (no pun intended, kind of) into a full-fledged article, coming soon to very smart people everywhere. There's more on the conference at the link. Get there if you can, and report back to us, please!