HELLO, everyone! We’re sending you off on your Memorial Day weekend (all you non-Americans can remember whatever you like as we Americans have friggin’ amnesia when it comes to our own history, anyway) with a little treat. This is our very first guest blogger here on Scuttlebutt and it is none other than Sean Ford, he of Only Skin fame. Sean and fellow Acre, Joseph Lambert went all the way to the Maine Comics Arts Festival without us and volunteered to report on the scene. He even provides photographic evidence! Take it away, Sean:
Last weekend, fellow Secret Acres artist Joseph Lambert and I went up to Maine for MECAF with good pals Charles Forsman, Melissa Mendes and Becca Lambert. Mosley Lambert stayed home to guard things. It was the third show in four weeks for some of our merry band, myself included, so road-weariness and poop jokes were in healthy supply.
My first stop on a whirlwind weekend tour of New England was to Chuck and Melissa’s idyllic Hancock, MA home. There I saw the amazing drawing studio they’ve set up and met Bruce, the chillest cat in the land. They have an amazing house that seems like the perfect place to draw and create awesome comics. And, of course, that’s just what they do. It makes sense. I also learned that Chuck’s cartooning prowess is matched only by his tortilla-making abilities. I didn’t take any pictures of this wonderful place and pictures wouldn’t do it justice anyway.
The next day, after a short morning walk in the woods, we drove up to White River Junction to meet the Lamberts. We took some windy back roads that I’d never taken before, driving through some beautiful Massachusetts and Vermont country with the windows down. We drove pretty close to the Bennington Triangle, which made me happy. We arrived in Vermont mid-afternoon and after sharing some smells with Mosley (Joe and Becca’s charming wolfboydog) we set out for Maine. The drive to Maine was uneventful, unless you count singing songs and fixing cars with gaffer’s tape.
On arriving in Maine, after deciding not to spend too much time in our uh… modestly outfitted (read: ‘a mix of dog and human pee and hair smell’) Motel 6 room we decided to investigate downtown Portland, Maine. We knew there had to be a MECAF-related party going on, we were just really bad about finding it. We got beers and nachos and ice cream instead.
The next day was MECAF. The show takes place in a wonderful building that is all glass and views of the harbor. Everything about the show was top notch – a beautiful, well organized space, cool panels, and friendly, helpful volunteers – they even had the option to order sandwiches for lunch that were hand-delivered by show-organizer and Casablanca Comics owner Rick Lowell. I missed that particular sammie boat, but that just seems really thoughtful. The show never felt particularly crowded (though Kate Beaton definitely had a long line), but it never felt empty, either. As people have said, it certainly felt like a kids-friendly show; there was even a 10-yr old selling his own drawings at his own table – and he was busy! And good! But there were certainly people interested in Secret Acres books, Sundays, Joe’s prints, Chuck’s The End of The Fucking World and Melissa’s Freddy Stories and Lou comics.
And that’s where it got interesting for me. I don’t know if this was the case, so forgive the speculation, but my sense was that most of the people who stopped by the SA table hadn’t heard of Secret Acres before and were willing to try out something new. Capacity caught a lot of eyes. As did PS Comics, I Will Bite You! and Only Skin. It seemed like the crowd at MECAF often didn’t come expecting to lay out money for bigger books, at least not past Hark! a Vagrant and the Amulet books, and so were caught off guard by the presence of Secret Acres and a $20 book like Capacity. But there were several distinct occasions where people found a book on the table, flipped through it for a while, put it down, picked it back up and then said “I have to get this, I’m going to find an ATM.” Usually someone saying they need to find an ATM at a comics show is code for “thanks, but no thanks,” but a lot of these folks actually came back with money in hand and picked up the books that had caught their eye. It is a really cool and rewarding feeling to help someone discover a book they knew nothing about. It felt like finding some of that Blue Ocean we talked about after TCAF. It also reminded me of Dylan Williams’ call for building communities at smaller regional shows. That’s exactly what MECAF was. And I think there is a potential to build something there for anyone willing to put in the time. Joe has been to three out of four MECAF shows over the years and has clearly built up an audience at the show. He wasn’t selling like gangbusters or anything, but he seemed to do quite well and run into a bunch of people who knew his work and were happy to see him again.
That’s what MECAF felt like – a small, smartly run show that can act as a platform for individual artists or small publishers to build an audience, helped by a beautiful location and good organization. It might be the sort of show an artist or small publisher needs to help carve out their place within, but that’s an exciting place to be in comics.
After the show we grabbed some pizza with the amazing Jose Luis Olivares, who had taken the bus up from Boston to say hi (sadly he didn’t bring his comics!) and then hit the road back to Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, having found some Blue Ocean and sung some Billy Ocean. We sing when we’re happy and MECAF had us singing. Thanks to everyone who made it a great weekend, from Rick Lowell’s awesome crew to intrepid customers willing to take a chance on something new to great great great old pals.
– Sean Ford
Barry and Leon and Sean
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