THREE years ago, the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Festival died. The vast majority of exhibitors were swearing never again to show up, us included, and several comment section style flame wars served to cremate the carcass of what was once our hometown’s premier indie comics show. This was followed by bogus reports of increased attendance from the organizers and the museum itself. Almost immediately after that, the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art shut its doors for good.
We were happy about that. We were also disappointed, because it was once our favorite place to be. Then we got word that the Society of Illustrators was acquiring not only the museum’s collection, but the festival. We’d sworn we’d help out if anyone ever invited us to help right the MoCCA ship, and the Society called our bluff. MoCCA 2013 felt like a dress rehearsal. Given its first full year to gather its legs, MoCCA 2014 was the opening night on a new, but pretty familiar, Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Festival.
Maybe the smartest thing that MoCCA had going this year was its Comics Week of events here in the city. Programmed by Bill Kartalopoulos, every night had something going on, every hour of the show had a panel you couldn’t miss. The names on the list included Swarte and Spiegelman, Bechdel vs. Cruse, Drew Friedman, Frederic Coche (who maybe gets our votes for Books of the Show), Brecht Vandenbroucke and Marion Fayolles. Every event that was pre-sold, sold out. How ya like that?
We had two events, for our double MoCCA debut books by Mike Dawson and Edie Fake. Returning to Bergen Street Comics, our home away from home, Mike got Angie Bongiolatti off to a marching start. At one point, we were thinking of a presentation of sorts for Mike’s complex graphic novel, but the venue was so cuddly and comfortable, a presentation seemed overkill. Edie, on the other hand, took everyone at the wonderful Bureau of General Services – Queer Division on a lovely tour of Memory Palaces. Unfortunately for us, the books we were supposed to have on hand had a major printing error and new copies didn’t show up until MoCCA Saturday morning – but no one seemed to mind too much and BGSQD is stocked to bursting with must-haves and rarities that emptied more than a few wallets. We’re all looking forward to doing this again, at Bergen and the Bureau both. Warm hugs and big thanks to everyone who showed up in the midst of a city overrun with MoCCA events.
As usual, we weren’t just cutting it close with Memory Palaces, we got stuck in traffic and showed up late for the show. There was a tremendous line already snaking around the outside of the Armory, which was great to see after a couple years of opening the doors to crickets. Though we sure hated the Armory, we don’t anymore. Yes, the new layout helped a lot. The shorter aisles created a bunch of different ends and split the cavernous space up into something more interesting to walk around. Obviously, the real reason it didn’t feel like a airplane hangar was Charlie Brown, all fifty-four feet of Charlie Brown staring everyone down as they walked in. Speaking of feet, that right foot of his sank ever so slowly over the course of the weekend. It was perfect!
Edie and Mike did have their panels. Edie’s panel on “How Comics Are Queer” put him next to Howard Cruse, L. Nichols and Justin Hall, aka some of our favorite people on earth. It was interesting, but, honestly, a bit divisive in an Invisible Man kind of way. Like the “Queering the Mainstream” panel at last year’s SPX, there is a tension between inclusion into whatever the hell passes for mainstream culture and the preservation and growth of an integral queer culture. Even the term queer is fodder for discussion. Everyone was polite, but maybe too polite for our liking. We wanted to see what happens when people stop being polite, etc. But we’re a bunch of queers over here, so we take this subject to heart.
The opposite of this was Mike’s panel, on “Comics and Protest Movements,” featuring heavyweights Seth Tobocman, Sophie Yanow (whose new book is phenomenal) and Christopher Cardinale, moderated by Annie Nocenti. Really, this should have been called “Comics as Protest Movements.” Annie might be the most, um, active moderator we’ve ever seen. You know that thing that panels do, where everyone introduces themselves for the entire thing and then no one ever talks about the actual topic? Not Annie. There was a history lesson all over this. It wasn’t just nostalgic, with everyone waxing poetic over the Tompkins Square Riot days, it was even prescriptive. During the question and answer period, there was a guy who would have seemed like a nutter at any other panel, talking about what’s going down in Detroit, and the panelists were all making suggestions of how to preserve the urban farms he and his pals had set up throughout the city. Even Mike, fresh from his sensory deprivation tank, only talked smack about his own work once. Now that’s progressive!
It wasn’t all Edie and Mike. Sean Ford was doing damage with his freshly-printed second edition of Only Skin and his brand new installment of Shadow Hills. You want both. Hell, we want both. Brendan Leach ditched a ton of his Iron Bound, and handed off a good number of his Vipers posters, which, it turns out, is part of this very pretty book coming from Locust Moon in September that will also feature our very own Theo Ellsworth (Incest!). We kinda had an All-Star lineup at MoCCA this year and we made bank. So did our neighbors. Annie Koyama‘s table was totally empty and they ate all our Gummi colas. AdHouse had no margarine left to operate. Drawn & Quarterly (who were so cute with their table bunkies, we couldn’t stand it) left with nothing left. Upping the ante for our seventh go at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Festival was a wise move, it seems. Secret Acres had its best MoCCA ever. Thank you, entire world.
For the post-gaming, we actually went to an official event (after a banquet with our pals at a place that will remain nameless because we don’t want anyone else to know about it, Beat MoCCA Eats report be damned). We wound up playing pinball for hours and then pretty much bailing out and going home. We still have sore flipper hands. This is the one thing that was off about the show for us. New York is big, and unlike SPX (Camp Comics) or TCAF (or even CAB despite still being in NYC), there’s a tendency for the night to split us up into little gangs. Maybe it’s the lack of Cartoon House. Or maybe we’re just exhausted. Speaking of beefs, other requests for improvement that were directed at us were about the program (good point that there should be a free one), the food (again with the food, which was improved, but not improved or “weird” enough it seems) and a need for another ladies’ room. As steering committee members (at least for the moment), we’re confident that no one is going to build you another bathroom ever. Sorry!
If you missed any of this, you can read all about Memory Palaces here and Angie Bongiolatti here and check out BGSQD here and Iron Bound over here. Sean Ford will be in SPACE this weekend, while Edie Fake will be doing some Linework. Jersey Boys Mike Dawson and Brendan Leach will be heading out to the scene of the Iron Bound crimes in Asbury Park. But don’t bother looking for us. Two of us are old and one of us has homework to do. We will, for sure, be back here for the ramp up to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, but damn if we don’t need a nap.
Barry and Casey and Leon
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