GRUMPY BERT warmed us up from that cold November rain. The evening began with an actual revelation. Fresh off the plane, Theo Ellsworth mounted original art from the first, the second and the never-before-seen by anyone, including us, final volume of his trilogy, the Understanding Monster. On a miserable night, celebrating the release of the Understanding Monster Book Two was a more intimate affair than we’ve had in a while, and we’re not referring to attendance. Grumpy Bert hosts gallery shows, writing workshops, handmade crafts, homemade brownies and a friendly pug. People who braved the weather came from as far away as Philadelphia just for the occasion. Selling books and cuddling rarely go together and we all hung around later than we should have. Many thanks to Albert, the not at all grumpy Bert, for sending us so sweetly into our Comic Arts Brooklyn weekend.
People came to party on Friday. The comics kids took over the Park Slope Ale House for the night. With Breakdown Press and Space Face Books and Hic + Hoc and Secret Acres in the place, what did you expect? We were relieved to have skipped bringing books to the bar, once the room filled up with cartoonists and beer. Speaking of cuddly, we lucked out and got caught up with the Comics Reporter himself, Tom Spurgeon, on the eve of his great migration. We made pals with another bibliophile, Greg Farrell, whose graphic novel, On the Books tells the story of New York’s most storied bookstore, the Strand, and its union negotiations. And did you know the unionized Strand even carries mini-comics these days? Of course, we spent most of the evening talking about babies with Hic + Hoc chieftan Matt Moses, who has at least one cool daughter. Our very own Eamon Espey got there late after a grueling seven hour trip from Baltimore. Yes, Baltimore in Maryland. For once, we called it off relatively early and got some sleep before the big day.
We came pretty close to getting set up before Comic Arts Brooklyn opened its doors. Kudos to us! And several more kudos to what may have been the most helpful volunteers we have ever seen at any comics show ever. Even though we dropped down to a single table at this year’s CAB, we brought a ton of stuff with us. The volunteers met us at the door and carried our gear to our spot. We appreciated the help, and needed it, what with some among us under strict weight lifting limits post health scares (and Barry is recovering nicely, by the way). It took a minute for our entire gang to assemble, but finally we had Theo, Eamon, Rob Sergel and Corinne Mucha sketching and signing away. Rob delivered with his new mini, Joe Bonaparte and Eamon wowed us with his surprise fifth installment of Wormdye.
With all of that on top of the Understanding Monster Book Two, we somehow wound up selling about half as much as we did last year. That sounds way worse than it was. Sales-wise, CAB wound up being our best show of 2013, by far. Even cut in half, we had a very good day and got the Understanding Monster Book Two off to a flying start. Early in the afternoon, we heard a couple of publishers panicking about their sales, but most everyone was caught up by closing time. Some attendees may have misread the CAB poster, and we were all asked if we would be there on Sunday. That could have been it. Or it could have been con fatigue. Or maybe half the tables meant half the sales. Having the programming the day after the show also meant there would be no panel-related sales bump for anybody.
Logistically, avoiding things like this is near impossible if you’re planning a show in New York. Our time on the MoCCA steering committee has taught us just how difficult it is to get anything done at all, let alone done right. What CAB does right – and beyond right, to perfection – is getting the best possible mix of artists and publishers behind those tables. It never fails; every year we spend more money and discover more comics at CAB than anywhere else. We have no problem losing a table since we know it means more of these folks in the room. Every artist exhibitor we spoke to, and we spoke to plenty of them, couldn’t have been happier. Our only real sad note: we miss Cartoon House, the loss of which is a great indicator of what a pain in the ass it is to find some space in our fair city. No Cartoon House led to a quick and far flung dispersal. After a fast feast at our favorite taco joint, we retired to a little slumber party, staying up all night reading our haul and never coming close to making it all the way through.
We spent Sunday playing tourist with Theo, so someone else will have to catch you up on CAB’s programming day. If you missed out on any or all of this past weekend’s festivities, you can catch some animated Theo art at Grumpy Bert for their big artist flipbook show, opening up next Saturday. You can read reviews of the Understanding Monster Book Two at Sequential State and Festival Season. If you are called to adventure, you can go see Theo this weekend at Seattle’s beloved Short Run show. If home is where your heart is, you can order in some Understanding Monster, the latest from Rob Sergel and the brand new Wormdye 5 from our Emporium. If you’re among the first to order the Understanding Monster Book Two from us, we’ll send you a signed copy, with one these little guys tipped in (and assembly required, because we’re lazy).
If you’re in Minnesota and you are a stalker or a friend, you might catch us wandering around out there next month as we tour the home of our brand new distributor, Consortium. Joining them, and nearly of all our pals, promises great things in the year to come. Since this is likely to be our last blog post of 2014, we want to thank everybody who reads this blog, who reads our comics, who reads comics and who makes comics for what turned out to be our best year. We’d love nothing more than to spill the beans on what’s coming in 2015, but Consortium is making us act like grownups. They probably wouldn’t mind if we posted the cover to the Understanding Monster Book Three, though. We hope?
We have lots of paperwork to do and a website to spruce up, so until next year…
Barry and Leon
ONE LAST RIDE for 2014! Something about Comic Arts Brooklyn being our last show of the year makes it feel like a holiday affair. We set our clocks back, pack our comics and start following the scent of turkey to non-colonial Williamsburg. Forgive us if we’re a little nostalgic already for our fourth year camping out in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church: CAB 2014 marks the official debut of our fifth Theo Ellsworth comic, the Understanding Monster Book Two.
The middle of Theo’s Understanding Monster trilogy won’t disappoint. Some lucky folks got signed copies of the book at SPX, but missed out on Theo himself since he’d just become a father again. Rowan, the littlest Ellsworth, appreciates your understanding. Making up for Theo’s absence at SPX, Corinne Mucha voluntarily drew a baby in every Theo book that left our table. Before all that craziness, Corinne’s flight got rained out and she couldn’t make it to Brooklyn for her Bergen Street Comics event celebrating her latest and greatest, Get Over It! We are pleased as punch to tell you that both Theo and Corinne will be in town and at the Secret Acres CAB table, along with Robert Sergel and his new mini, Joe Bonaparte. Over the Oily table, you can get pick up an entirely new issue of Shadow Hills from our very own Sean Ford.
Join them and us everybody else this Thursday for a gallery show and some CAB pre-gaming at Brooklyn’s own Grumpy Bert! You can beat the CAB crowd to the punch and get your Theo books at Bert’s. Get there early enough and you can really lord it over folks: the first ten to arrive get a limited edition Theo print. Of course, there will be free beer and bubbly, too.
Speaking of beer and bubbly, Friday night you can catch us and Breakdown Press and Space Face Books and Hic + Hoc at the Park Slope Ale House. Assuming there are no comics gang fights, it’ll be a party to remember. Just don’t forget CAB starts at eleven, and you will want to look pretty. Check out this awesome poster by Joe Kessler with all the necessary details:
If, for some reason, you cannot make your way to Brooklyn for all this glory, you can pre-order the Understanding Monster Book Two right here so you won’t miss out. On an ICYMI note, there are reviews of the book in the Chicago Tribune and on Re:Views Media. One thing you definitely don’t want to miss: a live tour of Theo’s studio courtesy of Daniel McCloskey of Alt-Comix that’s happening RIGHT NOW TODAY.
For even more Theo, you can find a bit of the Understanding Monster Book One in the 2014 edition of the Best American Comics. That bigger and better installment has no less than FOUR Secret Acres artists in the BAC Notable Comics section, too: Eamon Espey’s Songs of the Abyss, Edie Fake’s story from Monster Vol. 1, Robert Sergel’s Eschew 3 and Sar Shahar’s Sequential Vacation 2. Also, you can now keep tabs on all this stuff on our new tumblr. We’re still figuring that one out.
To all the folks wishing Barry well through his latest round of ticker troubles, thank you. It really does mean a lot. In that excitement, we missed our own birthday, too. It’s been seven years of Secret Acres. This means all the cells in our bodies have been replaced since we got started and we have no biological memory of our lives before Secret Acres. What a thing.
See you in a few! We’ll back with the CAB recap in a bit…
Barry and Leon
THE MOUTH of Tucker Stone damn near swallowed us whole on the ride down to this year’s Small Press Expo. We are hereby awarding him an Ignatz Brick for Outstanding Shit-Talking Comics Mule. Who knew Nobrow was so gangsta? We appreciate it, Tucker; you were the best consolation for us being down a man or two heading into Camp Comics.
With no fully-fledged debut to speak of, we worried we’d get lost in the crowd. SPX fills the whole room up to the brim. Last year, we’d heard complaints from some that there were just too many cartoonists at the Bethesda Marriott. This year must have shattered last year’s exhibitor numbers. Warren Bernard, SPX’s showrunner extraordinaire, dropped by our dinner on Saturday and did the math for us. The show holds 280 tables and over a thousand exhibitors. It lasts fourteen hours. Hitting every spot, you’d get about three minutes for each table. That’s terrifying and beautiful both.
Honestly, the crowd messed with us a little. We don’t mean sales. Sales were phenomenal on Saturday, a bit less so on Sunday. But SPX is often called Camp Comics because it’s the entire comics universe all under the same roof for a weekend. Other shows sprawl while SPX achieves a black hole-like density. The togetherness is our favorite part of SPX, but, like Warren’s numbers, we were lucky to spend three minutes with any of our pals. Factor in the attendees, all several thousand of them, and you get a never ending rush of over-stimulation. One sad moment: Frank Santoro, sitting on the patio, wondering where his gang was. We feel you, Frank. One happy moment: Malachi Ward, supergenius, coming by, putting a hand each on Iron Bound and Angie Bongiolatti and pronouncing them two of his favorite books in recent years. Bless you, Malachi.
Missing Theo Ellsworth due to fatherhoodness, we still brought a bunch of his (and our) latest book, the Understanding Monster Book Two. Theo had thoughtfully signed and sketched a stack for the show – and many thanks to everyone who came by to pick up a sneak copy ahead of the book’s official Comic Arts Brooklyn debut in November. Corinne Mucha, stepping into her leadership role at Secret Acres, offered to draw anyone buying Theo’s books a sketch of his new baby – and Corinne HATES babies. Miraculously, she had five takers. She even managed to contribute to Sean Ford‘s illustration for a die hard Only Skin fan. Throw that on top of signing and sketching her own Get Over It! and Corrine was flexing some serious drawing muscles all weekend. She even cranked out a custom baby just for Barry. She’s a beast!
However, Corinne has never heard of the Breeders. Odds are, if you made it to our tables, you were asked if you had ever heard of the Breeders yourself. Most of the time, this question was met with incredulity and suspicion. We promise no fast ones were being pulled. We (meaning Sean Ford) were simply trying to educate Corinne. So here’s a little background on the Breeders:
The Breeders were formed by two women, Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly, from two different but equally earth-shattering groups, the Pixies and Throwing Muses. They met when both bands were on tour together in support of the Pixies debut album, Surfer Rosa. In 1990, Deal and Donelly submitted demos to 4AD, the Pixies’ record label. They were signed, and recruited bassist Josephine Wiggs of Perfect Disaster to record Pod with legendary engineer Steve Albini. While Deal was certainly an integral part of the Pixies, Pod at last showed the world just how colossally great Kim Deal had always been. Shortly after the Breeders recorded the brilliant EP, Safari, Deal’s other band, the Pixies, split up and Tanya Donelly struck out on her own to form the band Belly. Kim Deal brought her twin sister Kelley to the Breeders, taking over for Donelly on guitar. Legend has it that Kelley had never before played guitar. There must be something to genetics as Kelley is one hell of a guitarist. With the addition of Jim MacPherson on drums, the Breeders lineup was set and recording began on Last Splash. Last Splash went on to do what no Pixes album had previously done: it went platinum. The album contained the anthemic single “Cannoball,” which even cracked Billboard’s Top 40. The Breeders would later headline the massively popular Lollapalooza festival on their way to becoming a worldwide phenomenon on tour with Nirvana. Kurt Cobain cited the Breeders’ Pod as the third most influential album on his own sound. In 2013, the Breeders celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their blockbuster classic Last Splash with an intercontinental tour, including not only the original band members, but the original equipment used to record the album. The tour, titled LSXX, culminated in the Breeders headlining another massively popular festival, All Tomorrow Parties. On the LSXX tour, the Breeders also met us, Secret Acres, at a gas station in the middle of nowhere on the way to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. They gave us tickets to their show that weekend. We gave them comics. And wept.
Anyhow, you can catch us and Mike Dawson at the Brooklyn Book Festival in Brooklyn this weekend. His panel, “Single Facing City: Coming of Age Comics,” moderated by the Paris Review‘s Nicole Rudick and featuring Michael Cho and MariNaomi, will get the parted started early on Sunday at ten. We’ll be sitting with Sean Ford, Brendan Leach and Koyama Press‘s Patrick Kyle and Michael DeForge. There may even be a Special Guest appearance by this other guy, Brandon something or other. Don’t miss it!
We’ll be back in time for a rundown of all things CAB, including a Theo Ellsworth gallery event. Trust us: you want to see Theo’s art in person.
Barry and Leon
FIRST THINGS FIRST: Secret Acres had a grand old time at RIPE, the Rhode Island Independent Publishing Expo, which really should be RIIPE, but who’s counting? Dave Nuss, smooth operator of Revival House Press was our celebrity comics mule and neighbor at the show. We would like him to be our neighbor all the time. In appropriately odd fashion for the place that begat Forcefield and Fort Thunder, RIPE’s table arrangements were way outside of the box. It’s first come, first served at this show. What a nice way to give the locals the upper hand. We drove up in the morning, and drove to Jersey by accident, getting us there late and putting us way in back. It worked out okay for us. On a rainy Saturday, the turnout was what you’d expect for a brand new artsy comics show.
The Saturday night after-party, however, was probably the best comic show after-party we’ve been to in years. The secret weapon, of course, were some fucking great bands at Providence’s amazing AS220. Enormous Door blew our hairs back, but Lale Westvind was the ringer. She is not only one of the best cartoonists around, she’s an All-Word Guitarist. She would beat the devil in a duel.
Sunday had nice weather and a nice crowd, including one family so cool, we all immediately wanted kids. One unique thing about the show: it was the first time any of us could remember feeling like we were in the minority as cismen. It’s a great feeling! Ultimately, this show needs to happen when Providence’s colleges are in session, and that’s in the plans. Watch out for RIPE next year.
Shortly after getting home, we at Secret Acres found ourselves dragged into in an actual internet kerfuffle. A provocative Tumblr post from Mike Dawson about his dwindling audience, declining book sales and deflated expectations became the talk of the comics blogosphere for a good week. Suddenly, people in corners of the comics world we didn’t even know existed were looking at us. As Mike’s most recent publisher, and as the publishers of the poor-selling book in question, Angie Bongiolatti, we received plenty of uninvited criticism.
Believe it or not, we tend to get more compliments for our work than we get critiques. Naturally, we prefer the compliments (because we’re not insane). However, we do value criticism, no matter the source, and we address every concern as best we can. We’re not going to respond directly to every Twitter, Tumblr and comments section troll because, again, we’re not crazy. Consider this a general response to some of what arose:
People pointed to the cover of Angie Bongiolatti as the culprit for its poor sales. That’s a pretty subjective thing; everyone involved with the production of the book actually likes it, so it’s staying right where it is.
Some suggested that the cover copy and press copy for the book were weird or lousy. That might be the case. There is no “elevator pitch” for Angie Bongiolatti, and, generally, we’re not interested in elevator pitch type stuff. We’ve had plenty of success with our press copy, too, in places like the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Chicago Tribune, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Slate, Paste, Paper, NPR, the Onion AV Club, ForeWord, Booklist, the LA Review of Books, the Comics Journal, the Economist, Bookslut, Pop Matters, USA Today’s Pop Candy, Print, Bitch, Le Monde, the Stranger, etc. Some even complained about Eleanor Davis‘s quote on the back of Angie Bongiolatti. We like the quote. We love Eleanor. Also, SemiPro Tip: if you dislike our covers and our copy, you should probably stop submitting your comics to us.
Speaking of our press copy, people were confused about the street date for the book. To quote the press release: “IN STORES APRIL 15th, 2014″ and, yes, this was in all caps. We suspect the confusion to be the result of the book having a different street date for Diamond Distribution, which has a monopoly on the distribution of spandex comics to spandex comic shops. Diamond does distribute some of our titles, but it represents only 8% of our total sales. We have to audition for Diamond with every title (or most, since there are plenty we don’t bother submitting to them). Sometimes there are several months between our submission to Diamond and the time Diamond puts our books in their catalog, but we don’t align our book releases to Diamond dates because it’s not a huge part of where our actual sales come from.
We turn books around too quickly. It was about 80 days from final files to the release of the finished Angie Bongiolatti, which is something we will never do again. So, point taken there.
Another useful criticism was that there weren’t enough preview pages of our books readily available on our site or on Amazon. We used to have book previews on the old site, but that never made it to this one. They’re up now, on both our site and on Amazon.
It was suggested that we rethink our roles as “distributors of content” because small press was in danger of becoming the “middle man” and that Mike would have been better off self-publishing Angie Bongiolatti. Sad to say, we can’t rethink our roles as distributors of content because we’ve never thought of ourselves as distributors of content. We are book publishers. We will have to disappoint again when it comes to being small press middle men, because all presses, great and small, are positioned somewhere between the artist and the reader. There’s really nowhere else for us to be. We gave Mike the opportunity to make whatever comic he wanted, knowing that we would publish it and stand behind it. That book turned out to be Angie Bongiolatti.
A lot of what we’ve published has been books we specifically wanted to exist. Imagine what a blogger who finds Angie Bongiolatti a tough sell as a literary graphic novel would make of Gaylord Phoenix or Songs of the Abyss.
Angie Bongiolatti outsold Gaylord Phoenix through their first 90 days. Gaylord Phoenix took a minute to find its audience and now it’s looking like it will need to be reprinted. Edie Fake doesn’t have a Twitter or a Tumblr account. Diamond told us that Gaylord Phoenix “wasn’t for them.” How did Gaylord Phoenix find its audience? You, mostly. People love that book because, well, it’s a great book. Bless you guys for expressing that love to one another.
And now the best bad news there may be: Theo Ellsworth‘s the Understanding Monster Book Two will NOT be debuting at this weekend’s Small Press Expo. There will be sketched and signed advance copies of the book, and plenty of them, though. We’ve moved the formal debut to the upcoming Comic Arts Brooklyn, as Theo will be unable to attend SPX since he’s just become a father! Everyone, please welcome the newest Ellsworth, young Rowan. He’s awful cute. We wouldn’t want to leave him, either. And the Secret Acres baby boom continues as we celebrate our first co-publishing venture with Grindstone, Harold. Hi, Hal! Proud papa L Nichols will be at SPX on Saturday with a brand new issue of Flocks (but not his brand new son). Congrats to all you procreating creators!
Don’t you worry, we’re not showing up to SPX empty-handed. Sean Ford will be there with his Shadow Hills, recently re-vamped Only Skin and some new prints and pretty things. Eamon Espey, local hero of Baltimore and author of the previously mentioned Songs of the Abyss, will be coming out to say hello. Last, and most definitely not least, grandmaster Corrine Mucha will have her big hit, Get Over It! in addition to her must-have teeny, tiny little paintings. Alas, Mike Dawson is unable to join us this weekend.
You can catch Mike next weekend at the Brooklyn Book Festival in our home town. Get there early and you can see his panel, Single Facing City: Coming of Age Comics, moderated by the Paris Review‘s Nicole Rudick and featuring Michael Cho and MariNaomi! In case you missed it, you can read about Angie Bongiolatti in french here, listen to a review in english here, and read about it on the Comics Journal here. There’s more love for Get Over It! at the Onion AV Club, Cosmopolitan UK, the Philadelphia Inquirer and HuffPo – and Edie Fake and his Memory Palaces got the royal treatment from the LA Review of Books. How cool is that?
We’ll be back with the lowdown on SPX and our guest comics mule for this show: Tucker Stone. Hoo, boy. This is oughtta be good.
Barry and Leon
CAKE had us at hello. CAKE means never having to say you’re sorry. Here’s lookin’ at you, CAKE. To ruin the suspense off the bat, Secret Acres had a great show at CAKE this year. Sales-wise, it was magnitudes better than our 2013 CAKE (like by 300%, for those of you looking for a number). It was also the first show, ever, where we ran out of stock of damn near everything. We do tend to overpack, yes, but for CAKE 2014, we sold out of almost every title that we brought. We ran out of Memory Palaces so fast, we ended up begging local retailers for copies to sell. This never happens. We don’t get high on our own supply.
Obviously, it helps to have two new books from two hometown heroes, meaning Memory Palaces by Edie Fake and Get Over It! by Corinne Mucha, obviously. Edie, a Special Guest of the Show, had a sliver of table space next to us, so we had two full days of access to him and his hillbilly thermos. Corinne had her own table, too, but once she sold out of her Get Over It!s, she came over and burned through our copies like a true show pro. Mike Dawson didn’t even join us at the table, but he was carving out his own space, hawking Angie Bongiolatti, Troop 142, Freddie & Me and a small army of Heroclix. In short, we were running all the corners in the hood.
Only three of our four boxes made it all the way to Chicago (and our table banners arrived… …yesterday), but all three boxes were waiting on our table when we rolled in Saturday morning, and the CAKE bakers threw in a swag bag, a sharpie and a sketchbook! There were house snacks and water and actual frosted cake. BOTH DAYS. Like our friends in the north beyond the Wall, meaning TCAF, CAKE helped us get our leftover books to local shops so we could skip the hassle carting everything back. The CAKE posse came up with some stuff we’d never seen before, like a CAKE Rewards Program. All the exhibitors got stickers, all the attendees got cards. Buy a comic, get a sticker. Fill the card, win a prize (a CAKE poster)! Great idea. It was new and innovative (and strange) for both the attendees and exhibitors, but maybe it’ll become commonplace. Like at MoCCA or something. (Are you listening, steering committee?) Kinda like MoCCA, CAKE is also sponsoring a self-publishing award called the Cupcake Award, and it’s being guest judged by the ever amazing Annie Koyama. Speaking of amazing, Neil Brideau deserves special thanks for being so stupidly great and mailing us back our banners that we never got to use. Who even does that? Really, who does that? THANK YOU, NEIL BRIDEAU.
Of all the conventions we’ve attended thus far, CAKE 2014 was probably the friendliest crowd. People seemed far less shy about stopping and chatting and asking about our books, our philosophy, our button downs. We are especially happy that Chad, an ardent Theo Ellsworth fan, stopped and chatted with us. Hi, Chad! Sadly, we were not so friendly outdoors in Chicago. We were terrible shut-ins for most of the convention. We’re old, with muscle pains and cardiac woes, but mostly we were just tuckered out from the travel, comics-slinging and day job drama. It’s three shows in eight weeks in two nations and two different time zones and we’re down one Casey Gonzalez. Remember when the Comics Year started in June? Of course not. You’re too young. Or maybe it was because were without Annie, Chris or Matt, our usual compadres, keeping us out, tearing the bark off the trees, howling at the dawn.
We did, however, get to spend some quality time with Tucker Stone, our favorite fashionista, and we got to say hi to other publishing distro peeps like Tom K, Zak Sally, Raighne Hogan, Ed Kanerva and John P. Zak Sally even gave us a rad print he made and is selling here. We scored the 2D collection of the Holden brothers’ zines, Detrimental Information, purchased solely on the basis of its excellent cover image. Brian Cremins’ panel, “Majikomix, Queer Comics and Visionary Cartooning” with our man Edie, Elisha Lim and Eric Kostiuk Williams was a genial, well-attended affair, and genuinely fascinating. It was revealing to see the intersection of symbols, iconography and subject matter of all three cartoonists, but we’re still not sure what “hungry bottom” means (but LOLjk, srsly, we know). We caught up with internet sensation, Canadian exile and recent MFA graduate, Jessica Campbell, who remains one of the funniest people alive – and how did we not know that she shared a house with Corinne Mucha?!? Comics people collect in dark corners, like dust bunnies or lost change. We made new friends (Elisha Lim!) and talked shop with grizzled veterans like L. Nichols, Grace Tran, Kevin Czap (<3 that Czap), Michael DeForge, Greg Means, Sean T. Collins, Sean Christensen, MariNoami, Caitlin McGurk and Marian Runk (who has a supercute new haircut, btw). We copped zines from Anna Bongiovanni, new Koyamas Cat Person and 100 Crushes, and “Don’t Try to Save Me” by Grant Reynolds. Speaking of cats, it’s not an indie comics show without gratuitous expressions of feline admiration, and holy shit, they’re not kidding with the Windy City Kitties. And when it was all over, we gathered on the breezy terrace for cocktails.
As much as we love Chicago, we do think it’s weird that men in Chicago think it’s okay to wear flip-flops everywhere. It is not okay to wear flip flops everywhere. Also, why is every bar a sports bar? Also, why do Chicago dog owners put their dogs inside the fenced green areas with fences meant specifically to keep dogs out? We saw this occur more than five times over the course of our stay. Cognitive lapse or arrogant disregard? We’re just curious. But make no mistake, Chicago understands cinnamon rolls.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, at Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn this very Friday, Corinne Mucha arrives in New York City on her Get Over It! book tour. Let’s review for a minute, what Bergen Street had to say about our parties…
“As it’s a Secret Acres party, you can rest assured that the evening will be fun for most, embarrassing for some, and doused in the throes of romance for one lucky couple. (Every single Secret Acres party we’ve ever had has resulted in at least one loving relationship, even if said relationship was relatively short termed. Numbers don’t lie!)”
Considering the above, and the subject of Corinne’s book, namely, heartbreak and the long road out of it, we’d like to encourage some comics loving. If you are the lucky two who find one another while pouring the bubbly and pouring over Get Over It! and saying clever, impressive things and blushing this Friday, both of you can have your pick of a book or a print or a mini. We’ll hand one over to each of the first couplers to write us, so if it doesn’t last, there’s no fighting over who got what – and, yeah, pics or GTFO.
While you make yourself all pretty, give a listen to Comics for Grownups where they discuss Angie Bongiolatti then you can just ape everything they say so you seem like you’re seriously plugged into our fine comics world. We’ll back here in a bit with plenty in store for you; don’t worry. As a special treat, here is the glorious cover to Theo Ellsworth’s forthcoming Understanding Monster Book Two:
Barry and Leon
IT’S ALWAYS a good time for more CAKE! We’ve barely gotten over our TCAF jet lag and here we are, flying off to celebrate the Windy City’s finest comics hour of the year. CAKE’s been around for three years and we haven’t missed a show. This year, we are a husky-free Chicago crew, and the slimmer, bitter half of Secret Acres will be reporting on the proceedings. So dial down your post-convention expectations; it promises to be a somber affair.
But we’re not just losing husky. Sadly, our comrades-in-arms, the leaders of the ever-remarkable Koyama Press and AdHouse Books, Annie and Chris, won’t be joining us, either. We’ll miss them, but at least they won’t remind of us our misbehaviors on the road. Alas, Edie Fake is no longer one of the festival organizers, but he is a bonafide Special Guest with his own setup right next to yours truly. Of course, we’ll have many copies of Edie’s latest and greatest, the giant-size Memory Palaces. Edie, along with Eric Kostuk Williams, and the one with one hundred crushes, Elisha Lim, will be participating in a panel discussion on Saturday, with the lively title of “Magikomix, Queer Comics and Visionary Cartooning,” led by the brainy Brian Cremins, no less.
First things second, though, we will be pre-gaming at Quimby’s! Tonight, at 7PM, at perhaps the greatest bookstore on earth, our very own Mike Dawson, the ever-present Elisha Lim and superstar MariNaomi will all be reading excepts from their recent books. By now you probably know all about Mike’s new graphic novel, Angie Bongiolatti (not to be confused with Anna Bongiovanni unless you really want to). If not, you can read an excerpt here on Mike’s site. Mike will be headlining his own table at the show, where you can gorge yourself on his comics including Secret Acres’ own Troop 142 and perennial favorite, Freddie & Me. He’ll also have a bunch of even newer mini comics for you to consume and probably some HeroClix, just to mess with us.
Notorious Chicago resident, Corinne Mucha, author of the critically lauded Get Over It!, which debuted from us mere weeks ago up in Toronto also has her own table, where she’ll be hawking comics and signing books. Get a load of some of the recent, high profile reviews of the book, here and here. See? There’s plenty of love for the brokenhearted. The divine Ms. Mucha will have some new minis of her own and, if you ask nicely, she might even have a tiny, little original painting just for you.
Speaking of Ms. Mucha and Friday night events, don’t forget Corinne will be back in New York City, Friday the 13th, at Brooklyn’s own Bergen Street Comics with books, beer and bubbly. In case you missed it, and in case you are not on Bergen Street Comics’ e-mail list, they wrote this:
“As it’s a Secret Acres party, you can rest assured that the evening will be fun for most, embarrassing for some, and doused in the throes of romance for one lucky couple. (Every single Secret Acres party we’ve ever had has resulted in at least one loving relationship, even if said relationship was relatively short termed. Numbers don’t lie!)”
We’ll have maybe a little challenge built into that event, but we’ll save that for our CAKE wrap-up post.
And now, some very sad, quite devastating news: Ms. Casey Gonzalez is terminating her active Secret Acres duty to get ready to pursue an MFA at Brooklyn College this fall. Oh, yes, we DID try to talk her out of it. Casey is generously staying in our orbit, but most of her energies will be focused on complete social dominance at school from here on out. We’re sad to see her step down, but glad she won’t be far away.
We’ll return with our thoughts on CAKE 3 in a few. If you see us in Chicago, don’t be alarmed. We’re supposed to be there, so come say hi!
Leon and Barry
OUR TRIP began with one Secret Acres publisher remarking that the other Secret Acres publisher was “looking a little HUSKY (emphasis the other publisher, who had just been downgraded from ‘looking quite, uh, solid these days’).” So we left one Secret Acres publisher at home by himself all alone with no one, while the other, huskier, publisher got his Husky Boy™ pants on and heaved and squeezed himself into the big, fat car and up to the inarguably obese Toronto Comic Arts Festival. So, yeah, Husky won that deal and he’s not sweating it, either.
Miraculously, there was still room in the car for Sean Ford and MK Reed. Just as Sean confessed that despite growing up in Connecticut, he’d never liked the UConn Men’s Basketball team because of their name, we got to the border. Everything was lovely as usual until it was time to pay our taxes like the God-fearing Americans that we are. Corporate cards clutched in our pudgy mitts, we were met with, “Och, Brooklyn, eh? An’ jist whaur dae ye hink yoo’re gonnae?” Bonnie lassie MK got to translating, but even our best comics mule got shot down. So we did what everyone does when the going gets tough: we called Annie Koyama and got some coffee. Annie got Peter Birkemoe, Lord of the Beguiling, who, in the middle of setting up the biggest indie comics show ever, took a minute to crack the code of Keptin Kafka of Kanada and gave us us free. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating ad infinitum: bless you, guid folk of TCAF.
Three hours of bureaucracy later, we were back on the road to Toronto. We had reservations about dropping Mrs. Reed at her haunted dorm room ruin but she said it was safe because she saw a thirteen year-old girl working the security desk. Anyway, we left her and found Corinne Mucha at the exquisitely appointed Bloor Marriott. We tried to regale her with our ordeals, but three words in, she said there were already too many lies aleady, and she threw us out. So we went and collected Brendan Leach at the Pilot Tavern, running into pals along the way, each stopping to warn us that Tom Spurgeon was “partying real hard.” Alas, there was no sign of Spurgeon and it was last call at the bar. It was not a good look. Dustin Harbin had been searching Brendan’s pants for his ass all night, so it was an easy sell to get everyone back to our room and in bed by dawn.
Supposedly, the show started at nine on Saturday, but we’re a flexible bunch, so we said 9:30-ish or 10:00-something. We knew we were going to have a good show because we got both our banners up and our location was TCAFrenzyproof. The thing about the books we publish is that folks need a minute to cuddle and cajole them before taking them home. We can’t survive on the main drag of a show with, no joke, ten or twenty thousand people walking by. Put this baby in a corner, please.
This year, we shared a little island with the Conundrum gang, giving us plenty of time to chit chat with Doug Wright Award Winner Joe Ollmann, as he insists we call him. Joe was instrumental in our stalking of Mimi Pond, on the other side of the horde separating us from Drawn & Quarterly and Pascal Girard. Both Pascal and Mimi had new books (and though Joe said this was not Mimi’s first book, we don’t believe him). There was even a great view of the Koyama gang across the aisle with their four book debuts. Conditions were perfect for our own big debut, Get Over It! which was all gone sometime on Sunday. Brendan’s Iron Bound, Sean’s new edition of Only Skin and Edie Fake‘s Memory Palaces were all new to TCAF and all selling in debut-like numbers. We cleaned up. So did everybody else, it seems. Lots of locals and semi-locals drove home to re-stock in the middle of the show. It was pretty overwhelming, so went back to the hotel and watched Now, Voyager during our lunch break.
Sunday, Brendan went to see the Toronto Blue Jays fighting the Angels of Anaheim (ouch) while the rest of us called our mothers because that’s what good kids do on Mother’s Day, Brendan. We did get to our panel on time, sharing the stage with Uncivilized Books, Nobrow and Koyama Press. Evan Munday (sic) kept the laughs coming, but there was this really nice moment after, from Tucker Stone, representing Nobrow. Tucker’s been in the game a long, long time now, decades upon decades, but this was his first shot on a panel as a publisher. He’s our pal, and we’ve worked together on lots of things over the years, so it didn’t occur to us at the time, but that’s a big deal. You don’t forget your first panel as a publisher. Of course, Tucker was wrong about everything. Like every word out of his mouth was ridiculous, but whatever.
And what about those TCAF nights, you ask? There was poutine and endless rounds of Blue Lagoons. It was L Nichols‘ birthday, so wish L a happy one. There was Jamie Tanner and the Spotted Dick or something. There were way too many people asking us if Corinne was single. There was Pitzer and Benton laughing at Sean Ford weeping a single tear at the melancholy sound of a lone jet flying overhead. There was Frank Santoro (who we didn’t even know was at the show until it was over) giving lessons at the dinner table to Gabrielle Bell and Kevin Huizenga. It kinda looked like Frank was playing a shell game with with four little rectangles of paper. Gabrielle kept talking about orgies the whole time. It was weird. And, speaking of Kevin H (who sold us all lots of originals for peanuts, the sucker), did you know he dropped out of Frank’s class because it was too hard? How’s that for an Amazing Fact with Leon Beyond! Still, the TCAF Canoodle Champs have to be Jordan Shiveley and Jessica Underhill, dammit, not at all Jessie Hagemeyer, who got wifed by ambush. It’s a great story and they can tell you if they want to, but we don’t do gossip here at Secret Acres.
On the way out of Toronto there was a parade, apparently sponsored by Uncut Magazine (like we’re gonna link to that) and Rock n’ Roll Eucharist ft/ Johnny Cash (and that’s real). Oh, Canada. You make us blush! We sang baseball carols until MK put Derulo and 2 Chainz on repeat for the last five hours of the ride. We were home in under seven hours, trying to outrun our separation anxiety and failing miserably. We miss everyone.
So come party at our place! Friday, June 13th, at 8PM, we’re bringing both Corinne and sexy back to Bergen Street Comics! You know the drill by now: free beer and bubbly and lots and lots of Get Over It! If you just can’t wait that long and you happen to be in Corinne’s hometown, go check out Edie Fake this very Friday at Quimby’s in Chicago, where he will take you for a walk through the queer streets of the Windy City and into his Memory Palaces. You can read about that book in comics form over at Gapers Block right this instant! You can read about Corinne’s new book all the way down on the Graphic Novel Shelf of Midwest Book Review. It’s not actually in comics, but that’s fine. After TCAF, we need at least thirty-six hours without comics before diving into our foot-high haul.
We’re going to sleep now, but we’ll be back in time for CAKE because we’re HUSKY.
Barry and Husky Boy™
DO YOU BELIEVE in life after love? It happens, we promise. As proof we offer you Corinne Mucha‘s Get Over It! Ms. Mucha, Secret Acres’ other woman, serves up both a game plan and a cautionary tale in her latest graphic novel. This little, quick reference guide to heartbreak is built to re-read. That’s the thing about a broken heart; it’s easy to stay fascinated looking at the pieces. Corinne’s going to put it all together for you up at TCAF, our (and everybody else’s) beloved Toronto Comic Arts Festival, happening this very weekend.
Speaking of broken hearts, Barry’s busy recovering nicely from some ticker issues so, alas, he will be sitting this one out. Everyone, please wish him well because he’s cranky as all get out. We are, however, ganged up as usual for this show. Corinne, with little ,original, TCAF only paintings (!) in tow, is taking to the skies, racing the one and only Brendan Leach by air into the great state of Toronto. Brendan’s Iron Bound will be on hand for the first time ever in Canada. We have been assured that the Iron Bound flexi record will indeed play on Canadian turntables, so no worries there.
Reprising her role as the official Secret Acres Comics Mule, the lovely Mrs. MK Reed will be in the Acresmobile, her Cute Girl Network in back (if you just can’t get enough relationship advice). Sitting shotgun will be none other than Sean Ford, with his brand new edition of Only Skin, which Victor LaValle called “beautifully spooky,” christening Sean among his “favorite new artists.” Yeah, we’re a little too proud to have a quote from the Man on the back on that book. Sean’s also got the latest installment of Shadow Hills, so you can get caught up on that before folks start making fun of you. You can come make fun of us, too, since we’re on this panel Sunday. It’s called the New Small Press with Koyama Press, Uncivilized Books and Nobrow Press, which is making us feel very, well, small.
Alas, Edie Fake is baking CAKE, but his big, beautiful Memory Palaces will be waiting at the Acres table just for you, right next to Mike Dawson’s Angie Bongiolatti. Mike’s got the kids this weekend, but both Edie and Mike will be out in force for CAKE, including a reading at Edie’s own Quimby’s Bookstore in the Windy City – but more on that later. If you want a look at Angie Bongiolatti right this instant you can check out a snippet on Mike’s site here. If you want more Mike and you want it now, sit and listen to the return of his podcasts, both of them! There’s a Very Special Angie Bongiolatti episode of the Ink Panthers Show! and, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, a brand new TCJ Talkies. Mike and Tom Hart discuss Craig Thompson‘s epic Habibi in the reformatted Talkies. We really missed TCJ Talkies. Not that we don’t miss the Panthers or anything. Plus! A new Mike comic is up on Study Group with a look at what he’s up to next. Not that he told us or anything.
Can’t make it to Toronto? Get a sneak peak of Get Over It! from Publishers Weekly and Zainab Aktar, and check this shoutout from USA Today’s Pop Candy. There’s also new stuff in the Emporium from Corinne and Sean K. here and here and here. You really should go TCAF, though. Seriously, of all the shows to miss, this is not one of them. We’ll back in a minute with maybe some post-show party details. And who knows? We could run into Blur this time around.
Casey and Leon and Barry
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
WHAT a long, strange trip it’s been getting our asses in gear for this year’s Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Festival, aka MoCCA, brought to you by the good folks at the Society of Illustrators.
We’ve got some real history with this show. It was our first show ever, way back in 2008. If you’re counting, that makes it seven trips to MoCCA for us, from the Puck Building to the Armory, from attendees to the steering committee, from Fatal Faux-Pas to Memory Palaces. This year makes nine books we’ve debuted at MoCCA. This is also the first MoCCA since our first MoCCA where we’ll drop two new books, Mike Dawson‘s Angie Bongiolatti and the aforementioned Memory Palaces from Edie Fake (and, if you’re very nice, you can sneak a peek at Get Over It! our TCAF debut from Corinne Mucha).
So. All that said, what else is there for us to say about MoCCA? What could possibly get us excited about this particular show? A big, fat balloon! It’s a first, for sure. We’re willing to bet that every other con in the world will take a look at a fifty-four foot Charlie Brown and say, “Damn…” God bless the Society of Illustrators for taking us seriously, or at least collapsing under the weight of our incessant whining. This was an actual dream come true for us, like we could die happy, pretty much.
Another first: both Edie Fake and Mike Dawson are official Featured Guests of the show. You’d think after the much better part of a decade, Secret Acres would have had at least one featured MoCCA guest, but nope, not till right now. We didn’t need to whine about this at least. As Featured Guests, both Mike and Edie will be participating in the show in a couple ways. To begin, Edie put the art together for the MoCCA badges, which are so nice, you’ll want to collect them all. Mike will be cracking wise on a panel with Sophie Yanow and Seth Tobocman about representations of political protest in comics, moderated by Anne Nocenti herself. That sounds scary smart, doesn’t it? (Don’t be too intimidated, Mike! You know what you’re talking about, for sure!) Meantime, Edie himself will appear on a panel on How Comics are Queer, with the other people who made them queer, namely Howard Cruse, Justin Hall and L. Nichols, moderated by Margaret Galvan. You can get more on the MoCCA programming, programmed by none other than Bill K, here.
One last first: for the first time, we have a new edition of a MoCCA debut which is debuting at MoCCA again (Go on. Figure that sentence out; we dare you.). Yes, after several long months, Only Skin by Sean Ford is back in the flesh. Clearly, Only Skin has been hitting the gym hard, because it looks better than ever. We will cop to the fact that the French edition, courtesy of Secret Acres Europe or Editions Rackham, completely beat our first edition of Only Skin to death. This new edition is ready to strike back. It’s a looker.
If you’re around, and you’re up for some pre-gaming, we got you covered. First up, you can throw down and/or have a serious discussion with Mike at his Angie Bongiolatti book release party, this Friday night. Mr. Dawson is returning to Brooklyn, if only for a few hours, and to Bergen Street Comics, where once was held the book release party for Troop 142 (and once again, we look back in nostalgia to the days of Brooklyn Mike and Troop 142). If you were there the first time, you have to come back. You won’t believe what’s happened to Mike since he moved to Jersey and quit the Ink Panthers Show! Meanwhile, if you want to prepare for this, you can read all about Mike and Angie Bongiolatti here and here.
Finally, a bit closer to the eve of MoCCA, on the third of April, Edie Fake will be in New York at Manhattan’s own Bureau of General Services Queer Division. He’ll have his brand new, positively enormous Memory Palaces with him (which it now occurs to us is yet another first, in that it’s the first Secret Acres art book) and he may even have some of the originals to boot. There will be plenty of civilized talk about the origins of the project, but, really, you just need to see this thing.
If you can’t make it out for all this, we understand. You can always get the new books (and other new things like this) in our Emporium. Of course, we’ll back with our rundown of MoCCA v2.1 in a bit. See you on the streets, where the real comics happen!
Casey and Leon and Barry