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
PEOPLE started talking shit the day before the flight out to LA because Winter Storm Leon’s (no kidding) baby brother was about to hit us hard and there was no way we were going anywhere. Sometime around midnight, we got word all flights were being cancelled, including ours, so we unpacked, cancelled the dogsitter and hit up Sar and Damien to let them know they’d be going solo. Then it turned out there was one little flight left willing to brave ten inches of snow. So we packed again and lugged everything through the blizzard to JFK in hardcore snow gear only to land on a beach, in flip flops and shorts, in February. Wearing shorts and flip flops in February is kind of like being a dog in a handbag; you can feel yourself getting softer by the minute.
It must be catching, this Los Angeles disease. We could see the Jawamobile from our balcony. We had some fucking amazing pancakes. We did a little tour of the City of Angels. The mailboxes were dressed up like Spongebob. There was a line around the block for Shia LaBeouf’s idea of art, or maybe it was Jerry O’Connell’s idea of Shia’s idea of art. We were sucking up the Michelin starriness of it all, wandering around in a consumerist trance, until we went to pick up books. One box was still a box of books. The other one, which we took to calling Brokebook Mountain, was some recycling in an official USPS bag. So if anyone was wondering why we had maybe half our titles at the show, there ya go. Looking at you, Spongebob.
As for the show, the LA Zine Fest, it was fantastic. Maybe it was fitting that our big books didn’t make it, forcing us to go all mini all the time. In terms of volume, meaning the number of comics sold, the LA Zine Fest ate everything we could serve. Shorthanded on big ticket items, we couldn’t have broken any dollar records, but even in dollars, we came pretty close to our CAKE total in a single day. In case anyone’s wondering how seriously to take the LAZF as a comics publisher, we would say, “Very very.” The Helms Bakery garage is not your average parking facility. It’s huge and it was packed to the brim, with a kind of energy in line with the likes of CAB. Find a way to get there and go.
But enough business, our haul was pretty killer. As our pal, Nate Bulmer, pointed out, there were more than a few new faces and the familiar names included lots of folks you don’t see too often on our coast. Indie comics would seem to be a bigger deal on the right side of the USA, sure, but it can feel a little insular when you come up to someone’s table whom you just saw at another show two weeks ago and ask them if they have any new stuff, which they don’t because you just saw them two weeks ago, and you can’t ask how they’ve been because you just saw them two weeks ago. Sigh. We picked up great stuff from the new(ish)-to-us Nick Thorburn,Emily Joy, Kid Clampdown, Jason Martin (coming soon to our Emporium), Kevin Uehlein and Sandra Markarian, and from folks who are rarely in the room with us, like the debonair David King, the mysterious Malachi Ward (with a new comic!) and that bastard Tim Hensley. We even met Eric Nakamura the night before, which, for folks like us, is a real honor (plus he likes us!). It’s nice to get the hell out of town for a while.
Nicer still, we got to hang out with Damien Jay for an entire day. It was also his first stint behind a table in years, though he showed not a trace of rust at all, and even has a new mini anthology (also coming to the Emporium) of stuff he’s been up to while (still) working on the Natural World (and moving to LA, and buying a house, and having a baby…). He swears he is going to finish the Natural World. We believe him. Of course, Sar Shahar, one of our gang and favorite people was his usual lovely self, and we got to have dinner with him and Nate and their lovelier boos, while they pitched Lesbocop on our way to catch Robocop. So Hollywood. And Robocop was wack. Should they invite us, we’ll be back at the LAZF every year until we are dead.
Then the flight home got bumped a couple days, so we went to Palm Springs and played mini-golf and had drinks on a freezing mountain top to cool off. If you’re hating us right now, don’t worry, we’re back in New York, enjoying a nice day before we re-enter the polar vortex. The next party is at our house (meaning Bergen Street Comics), for Mike Dawson‘s new book, Angie Bongiolatti, and you’re invited to yet another party for Edie Fake‘s new book, Memory Palaces at the Bureau of General Services Queer Divsion. Say that three times fast. Now you are queer, too.
We’ll be back with the details of the parties and the rest of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Fetival 2014 related activities – including one thing you are not going to believe until you see it, when you will shit brix. That’s a promise.
Barry and Leon and Casey
ALL THE LEAVES are brown and the sky is gray. Just kidding! There are no leaves at all, but we’re heading out to the Land of Dre. It’s our first ever trip to the LA Zine Fest. If you’re wondering why, exactly, we would fly across the country with a bunch of books meeting us there, well, blame Tom Neely. He pretty much dared us to go at the last SPX. Tom is, of course, a native Los Angelean or a Los Angeleno. Something like that. We’re native New Yorkers. If we were at all cool, we’d drop a street single for the occasion, but instead we’ll probably crash into each other just to feel something. In other words, yet again, we have no idea at all what to expect.
We do at least expect Sar Shahar, of Sequential Vacation 2 fame, to be at the Secret Acres table. Sar, in addition to being ferociously talented, was lots of fun to hang out with at CAKE, where we debuted his mini. It’s worth the trip just to hang out with him. There will be a Special Guest at the show with us, none other than Damien Jay, he of the Natural World and lots of other stuff. Not only do we adore his comics, he just so happens to be the babydaddy (and husband) of Minty Lewis, the goddess behind our very own PS Comics, and, of course, one of the gang running that Regular Show. If you didn’t know, she’s the voice of Eileen, too. How’s that for Hollywood?
For quite a while now, Minty’s been the lone Lady of the Acres. With all the talk about gender disparity in comics, we should maybe say something about that, especially since someone just asked one of our artists why we don’t publish any women. Secret Acres, as now legally constituted, is two gay guys and a woman, Casey Gonzalez, former Sheriff of the Acres and now an official Editor. The majority of our customers are women, going by all the data we could gather, and even counting customers as best we could at shows. Those efforts were part of helping out a friend, Janelle Asselin, also a woman, who is writing a book about women and comics, and who pops up in the documentary, She Makes Comics. Does this sound like we’re making excuses? Are we going to get killed, Image-style, when we post our Secret Acres family photos? We have tried and failed to publish no less than eight women, by our count, all of whom found homes elsewhere (though we have not given up just yet). Trust us; it ain’t from lack of trying. As they say in France, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Our five year comics publishing sausage party is finally coming to an end: everyone say hi to Corinne Mucha, the new woman in town, now with her very own page on this site. Hi, Corinne! Let’s hope this becomes a regular thing.
Speaking of documentaries and queer folks and comics, you simply must watch the Edie Fake special up on the Comics Journal, Rad Queers: Edie Fake. Graham Kolbeins, which we sincerely hope is pronounced, “Cool Beans,” shot this thing in Chicago with our man Edie, featuring the guys from Printed Matter and Thomas Robertello, of the now defunct gallery which bore his name. If Robertello sounds familiar, that may be because it was the place Edie’s Memory Palaces project was first shown. As you know, there will be a Secret Acres book of Memory Palaces making its debut at MoCCA. To celebrate this, we thought we’d show you the cover. Not bad huh?
Since we’re spilling the beans on MoCCA and covers, take a look at the brand new Only Skin, also dropping back into print at MoCCA. You’ve already seen the cover of our other MoCCA debut from that Mike Dawson guy. But enough MoCCA. We’re knocking the rust off on LA Zine Fest first. If you’re in LA, come on by. What else is there to do in LA, anyway? We’ll see you back here next week for our big con wrap up.
Barry and Leon and Casey
ANOTHER year on (our) comics circuit has pretty much come and gone with the passing of the first ever Comic Arts Brooklyn. We slipped and called it BCGF what had to be ten hundred times over the weekend. That’s not surprising to anyone, and that’s also a good thing. As Brooklynites, we need this show. BCGF made the most of the comics and art community here in our little borough, and it just reeked of Brooklyn. CAB steps right into that vacated slot, bringing that Brooklyntricity, filling the room with what Tom Spurgeon, Comics Reporter, once called the products of the Brooklyn Cliché Factory. Or, to put it in industry terms, Secret Acres’ core audience.
It didn’t have the same wall to wall crush of BCGF. CAB’s got its own energy, but like every year around this time, we moved a ton of books at the Mt. Carmel Church. It’s possible we broke last year’s single day sales record. That’s pretty impressive seeing that we had no debuts and no events of our own tied to CAB (though we did get 2012 back in print). With no natural disaster to excuse us this time around, we once again failed to bring enough books to meet demand and had to re-up in the middle of the show. This is a lousy habit of ours. However, we almost managed to get set up before the doors opened, so that’s progress. Comic Arts Brooklyn, the show, had it together far better than we did. Organizationally, this seemed smoother than its predecessor, somehow. Maybe things were scaled back a little bit, event and programming wise? In any case, there seemed to be a great, almost corporately smooth, synergy between the show and gallery things like this and the stuff at the Society of Illustrators and the Spiegelman exhibit. Whatever, because it worked. CAB is an event, not a flea market.
One fascinating thing about the shows in this church, and the shows run by Mr. Gabe “Desert Island” Fowler, is that it’s debut schmebut for Secret Acres. Yeah, our latest, Iron Bound, led the way because people want the new stuff, but they want it all. And they want it now. It’s one of the few places on earth where the customers are so plugged in, they come and ask us if we distro minis we’ve never even heard of, or when the new Rust Belt is coming out because they picked up the first two last year and loved ‘em. It’s freakish. Another big carryover from the ghost of shows past is that cartoonists can’t keep their mouths shut. If you want proof that comics aren’t just for people who can’t get laid anymore, come to Brooklyn. No worries, ’cause we don’t kiss and tell. We’re gentlemen. Casey, however…
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
This wee Acre found herself at a bar in Bushwick (because, duh) on Friday night in excellent company. Not only did I get to hang for a sec with some dude who kept calling me “dawg,” but I also got some face time with Mack of Spaceface Books, resisting the urge to run my fingers through his hair. On the people-whose-skin-I-will-steal-and-wear-as-a-mask front, Joe Kessler charmed me with his English accent and those peaches and cream. I quietly wiped some drool from my chin as Michael DeForge and CAB Prom King Sam Alden talked Adventure Time, texted my mom about it, headed home.
Saturday dawned pretty damn cold, and Ryan Cecil Smith and I managed to blunder into an AA meeting on the other side of the church on our way to the show. We muttered “comics” over and over until someone pointed us in the right direction. CAB started nice and quiet, a babefest as usual. I didn’t make it to any panels because ha ha ha, but I did get to hug Annie Koyama and Leigh Walton across the table. I got a “How to Pronounce Nick Drnaso‘s Last Name” lesson from Chuck Forsman and shared some grrl talk with Lala Alberts. It’s a long show and I would have died of exhaustion but for a well-placed boston cream donut, shared with Victor Kerlow. Also I bought some comic books. The day passed; the basement slowly transformed into a festering swamp. Typical comix fest.
After a lil post-show Polish food with new pal Sophie Yanow & co., and I was off to Union Pool to check out the after party. I’m used to the sweaty, smoky, brawl-y, BCGF after parties at Cartoon House (RIP), and I wasn’t sure what to expect from Union Pool. Well, there were Culkins and tacos and pap pap folk music and more! I chatted with Jeremy Sorese about our dads’ weird eating habits, made Bert n’ Ernie jokes with Cleveland QT Kevin Czap, and met a few ladies I’m a big nerd fan of, Cathy G. Johnson and Mia Schwartz. Megacrush Simon Hanselmann made an appearance in the Pool’s backyard. I sidled up to him, and in a moment of perfect wabi sabi he said “I could really use a cigarette,” while taking a giant drag on his cigarette. I ended my night on the early side like the sad old hag I am, but not before getting weepy over Melissa Mendes‘ Bruce the Cat tattoo and spotting Joe Lambert through the crowd, elusive as the famed Bigfoot.
Thank you, Casey! Speaking of which, more than a few people tried to get us going with our thoughts on the (by now fully funded) Fantagraphics Kickstarter campaign. We’ve written enough about Kickstarter already here. We’ve thrown in for more than a few of them. We’ll never, ever, have a Kickstarter campaign. We don’t see a need to blather about this any further. We don’t like that Fanta’s on Kickstarter, for most of the reasons that the aforementioned Spurgeon details here. It ain’t about Kickstarter itself (even though, really and truly, this seems a lot like raising business capital on Kickstarter, which, as we understand it, is somehow against the rules – and feel free to explain to us if it is not against the rules). From where we’re sitting, Fantagraphics is the greatest and most important publisher in the history of comics. Whatever the reason for it, crowd funding Fanta makes us very nervous about the state of comics publishing and it makes for another round of talking about what publishers do. We’ve said enough about that to last us a while, too. Also, stop making fun of Dan Nadel already. It’s old.
As for Secret Acres, the publishing company, we had our first down year in a while. This wasn’t because of the books, but more because of the lack of them. Way back in 2010, we had a crappy year and we wrote about it and it got a huge response from you guys. We sort of replayed that a bit in 2013. Secret Acres was never on the ropes in 2013 the way it was back then, but when our books are late and we show up without them, we’re screwed. Just like 2010, we were strapped for cash, relying on our back list and freaking out about money for reprinting books. It sounds dumb, and it is (and it also kind of sounds like the reasoning for the Fanta Kickstarter, doesn’t it?), but one thing we really need to do as publishers is publish books.
So, in 2014, we will be publishing a bunch of books. Starting with what we owe you, there’s Theo Ellsworth‘s second installment of the Understanding Monster. That damned monster will be further understood this coming year, we swear. Don’t be too mad at us, or Theo, though. He did crank out three mini-comics and Capacity 8 in the meantime. Gabby Schulz (don’t call him Ken Dahl no more) is wrapping up Sick as we type this and we promise it is so friggin’ great, you’ll forgive the rest of his bullshit.
For the first time in our storied history, Secret Acres will be publishing a straight up in your dome art book, or livre d’art. You’ve probably heard of Edie Fake‘s outstanding art exhibition Memory Palaces. It’s a trip (in both senses) through Chicago’s real and imaginary places in its queer past and future, and everyone will be able to take it home.
Mike Dawson will be following up Troop 142 with a big, fat book, Angie Bongiolatti. It was originally entitled Anna Bongiovanni, but trademarks. It’s not for kids. It is a painstakingly researched book that features explicit dongs, cooters and hooters with healthy helpings of sociopolitical commentary and philosophy. Among the many shockers in this book is the fact that it takes place in the Mike Dawson universe, or least the Mike Dawson Tri-State Area. Yep. You guys who remember the kids in Troop 142 are in for a treat.
Finally, at long, long last, we’re pleased as punch to tell you that Corinne Mucha, whose comics we’ve loved and whose minis we have carried, will actually be published by Secret Acres. It’s kinda creepy how long we have waited and lurked for this moment, like Corinne just agreed to date her stalker. If you’re lucky enough to have read her (completely shameless) mini-comic, My Every Single Thought, you’ve gotten a taste for her deep, dark knowledge of heartbreak. Ms. Mucha will going over every last piece of her busted ticker for Get Over It, her new graphic novel. From us. How ya like them apples?
There will be even more to come, but the ink’s not dry on all the contracts just yet. Meantime, you can see Sean Ford and Theo Ellsworth on their return trip to Short Run Seattle. Sean might be back here to give us the lowdown on Short Run. Or he might not. Who knows these things? Anyhow, we’re not going anywhere. Except, you know, for a while, so we can do the winter hibernation thing and clean up this website a bit and get everything off to the printers and work on MoCCA 2.1 and maybe take a vacation or something. Meanwhile, you can play mix and match with all the sneak peek pictures and the news here. See you guys next year – at the LA Zine Fest!
REALLY, we thought we’d lost our best hometown show, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Which we did, technically. Hey, let’s respect the dead: Adios, BCGF. Hello, Comic Arts Brooklyn! CAB, as it is commonly known, is happening this Saturday, in Williamsburg, in Mt. Carmel Church. It’s a free show, with killer programming and the best of the best of the best in comics will all be gathering for your enjoyment, and for some killer hot dogs and pizza. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the new baby from BCGF’s progenitor, Desert Island‘s Gabe Fowler. For the first time ever at a brand new comics show, we kinda know what to expect.
You can expect us, with Brendan Leach and his Iron Bound book and record set. If you don’t have Iron Bound, wait a day or two and get it at the show because you’ll want Brendan to make it all pretty with a sketch. If you’ve already got yours, bring it. Also bringing it, we have a rare, special appearance from the one and only Samuel C. Gaskin, who will have the freshly reprinted 2012 looking nicer than it ever has before, if you ask us. Of course, we’ll have Sam’s Fatal Faux-Pas, too, which was the very first Secret Acres book ever made. Edie Fake will be slinging and sketching his classic Gaylord Phoenix along with a slew of minis and maybe prints and other priceless articles. Downstairs, you’ll find fellow Secret Acres, including Sean Ford, with his shiny, new Shadow Hills 2. That’s got to be some kind of record for elapsed time between issues. At least it is for our gang. Standing next to Sean will be our very own Joseph Lambert, who just won an Eisner Award for his stunning Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. Unlike his I Will Bite You! it’s not one of ours, but we can still be proud of him, dammit. In fact, you can see Joe on a panel called the New Generation: What We Like, with slackers like Michael DeForge, Lisa Hanawalt and Katie Skelly. They’re going to drink Pepsi and throw shade or something. Anyhow, we will be at tables U5-6 and they will be at table D32 and the panel will be all the way over at the nearby Knitting Factory. And all this is free. There’s tons more if you check out the program. We dare you not to go.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, lots of stuff has happened. We went to the Brooklyn Book Festival for the first time, way back in September. We didn’t do a rundown here. It didn’t feel like a show. It was more like a picnic. So here it is: it was really nice out, and weird to be outside with our books and stuff, but it was really nice out. We spent a ton of money buying books, most of which had almost no pictures inside. It was really windy, so we had to keep chasing stuff around. Brendan and Sean were there, too, and it was really nice out. We got to chat with Frank Santoro and Dominic Umile a bit. Mostly, we kept having to snatch our comics away from children. Secret Acres is not kid friendly. Like at all. Anyhow, we sold a good number of books, somehow, and it was really nice out. We’ll be back again, corrupting the children (who are unfortunately drawn to the pretty colors in Wayward Girls). Hopefully, it will be really nice out.
And the rest of the gang is all over the dang place. Iron Bound has been feeling the love from Paste, Nothing but Comics, Pop Matters, Medium, IndieReader, CBR, mental_floss, the 9th Blog and the Comics Journal (wow). If that’s not enough, the mini Iron Bound made the Notables section of Best American Comics 2013, alongside our guys Robert Sergel for his story, “Control,” featured in Minimum Paige, and Gabby Schulz, aka Ken Dahl, with his webcomic, Sick, coming from us in full color, hardcover glory next year. The previously mentioned Joe Lambert’s Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller was excerpted in this year’s BAC, too. You can take a peak here at a new Edie Fake comic in the kuš anthology š 15: Cats and another new Edie comic online at the all-new Believed Behavior site, and yet another new comic in Northwest Press’ QU33R anthology. Seriously, Edie. Oh, and Eamon Espey has curated a show entitled Wild Life Refuge at the Current Gallery in his hometown of Baltimore.
Because we’re so pro, we’ve buried the lede on the biggest news of this here blog post. We’ve gone digital. For the first time ever, you can legally download one of our books, none other than Mike Dawson’s Troop 142. It’s baby stepping, for sure, but we really like the Panel 9 guys who make the awesome Sequential app. Apparently, we’re not alone, seeing that they’ve got Blank Slate, SelfMade Hero and Jonathan Cape on there with folks like Oliver East, Eddie Campbell, Nick Abadzis… …and uh, us. Boy, do we ever feel American. You can expect us to expand in this department. If you’re wondering why now and why this way, this was the first thing we saw that looked great all the time and that put us next to comics we actually read.
Phew! See you Saturday.
Barry and Leon and Casey
MAYBE we should be rushing this one out, for a couple reasons at least, but we have to beat Tom Spurgeon, the Comics Reporter, to the punch before he steals all our ideas. Or maybe we’re stealing Heidi MacDonald’s, meaning the Beat‘s, ideas? Of course, this may simply mean that we are all thinking alike. Anyhow, we’ll get to our semi-collective major observations of the Small Press Expo landscape in a minute, important as they might to anyone who cares about comics.
First and foremost, we owe Bergen Street Comics a huge thank you for hosting our Iron Bound party. Those guys can seriously throw down, and, sweet Big Baby Jesus, did they kick Brendan Leach‘s big, bad book off to a flying start. The place was packed to the gills from the get until closing. We didn’t bring enough books, not by a long shot. Lucas Gutkowski and the Newark Wanderers cranked up the volume to eleven. If there had been any wiggle room, wiggling surely would have occurred. It was the biggest party of our careers, and one of the biggest Bergen has seen (up there with Xaime, Jeff Smith and Wonder Woman, we were told, but how many people got lucky at those?). If you were a part of it, we extend our deepest thanks to you. If you couldn’t get an Iron Bound, there are more at Bergen now, we swear.
The party was a good omen for us, what with it being Friday, the 13th and Yom Kippur all at once on packing day. Normally, we’re a hot mess getting our asses out the door, but we got our snacks and books fully loaded into our stolen, fully loaded Benz quite nicely and got our booze for the pre-Ignatz pizza party in time for dinner. We’d never been to a liquor store in a Mercedes before, but it turned out okay, too. Also, we went into Bethesda proper for Friday night eats. The last time any of us had seen actual Bethesda was during ye olde SPX days before it moved into the Marriott. It has been completely paved over, rebuilt and glamorized with “new luxury townhomes starting from the several millions.” Seriously. Moby Dick House of Kabob was still there, though. That’s a real thing; we’re not being pervs. We even managed to get up and set up on Saturday before the doors opened for the first time at any show in 2013. We had our act together!
The same can’t totally be said for SPX, though. This is a strictly personal, Secret Acres related thing, because no one else had much to complain about from an organizational perspective. For two SPXes running, something’s been amiss. Last year, our very own Theo Ellsworth drew some stuff for the show and was listed as a Special Guest. Only he wasn’t, in fact, listed as a Special Guest. He didn’t even have a badge. Mike Dawson, whose Troop 142 was up for the Outstanding Graphic Novel Ignatz Award, didn’t get a balloon that all the other nominees got. What kind of person doesn’t give Mike Dawson a balloon? Really. The response was basically to tell us to stop being babies. And this year, after a going without an official SPX tweet leading up to the show, Secret Acres wasn’t even in the program. Yeah, we’re being babies a bit but feelings were hurt. So there’s your institutional whining. We did, however, have a great – no, make that phenomenal spot on the floor. Our whole gang, Rob Sergel, Eamon Espey, Special Guest Jon Allen and SPX table neighbor Secret Acres artists, Sean Ford (with a new comic!) and Joe Lambert all sold lots of books while Brendan sketched out scores of Iron Bound. We had a great show.
It was a very SPX SPX, except it wasn’t. Come with us, back to that first paragraph, as we go over the origins of a thought. Last year’s SPX was commonly thrown out there as the greatest SPX that was or would ever be. Every titanic titan was present. Sales records were shattered. Dylan Williams was memorialized and Tom Spurgeon was born again hottie. For 2013, SPX had hit the wall, and not in a figurative sense. The entire hall was wall to wall SPX. Normally, the show eats most but not all of the space. There was no space left to eat in the Marriott this year. It was the aforementioned Beat, celebrating her 75th year of SPX attendance, who started off our Friday night at the bar, crunching numbers. With all the new tables, she reasoned, there had to be at least 750 individual artists and exhibitors sitting at 280 tables. It was probably closer to a thousand. As Heidi mentioned, you could walk the back wall, or Webcomics Alley, and find a major book at every table.
During the day, we talked to Dan Nadel briefly about a feeling among publishers that sales were soft this year. They weren’t soft at all, for us (or Picturebox, we don’t think). We all sold books and made bank. The soft quality could have been the result of this show following an inarguably hard SPX 2012. We didn’t think that was it. It could have been the trickling in of attendees. Usually, we get to the floor late and freak out, scrambling to get our books on the tables while a line of folks waits sort of patiently for us. Having gotten set up before the doors opened, for once, we jumped behind the table and waited for the opening rush, which didn’t happen. Upon investigation, there was a long line of people waiting to get in, coming in two at a time or so. It was a trickle, but everything filled up. So the soft stuff couldn’t be the result of declining attendance.
Talking to Tom Spurgeon at the bar on Saturday night, we came up with a theory. If the room had hit the space max, with more exhibitors than ever before, the show was simply diffused. It was the LA to last year’s New York. The bigger space made the crowd seem smaller a bit. The huge number of exhibitors gave the crowd more options that it ever had before. The big fish, the Fantagraphics and the Drawn and Quarterlies and the Top Shelves, suddenly didn’t seem that big in such a big pond. You could spend an entire weekend and thousands of dollars at SPX and not feel like you got to it all. Most interesting for us was all the new blood on the show floor. There were hundreds of cartoonists we’d never even heard of, and we’re supposed to know these things, damn it. Like the move to the Marriott back in the day, this is a transitional year for Comics Camp, both in quality and in content. It was a sea change and it was not subtle or sneaky.
SPX is still Comics Camp, though, so don’t get that twisted. Every night, when they throw us all out of On the Rocks, the official(ly racist) bar of the show, there’s a logjam getting out the door because of the hugging. Zak Sally even tried to make out with Noah Van Sciver or something like that. There was no room in any room of our pizza party. We got to cuddle with Annie Koyama, whose Blobby Boys book stayed home. Nate Bulmer brought his lovely wife and she didn’t leave him. Becca Lambert brought her husband, Joe, the bellwether of good men’s hairstyles for indie comics. Ted Bak was in the house, complete with his Island of Memory, a book fourteen years in the making. Mike Dawson was there, we promise, though he never made it to the table (and he didn’t throw up once). Tom Neely made it all the way east, looking great with his new Henry & Glenn Forever. Everyone looked great. Maybe it was just the new kids, but the cuteness index was up a whopping 38% year over year. Plus, can we all stop talking about Anna Bongiovanni already? It’s embarrassing.
So there. Now we’re off to pop our Brooklyn Book Festival cherries. All our big news will be in the wrap up post for that show, because, well, we’re exhausted. We will get a nap or two, so get yourselves over to BBF. Hopefully, we’ll be in that program someplace.
Barry and Leon and Casey
IT’S TIME to dance! We are finally, finally ready to rumble with Iron Bound, the new graphic novel from Brendan Leach. Man, oh, man, did this one ever feel like it was years in the making. It wasn’t, really, but we just couldn’t wait for it. Plus, we love SPX and we can’t wait for that, either. It is our church, and Iron Bound is our big, fat and only Small Press Expo debut this year. Yes, if you’re counting, we owe you a book or two, but get to SPX next weekend and you’ll have your hands full with this one, promise.
You may be familiar with Brendan’s Xeric Grant funded, Ignatz Award winning and Best American Comics selected Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City. That was the first of Brendan’s comics that we ever saw and it was love at first sight. It is ingenious. Without any hesitation, we can tell you that Iron Bound completely kicks its ass. This is saying something. Like Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City, Iron Bound is a period piece, set in Newark’s tougher-than-leather Ironbound district in the year 1961. There may be people living now who were alive in 1961, though we can’t confirm that. Brendan somehow did his due diligence in representing old Newark, though. It sure looks as pretty as it was gritty. He even got the sound right.
Iron Bound is a tough, little book, but you can, in all seriousness, dance to it. This edition comes complete with a blood red, seven inch, flexi record with two songs, one for fighting and another for a slightly more cuddly kind of fighting. Both are written by Lucas Gutkowksi (and recorded with Brendan himself) for the Newark Wanderers, the official Iron Bound band. They even show up in the comic! On the way is a full album of Iron Bound inspired music, available online on September 6th (or so we are told) and on non-flexible vinyl (Dude!) in November. Between the digital and physical releases, the Newark Wanderers will be out on tour with Brendan. We’ll have links and dates and details for you soon, we swear. Meanwhile, we can say that the tour plans to get as far out as our beloved Windy City of Chicago, at least.
You know, it was fun for us being a record label for a minute. You kids won’t remember records or tapes or compact discs, but trust us, music is amazing even off a computer. We know, and we weren’t even alive in 1961, either. You might, if you are very wise, remember music videos, so here’s this ludicrously awesome thing for your viewing and listening pleasures.
If you are one of the lucky dozen million or so in the greater metropolitan area of New York City, you don’t have to wait until the fall to party with the Newark Wanderers. You don’t even have to wait until SPX to get your hands on a copy of Iron Bound. You fellow New Yorkers just need to get yourselves to Brooklyn’s own Bergen Street Comics this Friday. Starting at 8PM and going until the Bergen folks pass out, Brendan will be signing copies of Iron Bound just for you. He’ll make it nice, we swear. Of course, records will be spun, but, even better, the Newark Wanderers will be performing live in the store. This means free music, free bubbly and free beer! This could get ugly. Maybe it should get ugly.
If you can’t make it to Bergen Street, you have to go to SPX somehow. In addition to Brendan, we’ll have a Special Guest in the personage of Jon Allen at our table. Jon makes this and this and that and this and this. Eamon Espey will be on hand, having recovered from his own national tour. The one and only Mike “Gags” Dawson will be warming a seat. Even fellow Secret Acres gang members, Sean Ford and Joseph Lambert have threatened to wander by. If that’s just not enough, and you really can’t get yourself to SPX, you can always pre-order Iron Bound here.
We will return with our SPX rundown. We might even have some news, or a lot of news, or a lot of really big news if the lawyers tell us it’s cool to spill the beans. Keep your ears to the streets.
Barry and Leon and Casey