BEST EVER is a bold statement, yes, but there’s a lot to back up the claims that this was the year to beat for the Small Press Expo. However, before we go there, we need to give folks many thanks for showing up on a school night for Theo Ellsworth‘s signing party at ye olde Bergen Street Comics. Not that Bergen Street is in any way old, but when you know them as well as we do, it’s hard to remember what life was like before we had a pull list. It was a swell crowd, with lots of Acres represented. Of course, we have no evidence of this, because we forgot our cameras, and worse, we forgot the Cubeecraft paper pals that Theo went to all that trouble to draw. They’re very cute. Luckily for us, everyone else seemed too wrapped up in the glow of Theo and The Understanding Monster (and the awesome Theo-drawn Bergen tote bags), that they seemed to forget about them, too.
We went into the weekend fairly hobbled, with multiple, simultaneous and unrelated personal apocalypses rocking our worlds, so it’s no surprise that we forgot our cameras again when we were packing up for the ride down. We didn’t even remember a sales sheet. To be fair, we did stop to fill a decent Diamond order on the way, and we got Theo and Sean Ford to Bethesda without getting lost and in obscenely good time. Not that it made any difference, since on arrival we were surprised to discover that each of our rooms only had a single king bed in them, for six people. At least one of us is good at pitching an epic fit about stuff like this, but we had to make do because the place was truly booked all the way.
When we registered, it turned out Theo had no badge and wasn’t listed in the program, but was somehow considered a VIP. At least Gabby Schulz (aka Ken Dahl), Eamon Espey and Mike Dawson made it to the show in one piece. Stress relief was provided via an enormous bar bill (like more than our rooms cost us kind of enormous) on Friday night, which left most of our crew hung over heading into Saturday. The cherry on the cake was that all Ignatz nominees got a little balloon to tie to their tables so people would know where to find their books – all except Mike, whose Troop 142 was nominated for Outstanding Graphic Novel. But, hey, even we forgot to mention this via anything before we hit the road. Long story short: we got off to a shitty start.
Then all hell broke loose. Someone decided to open the doors and let people in. After that, it all becomes a blur. There are vague memories of us all happily picking at the Acres snack bag, which was stocked with some serious goodies in anticipation of Snack Wars with our friends and neighbors, Koyama Press and AdHouse. We wandered over to be the first people to get a copy of Noah Van Sciver‘s the Hypo (because everyone loves Noah (and we should have bought that Little Heart fundraiser date with him to stare into his pretty, little eyes)). There was whining about the balloon. Then there was bedlam.
Normally, there’s a rhythm to the show. While it didn’t have the assaultive, sudden crowds of years past, there were no lulls at all, ever, the whole time. It was almost a relief to head down to our panel, Publishing During the Apocalypse, the title of which couldn’t possibly have been more absurd. We were hosted by Heidi MacDonald and sat there with Annie Koyama, Box Brown and John Porcellino, while upstairs there were people like Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, both Hernandezes, Michael DeForge and, well, everyone. There was a moment when two people came to the table to pick up some books and those two people were Renee French and Charles Burns (who purchased several copies of Wayward Girls, much to our delight), and it was no big deal. Renee and Charles are gods to us, but we’d grown numb to it all so quickly.
So what about the apocalypse, exactly? This show was proof of the fact that comics has never been stronger, which was what we all said to a standing-room only audience. Yeah, we said some semi-provocative things (no offense to Diamond/Amazon/TopatoCo), but remember Secret Acres is a hive mind. If you want the whole story, you need us both in front of the mic. Plus that way, one of us can tell the other to STFU.
Our annual traditions at SPX include a pizza and Old Fashioned party in our rooms for all the Ignatz nominees on Saturday. Generally, everybody who shows up wins. This would include our pal, Brendan Leach, who ran off with a brick for Outstanding Comic. The doors were open wide to our little room and we had most of the Sparkplug, Adhouse and Koyama gangs squeezed in there, too. Chris Pitzer and Annie and those guys are family to us, but even that was overwhelming in a way. Usually, it’s a nice contemplative moment between the floor and the awards. This year could have been a reunion barbecue. It was better, sure, but it was way bigger. Also, since we all crashed on top of leftover pizza and open beer bottles, three men in the bed, one on the floor,the stench of dude on Sunday was so powerful that if there’s any truth to pheromones, all creatures possessed of a uterus within a fifty foot radius probably started ovulating on the spot.
Yes, we’re miffed that Mike Dawson didn’t get to cry over an(other) Ignatz for Troop 142, but the Hernandez brothers pretty much won everything, which felt like a moment far too long in coming. There’s no good way to describe the impact these guys have had on us, our friends, generations of cartoonists and readers. There will likely never be a better SPX, so if los Bros were going to clean up, it should’ve been this year and at these Ignatz Awards. That said, we had no idea who any of the presenters were. They were very strange. This, of course, excludes Tom Spurgeon, breaking out the first ever Golden Brick for Richard Thompson. Poor Tom would be assaulted with love and praise by our shockingly drunk crew the minute the ceremony was over. It’s true, Tom, we all love you. If what you said was true, that moments before our drunken proclamations someone had come up and said lousy things to you, just give us a name. We prefer to think you were being modest.
As wondrous as this SPX was, we got to see almost none of it. We managed to get over to PictureBox to pick up Bjornstrand and giggle while Dan Nadel looked over our copy of SP7 with what appeared to be approval. Other than that, we saw nothing of that half of the room. We missed Eleanor Davis‘ zine. We didn’t get to hang out with Eric Reynolds or Alec Longstreth or Kevin Czap. We never got a copy of Blacklung. There was nothing left of Drawn and Quarterly. While we did get to see Drawing Energy (the superpanel with Theo, Michael DeForge, Hellen Jo and Katie Skelly, moderated so smoothly by Jim Rugg you’d think he was running for office) we completely missed Mike’s panel. Supposedly, Derf Backderf was there someplace. We hardly saw Joe, as in Joseph Lambert, our guy, and he was at the table next to us.
And what about sales, you ask? We made more money on Sunday at SPX than we had at any entire show ever. We made way more money on Saturday than we did on Sunday. We took home maybe a dozen books, a ton of cash and Lisa Hanawalt. It was a relief to bring Lisa back to Brooklyn, because we adore her and we got to spend time with her, whether she liked it or not.
There was too much of everything and we missed more. And we missed Dylan Williams. It’s been a year since we lost him. We overheard someone talking about him and how they keep reaching for the phone now and then to call him, because they can never remember that he won’t pick up. Can you imagine what Dylan would have thought of this show? He was right all along. There are a lot of us comics weirdos out there and we can take care of each other. There’s no need to look for proof anymore. We may be back home, overcome by separation anxiety and back to licking our emotional wounds, but this comics thing is huge, beautiful and here to stay.
Barry and Leon
P.S. - So we didn’t have cameras, because we’re a hot mess, but we borrowed images from Yumcha Studios, Chris Pitzer’s flickr and the Comics Reporter. Sorry, guys. We’re desperate, but if you want them taken down, just holler at us. Thanks!
IT FEELS LIKE it’s been a thousand years since we last spoke. This is probably because so much has been going on. Worlds have changed. Universes have collided. We’ve got a ton of stuff to tell you, so there won’t be much editorializing (since we kind of blew our bitchy wad on the last post). Besides, you know we’ll deliver the dirt after the Big Show.
Speaking of the Big Show, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for us artsy comics folk. Yes, it is the Small Press Expo once again. If you want to see what the comics community looks like, get yourself down to Bethesda this weekend. Bethesda is definitely not the most obvious locale for the spiritual pursuit of comics, but it is home to the Marriott, aka Comics Camp. Once you’re there, there is no escaping. This will be our fifth SPX. Our fourth was both our most glorious moment as publishers and our most harrowing. Who can say what this one will bring?
Well, we can say. We’re bringing The Understanding Monster, the new book from Theo Ellsworth. It’s a departure for just about everybody. If you’ve never experienced Theo’s work before, you’re in for a shock. You’re in for a shock even if you’ve read everything he’s done. This will be the first full-length fiction comic from Theo. It’s also the first volume of three. You’ll be getting one a year. We’re breaking new ground here, as well. It’s our first hardcover and our first full-color book. Did we mention how big this thing is? It’s big. It will take you a while to get everything that’s in it out of it. The Understanding Monster is a trip.
Also making the trip to SPX will be Wayward Girls 2. Michiel Budel has been pushing the limits with his comic since he got started. The first issue nearly got us jail time. In this second installment of Wayward Girls, the stories have gotten a little longer and more developed, but no less dangerous. We’re grateful that we don’t need to stop at customs to bring this to you.
While we did okay at SPX’s Ignatz Awards last year (meaning we cleaned the fuck up), we are extremely proud that our resident All-American Boy Scout, Mike Dawson, has gotten yet another nod, this time for Outstanding Graphic Novel, for his rightfully ubiquitous Troop 142. We need your vote, fellow countrymen. Stuff those ballot boxes. Vote early and often. Disenfranchise the competition if you have to, because if Mike wins this one, he has personally guaranteed he will cry. Okay, he didn’t cry the last time Troop 142 won an Ignatz, but we promise to wax his nipples if he fails to squirt a few on this go. Besides, this book deserves it. For full disclosure, our lady of the Acres, Minty Lewis, and our man with a plan, Edie Fake, were on the nominating committee. We’re extra proud of them, too, because all the nominations are pretty badass.
You can find the Acres gang on three different panels this year. Mike will be moderating “Drawing Out Childhood,” with guests (and old pals) Julia Wertz, Derf Backderf, John Porcellino and MariNaomi. Theo will be joined by Michael Deforge, Jim Rugg and Hellen Jo for “Drawing Energy.” Finally, yours truly will be under fire from Heidi MacDonald, aka the Beat, but at least we’ll be sitting with Box Brown, John Porcellino (he’s everywhere and all over) and the Greatest of All Time, Annie Koyama (she hates that kind of praise, but we love her, anyway) – and this thing is called “Publishing During the Apocalypse.” Not a joke.
There’s been plenty of other stuff happening in the meanwhile. Sean Ford has been feeling the love for his Only Skin from IndieReader‘s Sarah Morean (If you don’t know who she is, look her up. We’ll wait.). Edie got a shoutout from the awesome Bitch Magazine. Gabby Schulz, the former Ken Dahl, was the recipient of some seriously glowing praise from Comics Bulletin for Monsters (which has to be the longest wait for a review we’ve ever seen). Mike got in trouble with Trouble With Comics, and his Ink Panthers Show! had one of their best spots ever with episode 142 (no relation to Troop 142), “The Voyage Home.” Theo had himself a big exhibit at Giant Robot, an enormous interview at Newsarama, and you can even see a preview of the rather large The Understanding Monster on the Beat.
If you’re in New York City or somewhere else but have the means to get to Brooklyn, you owe it to yourself to make the trip this Thursday night. Theo’s going to be signing The Understanding Monster at Brooklyn’s own Bergen Street Comics. The beer and bubbly start flowing at 8PM, so make sure you eat first. Get there on time, and you just might get one of these Theo-drawn Cubeecraft dolls (Assembly required, but, come on, look at that thing.).
Here’s something we’ve been very quiet about: on September 7th, 2012, Secret Acres turned five years old. We owe all of you, badly, for carrying us this far. We will do our best to live up to your support for many more years to come.
Sometime before our fifth, we got the keys to our first office. Secret Acres, named after a house that is no longer with us, is a place again. We’ve got .00390266 acres to be precise. It’s nice to have a home. But we’ve got to hit the road. See you in a bit.
Barry and Leon
THIS IS FOR YOU, Lisa Hanawalt… Like everyone else on our side of the comics fence, we read Dan Nadel’s blog post on the Comics Journal, “No Good Reason.” The post itself was a harshly critical assessment of Secret Prison 7, a comics anthology and an homage to Garo. The project is being edited by Box Brown, of Retrofit fame, and Ian Harker, who is one half of Secret Prison along with Pat Aulisio. SP7 is being funded via Kickstarter, and you can learn more about it there. There are several gauntlets, and boots, being thrown at issues great and small. A lot of this is a big deal to us and got us thinking about where we would locate ourselves within these arguments. If you haven’t read the post and the SP7 Kickstarter page, go ahead. We’ll wait here.
To begin, we should tell you that we know next to nothing about Garo and that we’re not exactly huge fans of manga. We don’t want to address that part of the critique here because, in all honesty, we’re not qualified to address it. That said, we’ll take Dan’s word for it that while manga has had a tremendous impact on younger, American cartoonists, Garo, specifically, does not have the same influence and in their description of the SP7 project, the publishers blur the line between Garo and manga. Garo certainly does not have the same influence that EC comics had on the Underground artists which followed them, though Dan refutes that influence only to retract it later.
Without adequately demonstrating a historical knowledge of the comics they claim have inspired them, the SP7 publishers have left the door open to charges of trend hopping, bending the comics community’s pre-existing interests to suit their needs. We’re not ready to convict them because they failed to show us that they’ve done their homework. In fact, this would have been easier if the publishers simply stated that they are putting together a Garo themed anthology because they think Garo is awesome, so please give them money because they’re broke. The comics that Secret Prison has produced have been too good to dismiss for their lack of historical context. They are often, however, fan art (see Rub the Blood, another Secret Prison publication which was an homage of sorts to Rob Liefeld). By nature, fan art capitalizes on a pre-existing interest, which makes it difficult to get around the trendiness knock. Fan art can be fun, and even good, but the work can’t stand on its own, to use Dan’s words. He would also use the word sleazy, but that’s too strong for us, like making fun of someone who loves the band Interpol because they have never heard of Joy Division.
Publishing something with a built-in interest, or a viable something as Dan would say, makes the low-risk approach of Kickstarter funding that much more damning. So let’s talk about Kickstarter, hopefully for the last time. We are not threatened by Kickstarter. We are speaking for ourselves only, of course, but the idea that we would somehow be shaking in our boots (not for sale, by the way) because Kickstarter is coming to kill us publishers is absurd. We don’t like its focus on popularity ahead of everything else. We don’t like the way it lets the market decide, appealing to the lowest common denominator and cranking out transmedia-ready crap by the busload. We sure as hell don’t like it as a tool for publishers, and would never ever consider using it ourselves, but we’re not sitting here cursing its name.
The reverse is not true. Going all the way back to MK Reed‘s essay on Kickstarter, someone always feels compelled to make the argument that Kickstarter has created opportunities where there were none, that it has eliminated the need for publishers, who have been acting as gatekeepers for artists everywhere. This is a crock. No one who does what Secret Acres does has ever intended to stand in the way of a cartoonist’s success. We are well aware of the historical and continuing abuses perpetrated on creators by certain large comics companies and maybe that’s what’s stuck in people’s heads. This is akin to conflating superheroes with comics, which is really annoying, isn’t it? Can the argument that publishers are abusive corporations with no respect for creators be applied to Annie Koyama? Get over it. We are nobody’s enemy. We are not tastemakers. We are not gatekeepers. We have no idea what anyone means by “a very personal Batman graphic novel.”
We publish artists, not books. We’re less concerned about products and properties than we are supporting the people who make the comics that we love so much. As publishers, our job is to create opportunities and to find an audience for the artists who put their trust in us. It’s not easy to connect art so idiosyncratic and wonderful to the readers who will make something meaningful of it. It’s the fact that these voices are so idiosyncratic and wonderful that makes it worth the effort.
If Kickstarter can help them, we’re into it. If it gets one of our books into the hands of a reader, we’ll happily sell our books on Amazon, too. Amazon is an inevitability. The internet allows people to skip booksellers and skip paying a bookstore’s overhead, and if Amazon didn’t do it, someone else would. We believe there’s a cultural shift away from reading that is rarely addressed, that is a great part of the decline in a certain kind of bookstore. We suspect that a huge portion of Amazon’s book buyers are the book buying population that will switch to e-readers exclusively, and probably would have done so with or without Amazon. Those of us who prefer paper books will be more likely to get them in brick and mortar stores.
Does anyone really miss Borders? Amazon is a bigger threat to Barnes and Noble than it is to Bergen Street. We’ve seen bookstores revitalized as cultural and community centers, giving the advantage to independents. Despite the economy crashing, the advent of ebooks and the increased procurement of all goods online, Desert Island and Atomic Books are still here and the Beguiling is doing better than ever. You can’t go to Amazon to see an author read or hang out with comics glitterati at a book launch. No community will ever take ownership of Amazon, and Amazon gets books to people in remote areas that can’t support bookstores. It’s also worth noting that Amazon serves the long tail economy – you can buy every single Secret Acres book on Amazon, but not at any single retailer (other than Quimby’s, probably). The Amazon problem is far more nuanced than we’d like to admit.
So we don’t have Dylan Williams‘ backbone. But who does? We do whatever we can, because we owe it to the folks who sweat and sacrifice to work in dedication to the world’s slowest medium. They’re not doing it to sell something, they’re working to express something, and hopefully it’s something people need to hear, because that’s what art is. They have enough to handle without being judged by their ability to self-promote. We do the dirty work. That’s what being a publisher is all about for us.
As for Dan, he can speak for himself. “No Good Reason” is blazing angry and has been met with the wrath of 10,000 trolls. We grant you, you trolls, you, that it’s tough to argue that Dan is not a gatekeeper. Dan isn’t just Picturebox, he’s the Comics Journal. Dan isn’t just the Comics Journal, he’s BCGF. After reading “No Good Reason” we were left wondering if Dan wasn’t pissed off about something else. The world may never know. We hope he’s never mad at us.
If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a treat. So here’s a peek at our two SPX 2012 debuts, one above and one below. When you see them, you will plotz.
Barry and Leon
WE JUST KNOW you’re reading this to find out how abysmal Chicago’s first annual CAKE convention really was, and it’s common knowledge that Secret Acres pulls no punches in its reportage. You want to hear about the table mix-ups, artists being forced to censor their book covers, prohibitive and unannounced entrance costs, food truck stomach viruses, and unbearable AC malfunctions. You need to hear that everything that could go wrong at an upstart comic convention, in fact, went horribly, horribly wrong, because it’s more thrilling to read a convention horror story, peppered with violent and often unintelligible comment threads. But the truth is that nothing went horribly wrong this past weekend in Chicago, and the CAKE gang are due some deep thanks and heartfelt congratulations from the comics world. For its inaugural weekend, CAKE was meticulously organized and executed, and pretty much everything that you’d hope for with a debut comics festival. Haters to the left.
Sales were soft. We’re not going to gloss over that one, so it might as well be the first thing we hash out in the blog. Some tables did well, but most people we talked to were at least mildly disappointed in their earnings. While traffic was generally steady over the course of the weekend, there were some major lulls in activity. We weren’t wowed by our own earnings, but we weren’t crushed, either. It was right in line with how we did at our first Stumptown or our first BCGF. Taking into account airfare, hotel, shipping books and table fees, we ended up a bit in the red, but it doesn’t sting much considering we went to Chicago with CAKE being a total unknown. We could have hedged our bets, waited for year two, or put all the chips on the table and treated CAKE like a proper festival. Because our guy Edie Fake was working on CAKE, this was a no-brainer for us. We’d follow him into hell. We debuted Gabby Schulz’s Weather, flew Sean Ford out to promote his Only Skin, and generally behaved as if we were going to SPX (minus the banners and our mini-comics ranch, which was a mistake on our part, but we’ll get to that). The fact that we didn’t come home with cash to spare strikes us as eminently tolerable given that this was the first CAKE ever and we were high rollin’ it a bit.
We heard some complaints from exhibitors tabling in breakout rooms that they felt removed from the show and subject to less foot traffic. Whenever we traveled to the side rooms, they did seem a little quieter than the rest of the show, so there may have been something to that.
Based on what we saw, CAKE was more of a mini-comic show than a big, fat graphic novel show. Attendees seemed to gravitate toward the floppies and newsprint comics. The crowd was a younger, more heavily inked incarnation of the folks we see at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival each year, and those BCGF kids are young. There was a smattering of people with strollers and a few solo olds, but most everyone was in the (well) under thirty demographic. Our sales could have been boosted significantly if we’d brought along the fine, fine minicomics that we distribute in our online Emporium.
All of the TCAF-ish components of a good comics show were in place at CAKE:
1) helpful, friendly volunteers
2) access to change for exhibitors
3) a comfortable, temperature-controlled, easily accessible venue with an appropriate amount of space for panels and foot traffic
4) water and snacks for volunteers and exhibitors (and actual cake!)
We felt right at home amidst the other exhibitors and completely overwhelmed by the density of comics talent all in one place. Friends like Chuck Forsman, Melissa Mendes, Dane Martin, Colleen Frakes, Penina Gal and Damien Jay were there, along with compatriot small press/distributors like Koyama Press, Tugboat, Sparkplug and Spit and a Half. We were happy to see the familiar faces of some of the former Pizza Islanders and the Closed Caption Comics gang. We got to meet and rub elbows with a whole mess of comics folks that we’ve only interacted with online or remotely: Angee Lennard, David King, Noah Berlatsky, Annie Murphy and Raighne Hogan amongst others. Nate Powell was just a few tables away from us, selling books to attendees by the armful. He let us in on some of the secrets of convention sales, and no, we are not sharing any of them. We were pleased as punch to say hello to Lark Pien, Rina Ayuyang, Grant Reynolds, Nate Beatty, Lilli Carré, Hellen Jo, Brian Ralph, Corinne Mucha, Jon Chad, Chad Sell, Ben Catmull, Zak Sally, Michael Deforge and Kevin Huizenga. Getting an idea of what an amazing crew of cartoonists were at CAKE now, aren’t you? That’s just a small sampling. Despite the fact that it was the first serving of CAKE, a shit ton of veterans were in attendance. Without much effort, we also had the honor of talking at length to two of the co-organizers of the convention: Grace Tran and Max Morris.
As a distraction to the comics extravaganza that was happening indoors, the Acres posse was treated to a little sexytime pool action at the hotel across the street from the convention that we could see from our table. It was blazing outside and the pool looked delicious. We wouldn’t blame anyone for taking full advantage of it.
Like most fledgling shows, we expect CAKE to get bigger each year. Just about everyone we spoke with intends to return. For us, it had the star power of SPX, the organizational mastery of TCAF and the vibe of BCGF. Without Fantagraphics, D&Q and the other Front of the Armory publishers in attendance, it also had an intimacy that made it unique among comic shows (with the exception, perhaps, of PACC and maybe Expozine). It’s not yet Everything You Want From a Comics Show, but it’s pretty damn close. We wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes as high profile as SPX or BCGF in a minute. We’ll never miss it. CAKE suits us just fine.
We haven’t heard a peep from reviewers on Gabby Schulz’s new comic yet, but the reviews for Sean Ford’s Only Skin continue to roll in, including some kind words from Greg McElhatton at Read About Comics.
Now that CAKE is past us, expect Secret Acres to be relatively quiet for a bit unless the aforementioned PACC returns this summer. Hopefully, those guys are listening. We’re not quite ready to make a formal announcement, but if you live in the U.S.A. and like those Koyama books, get ready to be happy. Meantime, we’ll be keeping our heads down and prepping four more new comics for you to devour this fall – including a very special, very big, very hard SPX debut. Because we’re total teases, there’s a teeny, tiny bit of the cover at the top of this post to keep you tantalized until September.
Leon and Barry
ON A WING and a prayer, we are flying to the inaugural Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, aka CAKE. This marks the first occasion that Secret Acres has gone airborne since Stumptown of 2010, which seems both difficult to believe and fitting, considering the very nature of our CAKE debut, Weather. It’s a swift, beautiful, existentialist poop joke of a comic from Gabby Schulz, the artist formerly known as Ken Dahl, mostly taking place at 40,000 feet above the earth. It’s the return (and possibly end) of Gabby’s premier avatar, Gordon Smalls, and it’s the first print comic from Mr. Schulz since Monsters (which has won or been nominated for more awards than we care to count since its release way back in 2009).
Ironically, Gabby himself will be making the CAKE trip by car, while Sean Ford will flying in along with his Only Skin. Only Skin has been feeling the love lately, from Bleeding Cool, the Mindhut, Graphic Eye, Paste Magazine and kinda sorta (but mostly sorta) Dave Ex Machina. Not a bad haul at all. Believe it or not, Mike Dawson and his Troop 142 have gotten some shoutouts lately, from our favorite Optical Sloth and the monolith of comics criticism, the Comics Journal.
Speaking of the TCJ review, we had a little fun on Twitter telling everyone that the book was demolished by Rob Clough. For the record, Mike started it. People clicked on those links hard enough to break them. What is it about a fight that gets everyone running? A little while back on this here Scuttlebutt blog, we went after MoCCA a bit and got like a million hits from all over the world. We sang the praises of TCAF and got crickets. Perhaps it’s the Big Two fanning the troll flames with enormous, deformed tits, or maybe it’s big budget prequels messing with the fanboy canon, but boy are folks touchy these days! While there’s been lots of fun and valuable talk about creator rights sneaking into these flame wars, it’s making publisher into a dirty word. We’re on your side, we swear. Maybe we’ll we tear CAKE a new one in the wrap-up just to get your attention.
For full disclosure, our man, Mr. Gaylord Phoenix himself, Edie Fake is one of the folks running CAKE (Yes, there’s no k in comics. No, they did not call it the Chicago ACE. Yes, there might be cake there.). He’s got some new books, too, in a manner of speaking. Edie’s showing up in Fantagraphics’ No Straight Lines, which sounds fantastic and includes some stuff straight out of Gaylord Phoenix, and Seven Stories Press will have more Edie in The Graphic Canon. Though he will probably be too busy being the host with the most to hang out at the Acres CAKE table (number 36 on the map), Edie will be moderating the Comics in Chicago panel on Sunday.
We really have no idea what to expect of CAKE, but looking at the programming and guest list, it’s shaping up to be a monster. If you can’t make CAKE, we have some surprises in the Emporium for you. Now on the digital shelves is the latest from Jon Allen, Vactionland, new-ish pal Sean K.‘s Rust Belt, Jumbly Junkery issues 9 and 10 from superstar L. Nichols, the second issue of the awesome Genus from Anuj Shrestha, The Complete Talamaroo by Alabaster (published by that upstart Hic & Hoc gang) and, if you just have to have more Edie, Gay Genius, from our friends at Sparkplug and Annie Murphy. See, that’s practically a con in itself.
We’ll be right back with a CAKE report, gunz blazin’ and knives out!
Barry and Leon
HELLO, everyone! We’re sending you off on your Memorial Day weekend (all you non-Americans can remember whatever you like as we Americans have friggin’ amnesia when it comes to our own history, anyway) with a little treat. This is our very first guest blogger here on Scuttlebutt and it is none other than Sean Ford, he of Only Skin fame. Sean and fellow Acre, Joseph Lambert went all the way to the Maine Comics Arts Festival without us and volunteered to report on the scene. He even provides photographic evidence! Take it away, Sean:
Last weekend, fellow Secret Acres artist Joseph Lambert and I went up to Maine for MECAF with good pals Charles Forsman, Melissa Mendes and Becca Lambert. Mosley Lambert stayed home to guard things. It was the third show in four weeks for some of our merry band, myself included, so road-weariness and poop jokes were in healthy supply.
My first stop on a whirlwind weekend tour of New England was to Chuck and Melissa’s idyllic Hancock, MA home. There I saw the amazing drawing studio they’ve set up and met Bruce, the chillest cat in the land. They have an amazing house that seems like the perfect place to draw and create awesome comics. And, of course, that’s just what they do. It makes sense. I also learned that Chuck’s cartooning prowess is matched only by his tortilla-making abilities. I didn’t take any pictures of this wonderful place and pictures wouldn’t do it justice anyway.
The next day, after a short morning walk in the woods, we drove up to White River Junction to meet the Lamberts. We took some windy back roads that I’d never taken before, driving through some beautiful Massachusetts and Vermont country with the windows down. We drove pretty close to the Bennington Triangle, which made me happy. We arrived in Vermont mid-afternoon and after sharing some smells with Mosley (Joe and Becca’s charming wolfboydog) we set out for Maine. The drive to Maine was uneventful, unless you count singing songs and fixing cars with gaffer’s tape.
On arriving in Maine, after deciding not to spend too much time in our uh… modestly outfitted (read: ‘a mix of dog and human pee and hair smell’) Motel 6 room we decided to investigate downtown Portland, Maine. We knew there had to be a MECAF-related party going on, we were just really bad about finding it. We got beers and nachos and ice cream instead.
The next day was MECAF. The show takes place in a wonderful building that is all glass and views of the harbor. Everything about the show was top notch – a beautiful, well organized space, cool panels, and friendly, helpful volunteers – they even had the option to order sandwiches for lunch that were hand-delivered by show-organizer and Casablanca Comics owner Rick Lowell. I missed that particular sammie boat, but that just seems really thoughtful. The show never felt particularly crowded (though Kate Beaton definitely had a long line), but it never felt empty, either. As people have said, it certainly felt like a kids-friendly show; there was even a 10-yr old selling his own drawings at his own table – and he was busy! And good! But there were certainly people interested in Secret Acres books, Sundays, Joe’s prints, Chuck’s The End of The Fucking World and Melissa’s Freddy Stories and Lou comics.
And that’s where it got interesting for me. I don’t know if this was the case, so forgive the speculation, but my sense was that most of the people who stopped by the SA table hadn’t heard of Secret Acres before and were willing to try out something new. Capacity caught a lot of eyes. As did PS Comics, I Will Bite You! and Only Skin. It seemed like the crowd at MECAF often didn’t come expecting to lay out money for bigger books, at least not past Hark! a Vagrant and the Amulet books, and so were caught off guard by the presence of Secret Acres and a $20 book like Capacity. But there were several distinct occasions where people found a book on the table, flipped through it for a while, put it down, picked it back up and then said “I have to get this, I’m going to find an ATM.” Usually someone saying they need to find an ATM at a comics show is code for “thanks, but no thanks,” but a lot of these folks actually came back with money in hand and picked up the books that had caught their eye. It is a really cool and rewarding feeling to help someone discover a book they knew nothing about. It felt like finding some of that Blue Ocean we talked about after TCAF. It also reminded me of Dylan Williams’ call for building communities at smaller regional shows. That’s exactly what MECAF was. And I think there is a potential to build something there for anyone willing to put in the time. Joe has been to three out of four MECAF shows over the years and has clearly built up an audience at the show. He wasn’t selling like gangbusters or anything, but he seemed to do quite well and run into a bunch of people who knew his work and were happy to see him again.
That’s what MECAF felt like – a small, smartly run show that can act as a platform for individual artists or small publishers to build an audience, helped by a beautiful location and good organization. It might be the sort of show an artist or small publisher needs to help carve out their place within, but that’s an exciting place to be in comics.
After the show we grabbed some pizza with the amazing Jose Luis Olivares, who had taken the bus up from Boston to say hi (sadly he didn’t bring his comics!) and then hit the road back to Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, having found some Blue Ocean and sung some Billy Ocean. We sing when we’re happy and MECAF had us singing. Thanks to everyone who made it a great weekend, from Rick Lowell’s awesome crew to intrepid customers willing to take a chance on something new to great great great old pals.
- Sean Ford
Now go and remember something! We’ll be back shortly with Emporium delirium, a CAKE recipe and a Weather report.
Barry and Leon and Sean
WE’RE PRETTY stupid, when you get down to it. An object in motion tends to be inconsiderate, and we tend not to consider the possible consequences of our actions when we are moving as quickly as possible. So let’s consider!
It’s obvious that death notes tend to get a lot more eyeballs than love letters (see: the internet). The conversations about the future, or lack thereof, of MoCCA the festival and museum, which happened in the comments of our blog (and offstage) were many and got the attention of several of our heroes in this comics world. We were thrilled about this. We were not thrilled that the only person voicing MoCCA’s positives (which exist) was a volunteer. The volunteers are the best constant of all things MoCCA. And no one speaking in any official capacity from the museum had a word to say. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.
As for stupid us, we also took a jab at one of the big boy pants comics publishing houses. We may not be smart, but we’re a bit oversensitive, very overprotective and certainly smartasses, so when our feelings are hurt over any kind of perceived slight, we break out a zinger or two. Our reward for a lousy assumption was a long and fascinatingly honest conversation with someone we didn’t think knew we existed. Of course, this makes us even less likely to consider our words when we are miffed. To the target of our snarkiness: thank you for treating us like grownups; it’s more than we deserve.
Apologies should also be extended to Sean T. Collins and Tom Neely (of Sparkplug and Tom Neely fame), who tried to warn us that bringing a comic like Wayward Girls over the border for a Toronto Comic Arts Festival debut was maybe not a good idea. Last year, Tom and Sparkplug were held at the border and had their books confiscated for six months. The year before, Ryan Matheson was arrested and jailed for carrying manga over the border. None of these people were transporting anything remotely as provocative as Wayward Girls, the content of which stretches the limits of plausible deniability. Still, M.K. Reed, our ridemate (poor woman) didn’t try to stop us, either.
We can’t say we didn’t know. We can say we didn’t care, at least until we met a very unfriendly border guard. A fellow mumbler, we kept asking her to repeat herself until we were certain we were going to jail. Finally, she sent us to pay our taxes. As we were leaving, we saw a troop of men carrying machine guns heading over to check out the car that showed up after us. Only after we were pulling away did we start freaking out. Why are we so stupid?
Haunted by our idiocy, we didn’t get much sleep. We did have a hell of a view from the large balcony of our guest suite in a building that houses both Annie Koyama and the Toronto International Film Festival. With all those goodies, there was still no soap, because weren’t clever enough to remember to pick any up. We spent the entire weekend shrouded in the subtle bouquet of Nivea Cashmere Moments hand soap.
In this state we arrived at TCAF to find our table, which took us a while because it was in the middle of nowhere and behind a pillar. Mike Dawson immediately christened it Pete Campbell’s Office. We did, however, get everything we asked for from TCAF. We were next to the Sundays table (again, always and forever, we will be sitting with Chuck Forsman and Melissa Mendes) so Joseph Lambert could two-time us. Sundays was next to Beth Hetland, who was next to John Chad, all by request.
As you might expect, being out of the way and behind a pole didn’t do wonders for business. We asked to be relocated, which the TCAF folks set to work on and they immediately produced and handed out flyers to tell people know where our small press area was. It worked. There were other convention impressarios taking notes on TCAF’s organizational skills. As well they should because TCAF is untouchable. No one flips their lid when the hall is too hot, or there’s a video glitch at the Doug Wright Awards because bringing a problem to the attention of the TCAF gang is the same as getting a solution.
We had so much fun at TCAF last year that we’d have come back even if we’d lost money (which we didn’t). This year, we sold of out of almost everything, praise be to Annie Koyama, because sneaking Wayward Girls over the border twice would be pushing even our dumb luck. Major congratulations are in order for Michiel Budel aka Slechte Meisjes for a sellout debut. Sean Ford, on his way to selling out of Only Skin, had the thought that the crowded aisles may have worked against us last year. Our books are all over the map and it takes a little space to look them over, fondle them a bit, buy them a drink and get them in the mood before taking them home. We even had room for guest star Brendan Leach, selling his new and excellent mini, Ironbound, at the Acres table after selling out of his Pterodactyl Hunters at the Top Shelf stand.
Once again, we sold the vast majority of our wares to women. Generally, there was the sense that we were selling comics to civilians, not Comics People, which is the benefit of both free admission and to the scale of TCAF. It’s big enough to take over the uber-worldly supermetropolis of Toronto. Shocking as it was, the pathologically shy Mike Dawson was the only one who didn’t like Pete Campbell’s Office because he felt like he was missing the party.
There is no missing the TCAF party. We made an excellent new pal of Derf Backderf, who was there to sell out of My Friend Dahmer. Nate Bulmer should expect our company on the regular. Josh Bayer was lurking at dinner time, which was a banquet every night. We got all blushy and toed the floor when Zak Sally came by to say hello. We saw our old pals, Alex Kim, L. Nichols (and lovely wife, Christina), Kevin Czap, Becca Lambert (yes, Joe is married), Robin Nishio, Laila Emir, Scoop MacDonald (no longer a TCAF virgin), Michael Deforge and still failed to so much as say hello to Tom Devlin for the second time in as many weeks.
Speaking of friends, our panel was really fun, especially for those of us on the panel, which were Annie Koyama, Pat Grant, Sarah Howell, Matthew Sheret, John Retallick and us. We learned a lot about comics in the UK and Australia (!) and how they’re developing the indie comics scenes over there. We’re fascinated by their community building efforts, which for the Aussies included renting a former communist youth camp and inviting the entire country’s comics population to hang out and just play, no show involved at all. TCAF brings you the world.
It’s hard not to fall in love with everyone over a weekend like that, and we’re too foolish to protect our hearts. The one thing TCAF is missing, organizationally, is a helpline to deal with the massive separation anxiety after it’s over. Love hurts. That’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. It hurt a little less when we got home to find a ton of messages from folks wondering if we were in jail.
Also, that little drawing up there of a plane flying in a pink sky? That’s a sliver from a new comic by the artist formerly known as Ken Dahl. We’ll have more on that when come back here to talk about CAKE. Right now, it’s time for more tears of loneliness.
Leon and Barry
IF YOU CAN’T say anything nice, et cetera, et cetera. Well, we can say plenty of nice things and though it isn’t in the true spirit of the internet, we’ll start with the niceties:
We have never missed a MoCCA Fest. Ever. When we were fans and Secret Acres was not even a glimmer in our little eyes, we were there. When we were comics pros with a little something on the side with the Highwater Books gang, we were there. When we were stalking the artists who would make Secret Acres, we were there. We have never missed a MoCCA as Secret Acres and we have always had a debut, sometimes two, at MoCCA every year of our existence and we likely always will. Partly this is because we’re not stupid enough to leave money on the table, and largely this is because MoCCA is New York City’s premier art comics festival and we take pride in that, damn it. Please keep all this mind if you plan on reading any further.
For the last few years, the exhibitors and the audience have grown more and more uncomfortable with the MoCCA Festival. This isn’t up for debate. Since the move from the beloved Puck Building, things have changed and not for the better. There is no way to please all of the people all of the time, but never has the time come when anyone was heard to say they were thankful that MoCCA had moved to the Armory.
Everyone was thankful when MoCCA moved to April and away from New York’s more stifling and muggy warmer months. Beyond that obvious improvement, it would appear no one is listening, so let’s repeat ourselves. Here’s what we suggested a couple years back: Lower the table fees. Let people in free. Have a sliding scale for exhibitors. Consider a curated festival. Turn it into an arts festival proper.
That post was re-blogged and retweeted more than anything else we have written on here. Other ideas were thrown into the mix along the way, like giving every exhibitor a year’s membership to the museum to remind folks it exists. We’d thought with attendance visibly down last year, that maybe the museum and the festival organizers might start paying attention. This year’s response? Silence and higher admissions prices for members and non-members alike, to the tune of $15. Per day.
Once upon a time, people would talk about who was at MoCCA. Now we talk about who isn’t there. We, meaning tiny, little Secret Acres got some odd, competitive jabs from some of the big boys who sit at the front of the Armory, apologizing for what they saw as poaching our gang while proudly admitting that their rather large staff doesn’t edit the books they publish. Hey, with the sheer volume of what they produce, we’d be surprised if anyone up there even remembers what they publish. But why us? Maybe it was because there was no Koyama Press, no Sparkplug, no Adhouse, no Picturebox and they had to pick on somebody.
Thinking about Picturebox being absent from MoCCA was interesting in itself. We wondered why, exactly, the biggest art comics publisher in the city wouldn’t show up for MoCCA. Was it because of the dustup after the museum didn’t credit creators at its Archie exhibit? Was it because the Picturebox co-production, the Brooklyn Comic and Graphics Festival, does just about everything right and has slurped up what used to be the lifeblood of the MoCCA Fest? Was Dan Nadel, the Picturebox captain, fed up with the name calling and bullshit from folks angry over MoCCA being criticized by the Comics Journal, which he edits? Any of those would be reason enough.
Maybe Picturebox doesn’t want to play to an empty house. Attendance was down last year. One might argue that is was flat, but it was down. This year, attendance was down by at least a third, and that’s a conservative estimate. If we were told attendance was down by 1,000 people, that would be suspicious. The story that attendance was up by 1,000 people is laughable. No one who was there could believe that. Which is more depressing, that attendance is dropping like a stone or that this fact can’t even be acknowledged by the festival’s organizers?
The real problem is the disconnect between the museum and the festival. This was never more evident than in the absurd, defensive comments following that TCJ article on the museum. Some anonymous but ardent supporter of the museum took it upon himself to lay the responsibility at the feet of us “indies,” claiming that we complain about the festival and the museum, but don’t support it. By the museum’s own admission, the festival is the sole fundraiser that keeps the struggling Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art alive. Guess who all of the exhibitors are? They’re us indies. That includes the bigger houses at the front of the room, too. The publishers at the front of the Diamond Previews catalog aren’t showing up at all, but the museum’s programming caters mostly to their fans. We like Archie, too, but that’s not going to get the folks on the floor of the MoCCA fest to feel any kind of ownership of the museum, which should be supporting them as much as the festival exhibitors support the museum.
The irony here is that we had a blast at MoCCA. The volunteers were their usual wonderful selves, and even included our pals from [insertgeekhere] who wound up interviewing our own Sean Ford about Only Skin on Sunday. Saturday started off so dead that we had plenty of time to meet and greet the cartoonists behind the tables, pick up new books to carry in our distro (coming soon) from Anuj Shrestha and Sean K, and we even discovered a brand new and very promising indie publisher in Hic and Hoc. Our sales did not stink and it was not our Worst MoCCA Ever, though it was our first step back at MoCCA.
Our big debut, Only Skin, got off to a nice start. We had Eamon Espey with us and we talked about his new book (coming later this year). We got to hang out with Charles Forsman (the guy behind the best ongoing series out there, The End of the Fucking World) and Melissa Mendes (she of Freddy Stories fame) all day and night. We got to eat dinner with the Dongery guys (an easy pick for Stars of the Show). We have one hell of a haul from MoCCA, thanks to folks like Domino Books, Closed Caption Comics and the Secret Prison/Suspect Device/Retrofit unholy trinity.
To quote Matt Thurber, who wasn’t at the nonexistent Picturebox tables, “It’s a room full of people I love, so I’m going to be there.” We agree and we will be back at MoCCA. They may not let us back in after reading this, but that would assume that they’re reading anything on this site. We hope they are, because the problems with the museum and festival are real and need fixing before there’s no MoCCA to come back to.
The real good time for us was at Bergen Street Comics, which is kind of our home away from home these days. We have to admit that we were worried about folks showing up on MoCCA’s Saturday night, but those thoughts went right out the window from the get. The Only Skin release party was practically an all-nighter. We wound up having to say good night to Darryl Ayo twice, who left us once to go to another party, but stopped in again since were still rockin’. Bergen Street are the people who aren’t carrying the Before Watchmen comics – and good for them. Tucker Stone is the guy who made it fun for us to have a pull list again. They totally made our weekend. We can’t thank them enough and many, many thanks to all the folks who came by to pick up Only Skin and get their ghost balloons.
Next up for us is TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Everyone loves this show. It’s pretty much perfect. You may have heard that we’ve got another new comic to drop at TCAF called Wayward Girls. The smart move would be to keep quiet about it until we get across the border. This is convenient because it’s a little hard to describe. It is the English language print edition of the Dutch webcomic, Slechte Meisjes by Michiel Budel. It’s beautiful, it’s a little nasty and it’s a lot of fun. We keep using the phrase “barely legal” when we talk about it, which we will stop doing after we tell you that you can get some at TCAF this weekend and pre-order some from the Emporium right now.
Michiel is in Holland, but Joseph Lambert, Mike Dawson and Sean Ford will be at the Secret Acres table with their books. Neither Sean’s Only Skin nor Mike’s Troop 142 have made it across the border before, and Joe probably doesn’t remember much from last year’s TCAF, so this ought to be interesting.
On a more pressing note, Secret Acres will be representing the United States of America on a TCAF panel on comics of the Commonwealth of Nations (that would include Canada, England and Australia, apparently, which we didn’t know because we’re Americans). If you are a real American cartoonist, send us pictures of yourselves and your work. The Aussies have gone and escalated things a bit by bringing their own slideshow. It’s strange that we are debuting our first international comic and doing it Canada, but USA gotta represent. We need you!
See you on the other side if we don’t get jailed by mounties on the way.
Barry and Leon
SORRY WE’RE LATE, but traffic was a bitch. Welcome to the new Secret Acres site, everybody. Things had gotten sprawl-ish in the old joint, but it’s all under one roof here, which should surely make your lives a little easier.
You may have noticed that there’s a bunch of stuff gone AWOL, like the Ad Rem links page, the Critical Ends essays and Small Plates weekly snippets of our comics. Alas, some of those lovely features will not be joining us in the new world. If you were on our links page, we’re following you on Twitter and you never shut up. Instead of Small Plates, we will be adding chunky previews of everything Acres. There’s more treats in development, so if you’ve got any thoughts on what you’d like to see, let us know.
This being our first blog post of 2012, in April, is a little bit embarrassing and deserves an explanation. We go into hibernation after the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, which is usually our last show of the year. Still, we never even did a 2011 Year in Review type of thing, and for that, we blame Tom Spurgeon. If you didn’t read our Comics Reporter Holiday Interview, well, don’t. For the rest of you, thanks, seriously, for all your kind words about it, but after so much blather in one go, we were ready to enjoy the silence. Besides, we’ve been busy and love means never having to say you’re sorry. But we can make it up to you, to the tune of seven Secret Acres comics in the next seven months, and one rather large book in the next seven days.
It’s been a slow apocalypse indeed, but Only Skin has arrived. It is big in many ways, weighing in at nearly two pounds. That’s 272 oversized, creamy pages worth of Sean Ford‘s blood, sweat and tears. In what was maybe the most ambitious effort we’ve ever been associated with, Sean went back to the drawing board on his epic thriller that’s been five years in the making. There are several dozen new pages, a new (and vastly improved, if we say so ourselves (and we do)) ending and every page reflects what Sean can do now. We couldn’t be more proud if we made the thing ourselves, so we are celebrating the debut of Only Skin all weekend long, all over America.
This Saturday and Sunday, Sean will be defending the Secret Acres fort at MoCCA, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival, at the Lexington Avenue Armory in Manhattan. The first among you to pick up Only Skin will get your very own pet ghost (see below). When the show stops on Saturday, the party starts at Brooklyn’s own Bergen Street Comics, for a launch party complete with beer and bubbly, starting at eight. Because too much is never enough, the Acres MoCCA table will also play host to Sean’s fifth (!) installment of his Sundays anthology, co-edited with Chuck Forsman, Alex Kim and our very own Joseph Lambert, featuring not only their talents, but those of Michael Deforge, Malachi Ward, Brendan Leach and Acres artists John Brodowski and Minty Lewis. And that’s just to name a few. We’ll even be joining Box Brown and Craig Yoe on a MoCCA panel, “The State of Small Publishing,” moderated by the Beat herself, Heidi “Scoop” MacDonald. (If you are the Comic Guru aka Jonathan Lee von Strausberg III, please do stop by, and if the rest of you are also wondering who the hell Jonathan Lee von Strausberg III is, see the comments here.)
It is an action-packed weekend for Secret Acres on both sides of the country. Joe Lambert is still on his west coast tour that began with him taking his LA Time Book Prize nominated I Will Bite You! and Other Stories to the LA Times Festival of Books at USC. His journey continues this weekend with Joe joining our man (and godlike talent) Theo Ellsworth at the Secret Acres setup for the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Oregon. Not only will Only Skin be making a simultaneous debut at Stumptown, but you can also pick up Joe’s first original graphic novel, Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. It’s not one of ours, but we swear it’s good, and you really, truly, want to get Joe and Theo to draw something for you.
Joe won’t be coming home right away, either. He’ll be making a pitstop at camp Secret Acres for TCAF, the Toronto Comics and Art Festival. Yes, that’s Toronto as in Canada. Sean will be escorting Only Skin to the great north, along with Mike Dawson who might be bringing some Heroclix to play with while our Troop 142 makes its Canadian debut (and boy, wait till they find out what Canadian means in Troop 142).
We’ll have yet another brand new Secret Acres comic making its debut at TCAF, too. We’ll save the details for that one when we come back here for our MoCCA and Stumptown wrap-ups, but you can probably guess what it might be since there’s a new addition to the Acres gang. Meanwhile, it’d be a good idea to keep our mouths shut in case any of those Royal Canadian Mounties are listening. This little comic’s barely legal.
Barry and Leon
ALL NIGHT PASSION got us through the day. It was a race to the finish line for BCGF. We haven’t pulled so many all-nighters since the last time we had finals. Secretly, we were learning a new trick, which kinda sucks for old dogs like us. After getting so-so quotes from printers for Curio Cabinet 5, we came to the conclusion that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourselves (or call a librarian). As the man says, printin’ ain’t easy. We had major production assists from our very own Sean Ford and Paint Bucket Studio to get to the end. All in all, we figure it’s a big improvement on our other stitched books. You printers worry not. We won’t be getting into the binding business. Like ever. But, boy, did it feel good to get our hands dirty. This digital world is fun and all, but actually making something with your hands is satisfying in ways that no amount of hours spent in the Adobe suite could ever be. We may expand this operation. We shall see.
We were relieved to be able to bring an actual copy of Curio Cabinet 5 to our dinner with Anne Koyama on the Thursday before the big, bad Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest. If ever you are hungry, or sober, Annie is there with a solution. She fed Edie Fake, Gabby Schulz, Sean and us a shocking amount of fat and beer – though Annie is no beer guy. It’s truly impossible to see enough of her. Every time we do get to hang out, we get a little more of her story and a lot more encouragement. She would be dropping a whopping three debut comics on BCGF, because she has limitless energy. If we were tired, she was wired. (There’s advantages to each.)
Sometime the following night, while we were cutting another batch of comics, nearly the entire Secret Acres gang had arrived in Brooklyn. We were missing our beloved lady of the Acres, Minty Lewis, kind of evil genius, Eamon Espey and Theo Ellsworth. However, Joseph Lambert and Sean were off checking out Jack Davis at the Scott Eder Gallery. John Brodowski, man of the hour, had dropped Sam Gaskin off to work the Extreme Animals show, where he would wrestle with Edie. Mike Dawson was probably home with his family where he belonged. Who knows where the hell Gabby was. The point is that we were, nearly all of us, in the same place. Of course, not one of these people actually helped load the ride at three in the morning, but whatever.
There were two huge tables with our name on them. We have never had so much real estate at a show. It was a necessary thing, with seven artists and their wares, a debut and, of course, dozens of mini-comics. We were between Koyama Press and Drawn & Quarterly, which meant Peggy Burns. We should apologize to Peggy. A nine hour stretch is a tough thing and no one wanted to leave the table, so pizza, beer and the snack packs were being raided in front of god and everybody and Peggy. We have a hard time coming up with outfits to please the D&Q gang, but, yes, we deserved all the finger wagging for feasting at the table. Sorry, Peggy!
It was difficult to find a good time to explore, because the rhythm of the show was so strange. With the panels moved off-site to Union Pool and the downstairs opened up, it created an odd lightning attack style of sales. People were snatching up Curio Cabinet 5 in numbers that left us 3 copies shy of a sellout, and we sold a chunk of everything else, but there were several times when someone at the table asked if sales were bad. They weren’t. It felt as if someone were dropping off a bus of customers every half hour or so. We were swamped, and then relative crickets, and then swamped again. Was it because panels were letting out? Was it a problem with the L train? We have no clue. We did very well and this shouldn’t be taken as a complaint. Compared to last year’s compact floor space, it never felt overwhelmingly crowded. Maybe that was it? In any case, BCGF remains one of our strongest shows. It may also be the best place on the planet for a book like Curio Cabinet 5.
We missed picking up Kramer’s Ergot 8 and Nobrow 6 and Night Business 4, which all seemed to be gunning for Book of Show. We barely even had time to waive at our hero, Chris Pitzer, but we pretty much have all his books, anyhow. We did clean up at the Electric Ant/Press Gang table, picking up the very impressive Study Group Magazine 1 and an original drawing from Johnny Negron for twenty bucks, which seems completely insane. There was Rub the Blood and Skin, Deep and Free Ice Cream. We finally bagged the Wolf and Danger Country. We stole Comics Class, Rivers Forgotten and the World of Gloria Badcock from our neighbor. We were gifted The End of the Fucking World part 2 and Hey, Fag! and the fantastic Vacuum Horror by some guy named Max Morris. At any other show, we’d be okay with this. At BCGF, it’s an embarrassment.
After a brief pit stop for some wings, beer and mixed martial arts fighting, we went to Bill Kartolopoulos’ house because that’s always where the party’s at. Practically the entire Lambiek Comiclopedia was there. We somehow missed Jesse Moynihan and Josh Simmons, whom we’ve always wanted to see because his comics scare the bejesus out of us. We did not miss out on our annual post-BCGF gossip fest with the Beat. (Heidi MacDonald does indeed know everyone and everything.) We got to see our old pal, Randy Chang, who’d been all buddy-buddy with Zack Soto all day. It’s good to see Randy lurking. It means he’s not out of the comics game just yet. People must have been waiting for us old comics dads to leave, because it was Brooklyn Canoodle and Groping Fest the minute we left. Like Caligula or SDCC, but cuter. We’d spill the deets, but what happens at BCGF stays at BCGF.
The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival is always a great way for us to end our comics year, but there was a lot of significance to this one for us. It was fitting that we were putting out Curio Cabinet 5, since the man behind it, John Brodowski, was the first person we ever talked to about Secret Acres. It was special because so many of the Secret Acres family were in the house. It really reminded us of how far we’ve come. Speaking of family, take a peek at Griffin Ellsworth. We missed you, Theo, but that’s a good excuse.
Barry and Leon