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