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HANG DAI Editions hits MoCCA Fest with new comics

by  in Comic News Comment
HANG DAI Editions hits MoCCA Fest with new comics

Founded in 2013 by Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel and Seth Kushner, the Brooklyn-based HANG DAI Editions (HDE) imprint has always struck me as more of a family.

This weekend, Benton, Haspiel, Kushner and Josh Neufeld, who joined HANG Dai last year, premiere new comics at MoCCA Fest 2015 [at Table 314]. To mark the occasion, I conducted a brief Q&A with each creator, in which they share what makes MoCCA such a great show.

No one is happier about it than Kushner, particularly as MoCCA 2014 was the last show he attended before his diagnosis with myeloid acute leukemia. So, much to everyone’s delight, MoCCA 2015 heralds Kushner’s return to comics.

Gregory Benton

Tim O’Shea: What were the inspirations/motivations for your latest projects?

Gregory Benton: I have two new-to-MoCCA books for this festival. STAKE, which takes the character F from my AdHouse book B+F and expands on her lore. It is wordless and watercolor, short, sweet and violent. The other publication is Pocket Book 2, a loose narrative told through life-drawn sketchbook pages. Not intended as a story when executed, more a collection of drawings assembled from various sketchbooks that convey a journey. Both of these books had life as limited hand printed/made editions that have now been released in a more conventional format.

Are there any creators or projects you are looking forward to seeing at MoCCA?

MoCCA has always been a great show for me. I love that the Society of Illustrators has breathed new life into it and enabled the festival to continue. I am very much looking forward to what Keren Katz will have this year. She designed the badges for this show, and her comix are always incredible: personal, poetic and fantastical. Jon Chad will no-doubt have some amazingly engineered small batch comics. I want to pick up the new Ink Brick, Alexander Rothman’s anthology of poetry comics. Pat Dorian (Grand Comics Fest creator) will have a wordless bio-comic about Lon Chaney Sr. which looks intriguing. Andrea Tsurumi always has something great, and will be debuting her mini Library Book which might be book porn, I don’t know. The fun thing about MoCCA is just wandering, talking with folks and finding those great works you’d never see otherwise. I’m very excited for that.

And of course it will be great to have Seth there. He’s been sorely missed on these Hang Dai Editions festival excursions.

Dean Haspiel

What was the inspiration/motivation for your latest book?

Dean Haspiel: I’ve been itching to collect my short Billy Dogma stories under one cover for awhile now and Heart-Shaped Hole serves as the perfect starter kit for the uninitiated. I described the project as: Billy Dogma and Jane Legit punch the apocalypse right in the kisser as their eternal war of woo breaks a Trip City-wide hymen.

Heart-Shaped Hole will not be distributed in stores nor digitally and you can only get it personally by visiting me at any of the comix shows I attend. Heart-Shaped Hole is a 21st century olive branch meant to initiate an intimate, one-on-one experience between the reader and author. Too many published stories that I work on get distributed to places and people that I never get to meet and/or share a response with. Sure, social networking teases at some parlays, and positive reviews are nice, but I miss physical and spirited discussions with people who care more about story than the perceived “collectors item” value of a sealed comic book. I sometimes curate/host and take-part in semi-regular salons because I seek the energy of live and spontaneous participation. Heart-Shaped Hole is meant to bring back the very thing that is missing from my laptop and smart phone: human contact.

What prompted you to premiere Heart-Shaped Hole at MoCCA?

MoCCA is New York City’s top comix show that celebrates alternative comix art and independent publishing. I’ve been attending shows like these across the boroughs and nation — hawking my personal wares and premiering my signature works — since 1995. And, even though I currently make my living writing and drawing franchise characters, communities like MoCCA (and other small press expos) encourages me to produce new, original and unexpurgated comix.

Are there any creators or projects you are looking forward to seeing at MoCCA?

The community aspect is my favorite part of these indie/alt comix shows. I get to see old friends and make new ones. I get to feel out-of-touch and ancient but reinvigorated, sometimes angered, often surprised by what I see. I hold court and stay en garde as the new guard breaks ground for what’s cool and different. It’s at shows like MoCCA that I get to discover the likes of David (The Rise) Trustman, who brings a whole new level of folk-art to super-mythology, and artists like my studio mate, Christa Cassano, who will debut a 50-panel hexagon comic that you can read backwards and forwards and puts a spell on you. And, if you think about it, it’s shows like MoCCA, SPX, CAB, APE, etc., NOT the mainstream shows, that rallied a few kids in Philadelphia at Locust Moon Comics to put up or shut up and, not only curate and host their own indie/alt-comix show but also produce a passionate tome like LITTLE NEMO: Dream Another Dream, arguably the best anthology of this decade.

Josh Neufeld

What was the inspiration/motivation for your latest work?

Josh Neufeld: This year I’ll be debuting The Vagabonds #4 at MoCCA. The previous issue of The Vagabonds was an all-journalism issue, and this issue also features a journalism piece to start things off. “Crossing the Line” details a case of ethnic/racial profiling at the U.S./Canadian border that appears to be anything but random and rare. I first got wind of the story via journalist Sarah Abdurrahman’s radio piece about her own detainment, which was broadcast on the National Public Radio show On the Media. Abdurrahman’s piece screamed to be told in comics form: the freezing cold rooms, the heartless treatment of families with small children, and most appallingly, the endless, repetitive interrogations. After speaking with Khaled A., one of the subjects of Abdurrahman’s piece, I was determined to focus my story on his particular experiences. “Crossing the Line” is the result. The story is one of my more personal — you might say, “subjective” — piece of comics journalism. As the creator, I am also a “character,” the interlocutor who responds to Khaled in sympathy and outrage. In this historical moment, American law enforcement’s treatment of people of color bears scrutiny (cf. Michael Brown, Eric Garner). “Crossing the Line” may stray into editorializing, but my hope is that it resonates broadly.

But as my readers know, I do comics work other than journalism as well, from auto-bio to offbeat stories taken from real life. And I’ve collaborated with a lot of writers over the years — including my wife, the fiction writer Sari Wilson. So this issue collects three pieces Sari & I have created over the last few years; it’s exciting for me to share her unique sensibility with the world! She’s got her debut novel coming out next year, by the way: Girl Through Glass, from Harper… And the issue rounds out with a couple of other light-hearted pieces, including two “Travel Tips.”

What prompted you to decide to premiere it at MoCCA?

I give all credit to my old buddy Dean Haspiel — as well as fellow Hang Dai Editions members Greg Benton and Seth Kushner — for inviting me to join the exclusive HDE club! That invite back in 2013 is what sparked me to revive The Vagabonds and to get back to the comics festival circuit. Even though I treasure the role of a book “author” that I’ve enjoyed (with books like A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge and The Influencing Machine), I also love the DIY milieu of festivals like MoCCA. And as a group HDE vowed to all have debut books for this year’s show.

The part I like most about what we’re doing at Hang Dai is that we’re not interested in distributing our comics in the traditional ways, through comic stores and the like. We’re all about the direct relationship between the artist and the reader. The only way to get a copy of The Vagabonds is in person from me — no middle-man — and you get a free sketch in the process!

Are there any creators or projects you are looking forward to seeing at MoCCA?

I’ve been to every MoCCA since it started way back in 2002, and I love it — it’s like an old friend that I get to spend a weekend with every year. One of the best things about the show is that it’s right here in my hometown of New York City — but I also love the crowds: it’s a mix of old friends, colleagues, and of course comics fans of all stripes and colors. And people who just wander in — usually with big wondering smiles on their faces.

What I love to do at shows like MoCCA is to go in without expectations and just walk around, soak in the atmosphere, and see what catches my eye. I’m always on the lookout for work from people whose work I admire — Nick Bertozzi and Andrea Tsurumi come immediately to mind — but inevitably some buzz develops around a book I never knew about beforehand, and that’s what I gravitate toward.

Most of all, I’m thrilled beyond belief that Seth will be making his miraculous comeback from leukemia at this show. That and the new venue (Center548) promise to make MoCCA 2015 a show to remember.

Seth Kushner

What was the inspiration/motivation for your latest book, Secret Sauce?

Seth Kushner: Having been off the grid for the past year while battling leukemia, I wanted to make something new to celebrate being alive after doctors told me I was going to die. Secret Sauce is an anthology of mostly new stories and represents the type of stories I want to tell and the kind of comics I plan to make moving forward.

What prompted you to decide to premiere it at MoCCA?

MoCCA Fest 2014 was the last con I attended before I got sick so returning for the 2015 show means a lot to me. The entire comics community has been so supportive of me this past year so I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone there and thanking them in person.

Are there any creators or projects you are looking forward to seeing at MoCCA?

I always love walking around the show and seeing everyone’s latest stuff and I usually spend at least as much money as I make. I hope to run into Scott McCloud so I can congratulate him on The Sculptor, his new book which I loved.

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