HANG DAI Editions hits MoCCA Fest with new comics

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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