MoCCA in words and pictures

With a cheerful crowd, a pleasant venue, and plenty of exciting creators and books, this year's MoCCA seems to have been deemed a success. Both Christopher Mautner and I were there, and we decided that rather than write two separate blog posts, we would have a dialogue in which we contrast our impressions of the show. If you're looking for a more comprehensive report on the show, check out the MoCCA report by our CBR colleague Alex Dueben as well as Tim Callahan's writeup of his visit.

Chris: I'll start: Was this your first time at a small-press comics show? I know you've gone to NYCC and several manga/anime related shows before, but I didn't know if you'd been to something like MoCCA before? What was your general impression?

Brigid: This was my first time at MoCCA and my first time at a small-press comicsshow like this, although I have been to art shows with a similar feel.

First of all, I loved the locale. I actually used to live a few blocks away, so it was a bit of a homecoming for me to walk through Madison Square Park in the sunshine. The building itself had a nice, open, loft-like feel with plenty of rough edges—it felt artsy.

The show itself seemed like a giant, really good, Artists Alley. (I kept getting this feeling of deja vu because there were so many people I had just seen at C2E2.) The show definitely felt crowded, but never overwhelming. I made a pretty good circuit of the floor, but I felt like I missed as much as I saw, and I could easily have spent twice as much time there as I did.

It seems to me that MoCCA is a show that everyone loves to complain about—it was too hot, too crowded, the layout was weird and they totally missed half the tables. This year's show looked pretty smooth to me—I experienced no lines, no hassles, and no discomfort other than sore feet.

Chris: From my vantage point, this year's MoCCA seemed a lot more successful than last years—larger crowds and more exhibitors—last year had "open tables" to lay your stuff on if weary, a sign that they they didn't get as many tables as they would have liked. Not so this year.

Brigid: I actually would have appreciated an open table, with a couple of chairs as well. But yes, it felt very full. I get the feeling this is a hometown show for New York-based artists, and I was delighted to meet Julia Wertz (and chagrined that I missed Kate Beaton). Yet people also traveled quite a ways--I talked to one creator who came out from Portland, Oregon, and he was heading back to go to Stumptown next weekend. The fact that someone would do that makes this show pretty special.

As someone who has obviously been to MoCCA before, how did this year compare with previous years?

Chris: Agreed on the "crowded but not overwhelming" aspect. It was nice to not constantly be bumping into people and getting hit by stray tote bags, like I usually am at these things.

Speaking of tote bags, was it just me or was every publisher and their red-headed stepchild giving away one of those things at the show? Even Picturebox had tote bags! I know it's a handy bit of marketing and helps people lug around all their books, but its ubiquity tickled me for some reason.

But yeah, definitely one of the better MoCCAs I've been to in terms of crowd, access and just ease of getting around. I got to bump into lot of people I enjoy talking comics with, like Tucker Stone, Sean Witzke and Douglas Wolk, and put some new faces with names like Matthias Wivel and CBR's Alex Deuben, so I was happy. These events tend to be socializing events as much as they are to get new comics. In fact, I wasn't sure beforehand if there were that many books I was interested in picking up. Thankfully that proved not to be the case and I left wishing I had been able to shell out for a couple other titles that caught my eye.

Did you attend any of the panels? It took Jog and I about a good 2 1/2 hours just to make it around the room, and then we did a good bit of socializing, so we didn't head downstairs to catch any of the talks. To be perfectly honest, there wasn't much in that regard that caught my interest but perhaps you caught a good discussion?

Brigid: I saw some nice tote bags, but I managed to buy a small enough stack that I didn’t need one. Kate Dacey, who accompanied me, observed that there seemed to be a lot of variation in price, and she thought some of the handmade comics were overpriced. I know it’s your pride and joy, but if a comic is six or eight photocopied sheets stapled together, perhaps $10 to $20 is too high a price? On the other hand, I saw beautifully bound books with elaborate covers that seemed like a bargain. The best sort of purchase, I think, is a comic like the one I bought from Daniel Spottswood: It was a mini-comic, printed in color, with some pages that folded up into bigger comics. It felt handmade but polished at the same time, and it was only $3. And when I pulled it out, people said “Oh, cool!” That’s exactly what I was going to MoCCA to see.

And let me follow that up with a question for you—what was your best purchase at the show?

Chris: Well, obviously I haven't gone through all of my haul yet, but certainly one of the books I'm most looking forward to reading is that huge, bright pink slab of a Finnish comics anthology that they were hawking over at the Scandinavian tables. I was really impressed with the offerings laid out along this area. The signal to noise ratio seemed to be higher there more than at just about any other exhibitor. One person I bought a book from took a picture of me (and other customers) to prove to his wife that he wasn't just in New York on holiday. That made me extra happy I bought his book.

Another excited purchase of mine was Pinocchio by French cartoonist Winshluss, which Last Gasp had a nice, new English edition of. Mathias Wivel, who I met at the show (Hi Matthias!) warned me the book is a bit too "oh, I'm so daring and naughty" but it's still a visual treat.

Other things I bought include Rubber Necker #5 by Nick Bertozzi, Farm 54, the new book from Fanfare/Ponent Mon, and, though everyone seemed excited that Pantheon had copies of Dan Clowes' Mister Wonderful on hand, I opted to get Ben Katchor's latest, The Cardboard Valise, signed by the author, natch.

What did you get at the show? What book or books did you hear people talking about or see folks clutching madly? More importantly, did you hear any good Brecht Evens stories? Just about everywhere I went, someone would say to me, "Have you met Brecht Evens yet?" and then launch into some fantabulous story about the artist. Apparently Brecht Evens is a magical, woodland sprite that greets every cartoonist he meets with giant embraces and affectionate kisses, macks on just about every pretty girl in his vicinity and almost got arrested for drinking in public. Apparently when he was ticketed by the police officer he immediately proceeded to paint a gorgeous watercolor drawing on the ticket and threw it back in the cop's face saying "This is a picture of me having sex with your mother." I may have made that last part up.

Brigid: There were a few things that made me really happy. I got a signed mini-comic from Julia Wertz, who is one of my favorite cartoonists of all time—I think her Drinking at the Movies is brilliant. Like you, I picked up an advance copy of Area 54 at the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth. I think the Rica ‘tte Kanji!? doujinshi is really special, though, because it’s such a unique comic, a yuri manga by a Japanese creator in a very unusual style. For five bucks, I got a really one-of-a-kind comic. I got some unusual mini-comics too, but I haven’t had time to look at them yet. I sort of focused on the comics that looked like they had a lot of handcrafting to them.

Chris: Yeah, I haven't had much time to read any of the books I bought yet either. I did read the two volumes of From Eroica With Love that I picked up at Kinokuya Bookstore, which I stopped in before I headed to the show, something I recommend to any MoCCA attendee, if for no other reason that in addition to the untranslated manga they have a little cafe where you can get some sweet buns and Pocky before the show. Pocky!

You mentioned earlier how many of the books seem a tad overpriced. Indeed, there seemed to be a good deal mediocre or less inspired work, but despite this, and despite the fact that I didn't check out any of the panels, I had a really good time at MoCCA, was supremely happy with most of the stuff I bought and ended up kicking myself on the train ride home for not picking up a half dozen or so other books as well. That's the hallmark of a good show to me.

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