Los Angeles is the second largest city in population and largest city in physical size in the United States. It's a city that has a great many things. There's Hollywood and the great beaches. The city is the home of most movie and television production. LA's got a new world class concert hall that received world wide media attention when it opened a few weeks back. There are theme parks galore. There's even the larger than life Shaquille O'Neil. One thing Los Angeles doesn't have is an influential indy comics festival the likes of APE (the Alternative Press Expo held in San Francisco), the EXPO (held outside of Washington D.C.) or the Indy friendly events held at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City. That is until now.
This weekend sees the debut of super*MARKET, a new independent comics festival coming to the UCLA campus. Organized by Jessica Gao, a student at UCLA and member of the Campus Events Commission, Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, co-owner of Meltdown Comics in Hollywood, and Pam Noles, whose handling the programming chores for the event, super*MARKET is the latest attempt in Los Angeles at showcasing the talents of independent comic creators. This is the first year for super*MARKET, which actually followed a smaller event in 2002 (also organized by Gao) called the Slave Labor IPEX, an event co-sponsored by Northern California based Slave Labor Graphics. This latest version of the festival promises to be bigger and better than the previous event.
When Gao began planning this latest event for the UCLA Campus Events Commission she knew she needed some local help, so she approached the staff at Meltdown Comics. With Gao as the Executive Director, Dominguez-Letelier plays the point man who has the right contacts within the field to execute such an event. After they got the ball rolling, Dominguez-Letelier brought in Pam Noles to handle the programming. CBR News spoke with Noles to learn more about this festival and what the goals are.
"We all feel Southern California needs an independent comics festival, and has the talent and potential interest to support one," Noles told CBR News on Thursday. "All that was needed was money to do it (thank you so very much, UCLA Campus Events Commission) and folks willing to do the work needed to put the show together."
While super*MARKET shares a common interest that shows like APE and the EXPO have, their focus is a bit more narrow than the others.
"In that this is an indy comics festival, we are spiritually aligned with APE, the EXPO and MOCCA. However, we're not reaching for a national scope. We are very focused on California/West Coast. You'll note the vast majority of programming participants are from out this way. Budget had a bit to do with that, but our desire to show off the region's talent was a big part. "
Those in attendance at super*MARKET represent a wide cross-section of the independent comics market. Among the many guests include Sam Henderson, Jaime Hernandez, Batton Lash, Jim Mahfood, William Stout and CBR's own Scott Shaw. The goal of the festival organizers was to represent this section of the comics market with a diverse line-up of talent and programming.
"The exhibit floor was open to anyone who got their paperwork in on deadline, while space was still available, and didn't submit work that violated City of Los Angeles obscenity laws," said Noles. "They also had to fit the artistic vibe of the show. We are diverse in form and content, believing 'independent' covers pretty little high art books as well as manga and stories in a more traditional comics form."
It should be noted that the event policy allows Meltdown to be the only retailer to exhibit at the show.
"To set programming, the goal was to cast a fairly wide net, trying to appeal to the comics/arts people and the general audience," continued Noles. "With creators such as William Stout, Robert Williams, Carol Lay and Lalo Alcaraz local, we had to grab them. They are given audience draws, their work appealing to the dual audience of comics and not-comics, and their contributions to the form groundbreaking.
"The hands on workshops are primarily aimed at the not-comics-audience, an attempt to draw them into medium in a fun, physically involved way. We are pleased David Lasky agreed to bring his minicomics workshop designed for non-artists down here from Seattle. Jackie Estrada's talks on the history of graphic novels and seminar on editing again hits both audiences, one an introduction to the basics of the form, the other a useful seminar for creators already in it. Your very own Scott Shaw, whose Oddball Comics slide shows do not require any special knowledge of comics to be enjoyed, is putting together a special 'indy themed' version for us. He's described what he's going to do, and I can't wait to see it. Manga is huge with comics fans and folks who have never stepped into a comics shop; with Tokyopop based in LA and leading the new manga drive, they were a given to approach. Any creator, writer or artist, will benefit from Batton Lash's storytelling seminar. Much of the programming was volunteered by the participants. Scholar Charles Hatfield was ready to put his extensive knowledge to use. I think The Cartoon Art Museum's generous loan of the 'Alternative To What' show is a particular jewel. It appeals to the general audience, the political crowd, the comics groups.
"There's more, but you get the idea. Basically, we want to get the folks in the door, and after indulging in a workshop or talk, we want them to want to head out to the exhibit floor and find something appealing, challenging or new."
The efforts by the team behind the festival to get it promoted have been extensive, with aggressive guerilla marketing as well as standard press releases, which received support from well-read local newspapers and other sources.
"The LA Weekly has featured our event in its full PulpIT page for the past two weeks,with Johnen Vasquez and Souther Salazar providing the gorgeous illustration strips. (If you missed Vasquez' hilarious Halloween-themed entry, you should hunt it down.) The Weekly has also run full and quarter page ads… I have been told some of the regional mainstream newspapers put the show in their Calendar section as a 'things to do' item or planned to do small stories. Nearly every college newspaper in the region was given information and a couple are doing stories. Neil Gaiman was generous enough to blurb the event in his blog, as did my old Clarion classmate, Cory Doctorow, at boingboing.net. Several of the programming participants with websites have promoted the show on their site. Several local arts-related blogs and news sites were also provided information, which a couple used."
After the first wave of promotion was completed, the festival sent out a special mini-comic to promote the event.
"Two months after the basic press release went out, we sent out of our SuperDeluxe Press Kit. This is a silk screened mini-comic designed by Martin Cendreda. It is fabulous. It went out to mainstream media, college newspapers, radio, public television, and other print sources. It was important to us to have something special and hand-made to provide information about the show. So many local artists gave of their time and talent to create posters, ads, press kits and other items for the show. super*MARKET would have been very different without their support and participation."
Noles tells CBR News that while super*MARKET is geared towards adults, there's definitely something there for kids and parents should be encouraged to bring them along.
"The primary audience is actually adults interested in comics, the arts, and outsider forms of expression. The vast majority of programs reflect this, as does the makeup of the exhibit floor. The kids events -- there are only three of them, all on Saturday -- are there because that's my thing and Jessica and Gaston were kind enough to indulge me.
"An aside on the kids stuff: I know that Southland parents are always looking for something cheap, fun and deceptively educational for their darlings to do. I believe any opportunity to throw kids in front of an arts-related event should be taken, because arts education has been excised from public schools. And from my many years as a camp counselor, I know the profound impact a hands-on workshop can have on a wee one. Happily, each artist I asked to do a kid event agreed. If you've never seen Phil Yeh work a room filled with hundreds of second graders, come watch his workshop. He's amazing. He keeps them enthralled, engages their creativity, and somehow manages to keep them from running around the room, screaming. (Not that we're going to have hundreds of second graders descend on the show.) So, if anything in the show can be considered an experiment, it would be the kids programming."
If you're in the Southern California area and would like more information on super*MARKET, visit their Web site. The event begins with a free screening of the Academy Award Nominated film "Ghost World" on Friday night with producer Lianne Halfon introducing the film. The screening no longer requires advance tickets, so you can just show up and get in. The physical festival takes place Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately two guests originally scheduled to appear at super*MARKET had to back out at the last minute. Due to illness Kieron Dwyer will not be attending and Christopher Sperandio won't be able to make it due to urgent work opportunities.
WHAT: super*MARKET: The Independent Comic Arts Festival
WHEN: Nov. 7-9, 2003
Friday, Nov. 7: 6:30 p.m.-10:30p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 8: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 9: Noon-5 p.m.
WHERE: Ackerman Grand Ballroom, located inside the Ackerman Union. 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles.
COST: $2 per day general admission, free with UCLA student identification. Friday night's screening and talk is free, but tickets must be secured in advance.
TICKETS: Festival tickets sold at the door. Film tickets can be picked up at UCLA Campus Events, 319 Kerckhoff Hall, 308 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, 90024, soon.