So, still reeling a bit from the move and all the new stuff that’s happening elsewhere, but I did get the time to drop in for the MoCCA Arts Festival at the Armory last Saturday.
I particularly enjoyed it as an opportunity immediately to get acquainted with the New York comics scene and meet in person a number of people whose work I’ve been appreciating, and some of whom I’ve been corresponding with, over the last half decade or more. I enjoyed attending the Strandicon event and meeting for the first time the whole Comics Journal crew, old and new (videos of panel here); it was great to drop in for a reception at the fine Bergen Street Comics, where I’d never been before, and chat to Tucker Stone. I was great finally to meet comics critics and scholars such as Bill Kartalopoulos, Joe McCulloch, Marc Sobel, Chris Mautner, Alex Dueben, Heidi McDonald and others, and it was cool to sit down and chat with my good internet spirit Derik Badman (read his MoCCA report here). I also got to catch up with a bunch of my Danish friends and colleagues, who were over here in force, as well as some of our Nordic brethren, plus several New York cartoonists I haven’t talked to much since I last lived here.
All good times, but it really overshadowed what seemed to me a somewhat unremarkable festival. The programming was largely unremarkable, lacking in both marquee names or particularly worthwhile themes, so it came down to the offerings in the main hall. I like the democratic aspect of MoCCA, with tables being sufficiently cheap that a lot of DIY and underground stuff is on display, but at the same time I saw very little remarkable work outside the rosters of the show’s few “big” publishers. The impression it left of the American grass roots scene was one of slight stagnation after many years of redoubtable creative growth.
Yes, a new book by Lisa Hanawalt is not to be scoffed at, Austin English is always interesting, and that Warren Craghead piece in the Sundays antho is gorgeous, but these are still slim pickings. Joseph Lambert’s hyped I Will Bite You is a pretty book, but seems to me slight… I dunno, maybe I’m just grouching or I possibly missed a lot of good work.
Of course, a lot of the high-profile books released or teased at the show seems remarkable — I cannot wait to get my hands on Chester Brown’s Paying for It (D&Q, in a smart marketing move, only brought 25 copies selling out almost instantly); Jim Woodring’s Congress of the Animals predictably looks great, if also perhaps plain predictable (the new Dave McKean porn book is the opposite: unpredictably kitschy, even for him…); it is fantastic to see Lewis Trondheim’s Approximate Continuum Comics finally out in English (after all these years); Shigeru Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a fascinating if flawed work that I’m glad to see released in English; and the collection of Bagge/Hernandez’ Yeah! and the latest Hate! Annual are welcome distractions; Winshluss’ Pinocchio is an impressive if somewhat shallow book, but worth a read; and that fat-ass 301st issue of The Comics Journal (the Éprouvette version) packs a great critical punch.
Perhaps it was just the historical surroundings (noblesse oblige!) or the awareness that across the ocean, in Luzern, another awesome-sounding installment of Fumetto is taking place right now. Anyway, it was great meeting everyone!