MoCCA 2009 Recap

I missed MoCCA last year, partially out of laziness, but this year my wife and I made the trip up to NYC for the weekend. Our trip up was a bit disrupted by Penn Station temporarily stopping all trains inbound/outbound trains. I wanted to see Charles Hatfield‘s 11am talk about Kirby, and it was looking like we’d miss it. But as it turned out, when we arrived at about 11:30 or so, the doors still hadn’t opened and there was a line of people waiting. Thanks to a comment on my previous MoCCA post, I almost immediately noticed Marc Sobel in his Cardinals shirt. We spent the waiting time talking with him about comics (such as Love and Rockets on which he has been blogging his way through all the issues).

The Armory (which just as we were about to leave my wife notice the display that informed this was THE ARMORY, as in “The Armory Show” that is so prominent in art history) is an improved location over the Puck Building. It’s big and open, all the tables fit in one room with a bit more walking space. I thought it was cooler than the other building, though maybe it was just a nicer day.

Having learned from Matt Madden on Twitter that Pantheon had limited copies of Asterios Polyp (David Mazzuchelli’s forthcoming book) I made a bee line for their table and bought a copy. While I did end up dragging the rather heavy book around all weekend, I was glad for the early purchase the on Sunday when Pantheon was sold-out.

With the lateness we caught Charles’ talk, primarily an excerpt from his in-process book on Jack Kirby. The chapter was on the “technological sublime” in Kirby, the sense of awe and fear that accompanies a certain view of technology. Charles had a number of slides, primarily from the Fantastic Four (a few of those collage panels) and the issue where Johnny Storm heads out into space to get some weapon to defeat Galactus. I failed to take notes, so I’m not clearly explaining this, but suffice to say it was an interesting talk, for me, who is not really a fan of Kirby but has read that part of the Fantastic Four, and even for my wife, who knows of him but has never read any of it. The talk was followed-up with some talk between Charles and Issac Cates, which got a little too Kirby-knowledgeable for me (I can’t follow the references to specific characters, scenes, etc.). Briefly met Gene Kannenberg and started handing out my criticism zine (I gave one out to most everyone I talked to during the two days).

After the talk we walked around the show for a couple hours, only managing to hit the outer perimeter of the show before heading off to check-in to our hotel. Got a bunch of mini-comics from different sources, and said brief hellos to Tom Devlin at the D+Q booth (Ron Rege was signing, but I didn’t have anything to get signed (and I already had the work on sale)), Dylan Williams and Austin English at the Sparkplug table, and talked to one of the CCS students about the Schulz Library (we donated a few boxes of books to them a few years ago).

One of the highlights of the show, personally, was getting to Fantagraphics’ table and getting a chance to page through a display copy of the Abstract Comics anthology. I found my piece in it, looks great! The whole book looks fabulous and Jacob Covey did a beautiful job with the design. This book is going to get some attention, I think. The line-up of artists is fantastic, many artists whose work I’m a fan of (Andrei Molotiu (the editor), Warren Craghead, Jason Overby, Richard Hahn, Elijah Brubaker, Grant Thomas, Blaise Larmee, and more). Even if I weren’t in it, I’d be excited about it.

There was a long line of tables of Scandinavians (I know there were at least Finns, Norwegians, and Danes). Many had a made English translations of their books which they printed out and folded into the front of the book. I ended up going back the next day a grabbing a copy of the Norwegian Rui Tenreiro’s Hoytiden which looks fabulous.

After he uncovered his name tag, I realized, at one point, I was standing in front of Allan Haverholm, whom I follow on Twitter. We chatted a bit and he sold me a bunch of his works, including a “single” was his in process comics “album” and a mix-tape comic in a plastic tape case.

Talked a bit with Matt Madden who gave me a copy of his new mini and who was soliciting submissions for the next Best American Comics anthology. Found Frank Santoro at the Picturebox table and talked a bit with him and picked up the latest Cold Heat Special before we left for the day.

My wife had a wonderful dinner at Gobo (8th and Broadway), an all vegan restaurant. Really great New England Rolls, which were almost like egg rolls, but way better. Sweet and sour soy protein. Avocado tartare. Seitan skewers. Some nice sake too. Then we headed up to the theater district and saw the revival of Guys & Dolls, which featured Lauren Graham (from Gilmore Girls) and Oliver Platt (he was the chief counsel of The West Wing), my first Broadway musical. The musical was great (I still remember a lot of songs from seeing it as a kid at my high school and from the movie version with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando).

Sunday we started off at the MoMA. Some highlights included a wonderful blackboard and chalk diptych by Tacita Dean (that image does not do it justice, there are small words written on to the board also), finding the small stair landing that included Duchamp’s Network of Stoppages (which I don’t recall ever seeing in person, and it is much more interesting than I expected (lots of detail that is hard to see in the reproductions)), large canvasses by Henri Rousseau (he has such a wonderful density and depth of composition despite the flatness of his paint), Matisse’ Red Studio (which always attracts me for the way he has the furniture painted almost schematically), and a piece by Cy Twombly I’ve not seen before that looked like it had floating pieces of paper drawn on it (can’t find an image of it). Sadly Twombly’s Four Seasons, which was on display last time we were at the MoMA was no longer up.

After the MoMA we headed downtown to the MoCCA museum to see the David Mazzuchelli show that is up. One detriment, I imagine, of the new festival location is a lot less people probably took the time to visit the museum. Mazzuchelli’s work was worth the extra trip. The show featured original pages from all his work (or almost all, at least all the ones I know and some I didn’t), including two short stories I had never seen before (post Rubber Blanket work). The highlight was seeing the hand drawn color separations from “Discovering America.” A two-page spread of black ink that was later printed as blue and then acetate (mylar?) pages with black ink on them that were printed in orange over top of the blue. Turns out Mazzuchelli got into printmaking at that time, which is what inspired that way of working.

There were numerous pages, sketches, and notes from the new book Asterios Polyp. One page featured the same bits of dialogue written over and over again, seemingly in an attempt to best arrange the words into lines of text. Another page showed a bunch of Dick Tracy villains that seemed to serve as an inspiration for one of the characters. Comparisons of the original pages to the printed work also showed that he is clearly using computers to manipulate the images.

I only got a chance to read the first 20 pages or so of the new book, but I can safely say this is one of the (if not THE) comics of the year.

Back at the festival on Sunday, we stopped in at First Second, so my wife could get Sara Varon to sign her copy of Sweaterweather. Sara drew one of her dog characters into the book. Then stood in line to get Mazzuchelli to sign his book (this is where I learned they sold out of copies). I gave him a copy of my crit zine, as it had the piece I wrote on one of his pages from Rubber Blanket in it, which it turns out he had read already. He thought it was a little overboard, but to me that was kind of the point of writing a whole article about a single panel/page.

Walked around more, in a bit of a hurry by this point, as I didn’t want to miss the Gary Panter/Frank Santoro panel. I found Andrei Molotiu and talked to him a bit, looking at the Abstract Comics anthology more. Andrei also drew me a pear inside my copy of his new book Nautilus. Andrei also convinced me to read some Ditko Spider-man issues (he discusses a page in the introduction to the anthology). Met Mike Getsiv (Edit: spelling corrected. Sorry, Mike!), who’s also in the anthology, and he showed me some lovely pages by Blaise Larmee (whose work I love, I bought the latest Sundays anthology just because I knew Blaise was in it) from an anthology Mike’s been editing . Also met Kevin Mutch from Blurred Books who gave me a few review copies of their work.

Further along I said hi to another Twitter friend Leigh Walton at the Top Shelf booth, and then found Geoff Grogan (also in the anthology) to get a copy of his Look Out Monsters.

Finally we went to the Panter/Santoro panel, which was primarily Panter talking about fine artists who have some comics connection or relation. Frank stressed his sense of always feeling between two camps of comics and fine arts, and how Gary was one person he met who seemed to be equally knowledgeable/interested in both areas. Panter was an amusing speaker and I jotted down some unfamiliar names to look up later. A few quotes (potentially not exact quotes, I did my best):

Panter: “If you are an artist you know you can’t compete with nature, children, or crazy people.”
Santoro: “Comics is so craft oriented it turns off fine art people.”
Panter called Duchamp the Abraham Lincoln of art.
Panter: “If you rip off 100 people no one’s going to know” (as opposed to just copying one person.)
Panter: (In connection to “Photoshop guys”) “You don’t need 5000 colors on a page, you just need two good colors.” (amen)

And that was the festival. I missed a few people I would have liked to say hi to, alas, but that’s always hard with people you only know online. If they aren’t behind a table with a name tag their hard to pick out. Overall, it was fun and I picked up what I hope are so great comics.

Here’s the full list of what I picked up (with links where possible):