The 2016 edition of the MoCCA Arts Festival is upon us! This Friday and Saturday, cartoonists from all over the world will gather to celebrate their favorite artform: comics! MoCCA Fest is a unique con in the New York convention circuit thanks to its sizable attendance and indie focus, two things that don’t always go together in the comics world. MoCCA fest pays homage to many great creators producing work for publishers other than the Big Two, and is often where graduates from the city’s art schools make their professional debut.
If you’re from the area or just in town for the weekend, you should definitely stop by. Here’s a crash course in navigating your MoCCA Fest.
Where to Go
This year, MoCCA Arts Festival will be held at Metropolitan West, a venue space at 46th St and 12th Ave along the Highline in New York City. This will be the convention’s first time in this space, continuing the game of venue hot potato organizers have been playing for the past few years.
While vendors and artists will reside in Metropolitan West, panels and programming will be hosted two blocks north at INK48, a boutique hotel that has some gorgeous interiors. Here’s a map of the area, taken from the festival’s official website.
No matter where you are coming from, odds are high that you’re going to be doing a bit of walking. The closest subway stop to the Metropolitan West is 42nd St. Port Authority (A, C, E Lines). From there, you’ll need to walk four blocks north and about four blocks west to reach the venue. There’s a chance of rain on Saturday and even a chance of snow on Sunday (!) so remember to pack an umbrella!
Who to See
Cece Bell is a children’s book author and illustrator who recently won the prestigious Newbury Award and an Eisner Award for her comic book, El Deafo, which is based on her experiences growing up deaf.
R.O. Blechman is one of the most accomplished individuals working in comics today. He is a cartoonist, illustrator, animator, and children’s book author. Comics Beat writer Alex Dueben recently interviewed him about his new book The Juggler of Our Lady, a Christmas story that was turned into an animated short by Gene Deitch and then turned into a comic. He is preparing to release a new book, entitled Amadeo & Maladeo: A Musical Duet, through Fantagraphics.
Phoebe Gloeckner is a comics pioneer. Growing up under the influence of Underground Comix movement creators such as Robert Crumb, Gloecker is perhaps best known for her work in Wimmen’s Comix, which Alex Dueben recently examined for The Comics Journal. Her 2002 novel, The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures, is notable for its honest depiction of teenage sexuality.
Sonny Liew is an Eisner-nominated Malaysian comic book illustrator and artist who has worked on huge books including Doctor Fate with Paul Levitz and The Shadow Hero with Gene Luen Yang. He recently published a new book, The Art of Charlie Chan, that Comics Beat Entertainment Editor Kyle Pinion called “the first superlative graphic novel of 2016.”
Rebecca Sugar is sure to be a fan favorite for many of the younger attendees at MoCCA Fest. An animator, composer, and director, Sugar began her career working on Adventure Time before moving on to create Steven Universe, notable because that show is the first Cartoon Network series created by a woman. Sugar has received multiple Emmy and Annie nominations for her work on both of these series!
Natalie Andrewson is a Brooklyn local whose art is frankly, just gorgeous. A professional illustrator whose clients include BOOM! Studios, The New York Times, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Titmouse and NoBrow, Andrewson does a great deal of cover work and interior illustration. She also publishes some indie comics, which you should check out if you’re a fan of Noelle Stevenson’s art style. Table I 264
Cuddles and Rage, like all good things, is about food. A webcomic created by Liz and Jimmy Reed, their cute yet unsettling take on the things we consume have earned them publicity on sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. They will release a print book through Harper Collins in November of this year. Table D 151 A
Narciso Espiritu is an illustrator whose book, Terrors from the Deep: True Tales of Surviving Shark Attacks, will be published this year by Capstone Press. I highly suggest you give it a look, because I’m having difficulty describing the exact unsettling, otherworldly, hauntingly beautiful nature of his artwork. Oh wait, I guess I just did. Still– you owe it to yourself to LOOK. Table A 106
Priya Huq is the illustrator of a webcomic called Mana. She uses digital watercolor and ink to produce sparse pages that minimize visual impact to maximize our emotional connection with her characters. D 147 A
Francis Krause is the creator of Deep Dark Fears, an honestly triggering webcomic that taught me to be afraid of things I once found innocuous, like ice skates. F 223 A
Andres Vera Martinez is an illustrator whose bold inks and naturalistic linework reminds me strongly of the work of Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire. He is the co-author and illustrator of Little White Duck: A Childhood in China. B 131
Jia Sung is a painter and illustrator whose mastery of watercolor is simply breathtaking. F 208 B
These are only a sample of the vast body of artists whose work will be on display at MoCCA Fest, not to mention all the fantastic publishers as well! Check out the full list.
What to Do
There will be a full block of signings going on all weekend. Check to see if your favorite creator is on it!
Friday, April 1st
Famous German graphic novel artist Reinhard Kleist will speak to Alex Dueben (this guy is EVERYWHERE!) about his “work and inspirations.” This event is sure to be a blast, especially because he’ll be drawing live with musical accompaniment! His new graphic biography about Solami runner Samia Yusuf Omar, The American Dream, will be published this month by Abrams ComicsArts. 7PM, 30 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003
For the wimmen in the crowd, there will be another installment of Drink and Draw Like a Lady taking place. They advise you eat before coming and to remember that it might get a little warm inside– so dress light! Donations of cash, food, or booze not required, but definitely suggested! RSVP on Facebook. 7PM, 40 W. 38th St. 5th Floor at The Productive
Saturday, April 2nd
PANELS! They’ll be taking place at INK48, as noted above. The full list is here, quoted below for your reference. The BEAT HERSELF will be at Autobiography: Revealing the Self in Comics, which starts at 3:30PM in the Helvetica Room.
12:30 pm / Garamond Room
Phoebe Gloeckner in Conversation with Ariel Schrag
Phoebe Gloeckner is the author of two essential contemporary works about adolescent girlhood: A Child’s Life and Other Stories, a collection of short comics, and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, an account in prose and pictures which was recently adapted into a critically-acclaimed and award-winning film of the same name. In this special conversation, Gloeckner will talk about her work with cartoonist and writer Ariel Schrag (Likewise, Potential, Adam, The L Word), who has also taken her adolescent life as subject matter for her work in comics.
12:30 pm / Helvetica Room Sonny Liew Spotlight
Born in Malaysia and based in Singapore, Sonny Liew produces work that bridges diverse areas of comics. His body of work includes the Xeric Award-winning Malinky Robot,DC/Vertigo’s My Faith in Frankie, contributions to the Flight anthology, and work for Marvel Comics. He is currently the artist for DC Comics’ Doctor Fate series, and his graphic novelThe Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has just been published in a North American edition by Pantheon Books. The Singaporean edition of this book suffered the loss of a substantial grant due to content that was considered politically subversive. Liew will discuss his work in conversation with his Doctor Fate collaborator, writer and former DC Comics President Paul Levitz.BREAK
2:00 pm / Garamond Room
Cece Bell on El DeafoCece Bell is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist whose children’s books include Itty Bitty, Bee-Wigged, Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, and the Sock Monkey series. In 2014 she debuted as a cartoonist with the middle grade graphic memoir El Deafo (Abrams), a humorous and inspiring personal account of her hearing loss at a young age. El Deafo was named a 2015 Newbery Honor book by the ALA. Her next book will be the picture book I Yam a Donkey. In this spotlight session, Bell will talk about El Deafo and her overall career in conversation with Susan Van Metre, Vice President and Publisher for Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books.
2:00 pm / Helvetica Room
Bill Plympton Cartoon ShowcaseBill Plympton is an icon of independent animation. He has produced dozens of animated shorts, including such classics as “Your Face” and “How to Kiss.” His animated feature films include I Married a Strange Person, Hair High, and, most recently, Cheatin’. He has animated music videos for Kanye West and “Weird Al” Yankovic, and has produced animation for MTV, The Simpsons, and NBC. In this special showcase, Plympton himself will discuss and screen specially selected examples of animated cartoons from throughout his career. Please note:the animated cartoons that will be screened in this panel are suitable only for mature audiences.BREAK
3:30 pm / Garamond Room
Venn Diagram: Art/ComicsPainter and cartoonist Keith Mayerson once called his 1996 graphic novel Horror Hospital Unplugged “too arty for comics” and “too comics for art.” The boundary between those two fields, however structural and arbitrary, may be weakening, but is it happening quickly enough to accommodate the rapidly growing number of artists who are now so productively working in this seam? Moderator Bill Kartalopoulos will investigate these questions and more with three leading lights of contemporary artcomics: Austin English (Gulag Casual),Aidan Koch (After Nothing Comes), and Blaise Larmee (3 Books).
3:30 pm / Helvetica Room
Autobiography: Revealing the Self in ComicsAutobiography, diary, and memoir have been a vital area of comics since Justin Green’s 1972Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, and have only increased in visibility since the graphic novel format was popularized. How do artists choose what to reveal about themselves, and what kind of light to paint themselves in? And in the age of online oversharing, what specific possibilities and opportunities does the comics form offer for self-revelation? Moderator Heidi MacDonald (The Beat) will discuss this and more with Gabrielle Bell (Truth is Fragmentary), Nicole Georges (Calling Dr. Laura), Jennifer Hayden (The Story of My Tits), and Gina Wynbrandt (Someone Please Have Sex With Me).
Sunday, April 3rd
12:30 pm / Garamond Room
Making Comics for Younger ReadersComics for middle grade and young adult readers are a booming area of publishing. Witness the success of Raina Telgemeier, whose books including Smile have been on the New York Times Softcover Graphic Books best seller list every week for four years now. Desk Set co-founder and Browning School Head Librarian Sarah Murphy will speak with Laurent Linn(Draw the Line), Kevin McCloskey (We Dig Worms!), Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, Lumberjanes) and James Sturm (Adventures in Cartooning) about the process and responsibilities of creating comics that meet the needs and appetites of younger readers.
12:30 pm / Helvetica Room
R.O. Blechman SpotlightMultiple award-winning artist R. O. Blechman has enjoyed a robust and singular career, working as an illustrator, animator, art director, studio head, and as the author of books that we can only call “graphic novels,” though they were drawn decades before that category even existed. His classic animation work — including his 1966 CBS Christmas animation, commercials for products including Alka Seltzer, work for programs including Sesame Street, and his feature film A Soldier’s Tale — have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art. His 1953 graphic novel The Juggler of Our Lady was recently re-published in a new edition by Dover Books; his new graphic novel Amadeo & Maladeo has just been published by Fantagraphics. Blechman will discuss his diverse body of work with Fantagraphics publisherGary Groth, and will show rare examples of his animation.BREAK
2:00 pm / Garamond Room
Rebecca Sugar Q & ARebecca Sugar made comics and studied animation as a student at the School of Visual Arts. After she finished school she found work as a writer and storyboard artist for Adventure Timebefore creating the critically-acclaimed and much beloved animated series Steven Universe. Sugar is the first woman to create a series for the Cartoon Network, and the series continues to break boundaries with its imaginative world building and message of radical tolerance. She has been nominated for Emmy Awards for her work on both Adventure Time and Steven Universe. In this spotlight session, she will answer questions posed by Youth in Decline publisher Ryan Sands.
2:00 pm / Helvetica Room
You Can Get Killed Doing This: Sketches from the Satire BizCan satire survive in a world of trigger warnings and Kalashnikov triggers? Could The National Lampoon be published in a post-Charlie Hebdo world? Is self-censorship the greatest sin of all? National Lampoon cartoonist and author Rick Meyerowitz (currently the subject of an exhibit at The Society of Illustrators) will lead a frank discussion covering these subjects and more with political cartoonist Steve Brodner, former Lampoon co-editor Sean Kelly, and cartoonist Peter Kuper (Ruins, Mad Magazine, World War 3 Illustrated).BREAK
3:30 pm / Garamond Room
Wimmen’s ComixIn 1970 Trina Robbins edited It Ain’t Me, Babe, the first underground comic book produced entirely by women. Two years later, a collective including Robbins founded Wimmen’s Comix, a feminist comix anthology that was published for twenty years and featured dozens of women drawing diverse narratives. To mark the publication of The Complete Wimmen’s Comix from Fantagraphics, this panel will feature contributors Jennifer Camper, Phoebe Gloeckner, Diane Noomin and Leslie Sternbergh discussing the impact and importance ofWimmen’s Comix and feminist comics in general with moderator Margaret Galvan (The Graduate Center, City University of New York).
3:30 pm / Helvetica Room
The Center for Cartoon Studies: Ten Years of FellowshipIn 2005 James Sturm and Michelle Ollie founded the Center for Cartoon Studies, a graduate degree-granting institution focusing on the art of making comics, in the tiny hamlet of White River Junction, Vermont. In the years since, the school has produced dozens of working cartoonists. For the past ten years, CCS has also hosted Fellows: working artists who participate in the life of the school while working on their projects. This panel, moderated byAlec Longstreth and held in conjunction with an exhibit at the Society of Illustrators, brings together several CCS Fellows from the past ten years including: T. Edward Bak, Max de Radigues, Julie Delporte, Connor Willumsen, Chris Wright and Sophie Yanow.
Well there you have it. Your crash course to MoCCA Fest 2016! Please come down, celebrate comics, and say hello! Oh, and by the way, tickets are only $5.00, so you really have no excuse not to show!
Alex is the Managing Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at Papercutz. He is your go-to fella for creator interviews, conversations about comic book structure, and general DC Comics nerding. Currently geeking out over movies, too.