About 7600 blog posts, Flickr streams and actual news stories later, it’s kind of obvious that MoCCA 2007 was the Italian Renaissance of Indie comics or something. A Golden Era. Camelot. You name it. Memories are suffused in a silvery haze of comics, waffles and scones.
It was pretty wonderful, anchored by the Top Shelf 10th Anniversary Party, an everyone-was-there bash of good feeling that lasted even when the AC broke down, turning the sidewalk into yet another happy chatter land.
While the high isn’t likely to wear off soon–indeed, we’ve filed it away as one of our happiest weekends in recent memory–a few facts have to be faced even in the middle of this baskable afterglow. First is the questionnaire that was circulating among exhibitors on Sunday. The tenor of the questions seemed to be “Should MoCCA move out of the Puck Building?” To which almost everyone has said “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” We’ll get back to that, but Memo at the TCJ board has a dissenting view, claiming that table prices are squeezing out the little guys:
There is SO much to look at, and so many hungry, talented people selling worthwhile, home-made art, that MoCCA, for the attendees, is simply overwhelming. People are forced to put up their blinders as soon as they walk in, zeroing right in on the indy stars and big publisher tables, sticking to the tried-and-true… even though the tried-and-true can now be found on amazon or at any decent bookstore. I’m not bitchin’- that’s just the reality, but it makes the festival a more expensive waste of time for the rest of us. “Success” becomes “I made enough this weekend to pay for my table- never mind the costs of making the actual comics.” That’s too bad, because what I’ve loved about MoCCA since the beginning was the small press feel, the way big names (relative to our little world) were intersperced with nobodies, everyone peddling their work… being able to talk to attendees, even if they didn’t buy much (or anything), rather than watch them whiz by you, hoping to avoid eye contact. Fostering a community, getting your work seen, if not bought, and basically shooting the shit… this was MoCCA. I don’t make my comics because I think I’m going to be rich; for me, a spot at MoCCA was simply the best way I knew to advertise myself and connect with the audience directly- one of the only opportunities in the comics world to do so.
Memo feels that there’s now a haves and have nots gentrification of MoCCA is driving out the little guys with high table prices. And indeed, the Puck Building is not cheap, and it’s hard foer the show to expand. This year’s big change was adding exhibitors to the 7th floor — which worked out okay — and moving panels to the MoCCA space itself — which did not. From what we heard the space was too small and awkward and out of the way to really fit crowds.
But cost be damned, the white light and hardwood floors of the Puck Building are what MADE the show when Kristin Seibecker first founded it five years ago. It is classy and it makes the things in it classy. The TCJ thread is worth reading in its entirety because he sets out the differences between the “giants” of the Indies like FBI and D&Q and the lone cartoonists with their mini comics.
The perception of good rooms and bad rooms is also there, but as someone pointed out, SPX had now moved, at long last, to the “ONE BIG ROOM” model. This advance was much longed for by little people who thought that just being in the same room as the big guys would increase their sales and visibility.
Alas, even in a world as egalitarian as indie comics, where almost everyone wants the kids to do alright, the reality is that not everything is created equal. A few years ago Kevin Huizenga was just another mini comics guy, and now he’s a “star,” whatever that means. Heck, until a year ago no one knew who Alison Bechdel was. We have a giant stack of comics people gave us, but it includes few of the “buzz” books everyone was blogging about, and everyone time we open one we see a cute story by someone whose name we feel compelled to file away. But it takes a while to become a Paul Pope or Adrian Tomine, let alone a Kim Deitch. Maybe you have to pay your dues by sitting there behind a table wishing someone would stop by. Maybe being more selective and having to pay your dues is part of the process.
The “lower rungs” of the indie comics scene are increasingly crowded, and we don’t mean the term as a put down, just a way of saying people who haven’t established themselves yet. We’ve seen so many talented people come out of SVA and MCAD and Savannah in just the last few years — and now the CCS grads are making their own mark. Maybe an even MORE grassroots show is needed, the kind of thing someone puts on in their basement or rec room, like SVA’s Fresh Meat show only a bit larger. It’s a point to ponder.
In the end we’d give this advice to MoCCA: Keep the 7th floor exhibits, but use the back room on the 1st floor, or part of it, for panels. The room can be divided, and no exhibitors really like being back there anyway. The net effect would be fewer tables, but many more could be fit in the spacious upstairs. We seem to recall that panels were once held in that very room but crowd noise was too loud and it was too light for slideshows. We’d guess that crowd noise could be kept down, and A/V presentations could be moved to another site for even a nighttime presentation. MoCCA needs to branch out and become even more of a cultural event. For a certain segment of the population, it already is, but things like the recent Tintin multi media night, and slideshows by Bechdel, Gabrielle Bell and others could anchor a very entertaining evening event.
A couple of posts sum it up. Baboon Books was thrilled just to have one person say they were looking for their comics. While the new kids over at Sundays Anthology are beaming themselves to death over the success of their handsome anthology. Not everyone in all these anthologies are going to have long, significant careers, but they are contributing to the moment, and the moment is good.
UPDATE: here’s another Sunday’s contributor link. So. Cute.
ANOTHER UPDATE: IN the TCJ thread, Bill Roundy posts costs for the Big Three Indie Shows:
Just as a data point:
MoCCA half-table: $200 full table: $325
SPX half-table: $175 full table: $350
APE half-table: $140 full table: $240
[Photo above taken from Raina Telgemeier’s blog.]