by Brady Russell
For the Philadelphia Alternative Comic-Con this past Sunday in The Rotunda, it rained. It rained like it wanted to wash the show away. Sometimes it was a hammering downpour. The kind of rain where, even if you got a lift there in a taxi, you’d still get soaked running from the curb to the door. Still, the rain wasn’t all bad. Last year’s PACC was scorching hot. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to stay in that room for 7 hours in 2010. This year, it wasn’t nearly so hot, but everyone came in the door saying they couldn’t touch anything until they dried off.
This was PACC’s third year in business. Despite the rain, we had a steady flow of traffic all day long and a generally good vibe. While it was an overwhelmingly an individual creator kind of event, this year also included some larger comic making outfits like Adhouse, Secret Acres and Meathaus.
If you were an exhibitor at PACC, you had the option to start the show Saturday night at an art space in South Philadelphia called Cha’Cha’Razzi. Pat Aulisio, the event organizer, keeps a studio at the space, which has a great downstairs for shows and parties. Local webcomics luminary Box Brown was there chatting everyone up as they came in and a lot of the creators who came into town and stayed over the night before came out to the party.
We all showed up because we wanted to see who won the first annual Grawlix Awards, PACC’s new awards for the best of indie comics. I haven’t been to every single awards show in the country this year, but I can guarantee you that Pat Aulisio’s drums, Mike Turzanski‘s guitar and Bob Pistilli‘s harmonica made this the most metal awards show of the whole convention season.
Comics bloggers seem to agree that the show itself was really positive, lots of good energy, lots of diversity, with a strong bent toward the handmade, DIY, mini-comics and made-at-Kinko’s variety. Sales did not seem to be super strong, at least judging by my corner, but folks were really interested in people’s work, and it was a crowd that appreciated graphics and visuals that didn’t look like anything out mainstream comics.
From Alisa Harris:
It did have a bit of a ska show feeling (as in everyone who was in the crowd was also in the band who’s playing after yours) but maybe it’s just because Philly is full of artsy, punk types.
From Carolyn Belefski:
The actual PACC event on Sunday was similar to last year, however I believe the organizers made better space decisions and it felt like more exhibitors were set up with the use of the stage and other clever methods to fit as many tables as possible into the space provided.
From Panel Patter:
The Rotunda space is a really great place for a small show like this–it’s just big enough to hold people, it’s in a well-trafficked area, and it’s always seemed to be affordable. Plus, if you’re not from Philly, the city itself makes for a great place to hang out and visit if you’re staying more than a few days.
It’s fair to say this was an arty show. In fact, SPACE 1026 had a table and collective’s like Collective Stench were showing mind-blowing-but-not-exactly-accessible work. My personal favorite artist at the show as Jen Tong. Anyone of her posters could take over the decor of any room, any size. Her screenprinted comics would set you back a pretty penny, but you would be sure to find something new every time you revisited her lemonhead romances. One collection that kept getting a buzz on the floor was Rochester’s free broadsheet, Hope Mountain. And the Twitter reports that the Dirty Diamonds Anthology made back its printing costs on the show floor, that day.
At the heart of this event was the network of comic artists who get together once a month at the Philadelphia Comix Jam, a bar night with six panel pages. I finally made it out to a couple jams, and that’s how I finally met PACC’s organizer. If not for that, I’m not sure if I could have figured out how to get into the show. You can search the PACC website but you won’t find anything about how to exhibit there, what it costs, how much tablespace you’ll get. Nothing like that. There is an email, but it isn’t clear whether or not emailing is the way to pursue a table. I was keeping an eye on the website and one day, suddenly, it listed the first raft of exhibitors. How had they signed up? Was this a curated show? Did you need to know a secret handshake? You won’t find any answers to these questions on the the PACC site. Still, all the tables were taken, so, obviously, folks figured it out and eventually I did, too.
The punk spirit extended through the day, with a DJ playing tunes all thru. I heard mixed reactions to the music. Some folks seemed to think it improved the spirit on the floor but others said it just made it harder to talk to people. It was only $3 to get into the show, and the check-in table didn’t even push hard for that much. There weren’t any panels or discussions or side-events, or concessions, but since the Rotunda sits right on UPenn’s campus, there were plenty of other places to go nearby.
If you missed PACC, you can be sure it will be back next year. In the meantime, come back to Philadelphia and shake hands with James Kochalka at the Comix Jam’s Kochalkalypse, a two day all comics tribute to the Comics Laureate of Vermont. Stuff like this is finally putting Philadelphia on the indy comics map, and it’s about time. I moved to the city in 2005 and it really surprised me that there wasn’t more going on in the underground scene then. The Philadelphia Cartoonist Society was bopping along down at Bob & Barbara’s but that was it for a while. Now, comix makers here are showing each other some Brotherly Love. Enough that folks are getting on Bolt Buses and coming to town to see what we have going on. PACC is set to be the anchor of that whole scene for a good long while. Like Eden Miller, I’m a little ambivalent about PACC growing. I don’t want it to lose its DIY vibe, but if it managed to find a space with air conditioning, and where rain didn’t flood the Men’s Room, I might be okay with that.