CALA 2015 art by Lisa Hanawalt

It seems like there’s a damn comic con weekend. After a while they all start to look and feel the same despite the season or location. Thankfully, shows like Comic Arts LA come around. The second annual Los Angeles-based comics an comic arts festival took place this weekend at Think Tank Gallery in downtown LA. The con was tucked away in a building that was surrounded by dozens of arts, crafts, and fabric shops. It felt like everything for sale fell off a truck. You can smell the Mexican cuisine grilling from small food carts. Every corner had bacon wrapped hot dogs or fruit gazpacho with homemade chamoy sauce for the vegetarians.


The con was free to attend, but the space was limited to 100 people at a time, so you had to wait in line. There was a revolving line of 100 waiting to get in the building, according to the security and CA LA volunteers. They also estimated that there were over 500 visitors on the first day.

All you had to do was go up to the front of the line and say you’re late for the panel that’s going on at the moment you arrives and they would let you right in. Comic book great Jaime Hernandez and legend in the making Noelle Stevenson were the guest of honor, and they were in good company. There were approximately 70 booths in the cramped, warm space. It was the artist alley you’ve always wanted to see. There were so many prolific women cartoonists behind the tables selling everything from comics, art, sculptures, clothing, zines, and so much more. Bojack Horseman artist Lisa Hanawalt was one of the big fish in the insanely talented pond. You could find a healthy balance of indie comic creators and famous industry folks meandering around. Bryan Lee O’Malley was among the fans supporting his friends and promoting a new Image book he’s working on with Leslie Hung was tabling at the event. It looked like Matt Groening was just buying something from every booth.

I got my hands on Hazel Newlevant’s If This Be Sin graphic novel about lesbian blues musicians: Gladys Bently, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman of Prince and the Revolution. My most interesting buy was Hellen Jo’s Last Letter mini comic. The reader has to open a tiny red letter to read the sad comic. Farel Dalrymple was showing off pages of Pop Gun War: Chain Letter that will appear in the Image’s Island. Good news: Sam Spina is working on Dog Craps 2.

I appreciated the programming schedule. There something different for everyone and it didn’t take too much attention to the floor. There was enough seating but nearly every panel I saw ended up being standing room only because all the seats were taken; especially, the Noelle Stevenson panel was jam packed. The volunteers were super helpful, big thanks to them.

My main complaint about the convention was that were too many good cartoonists and not enough money in my bank account to buy all the art that was for sale. But parking was the worst. You had to pay $10 for parking or snag a spot on the street if you were lucky. $10 is a pretty reasonable price to pay, but there are lots that will try to take more from you if you’re not careful. And while I hope  CALA will be able to stay free to the public,  I wouldn’t mind paying for a spot that had air conditioning.

This is the show to go to if you’re losing faith in comics. It’s the kind of event that will inspire to go home and draw or write something.