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Con Wars: MoCCA vs Stumptown


In a rather surprising turn of events, New York’s MoCCA Festival has announced their 2012 dates — and not only are they a change from previously announced dates, but it’s the same weekend — April 27-28 — as Stumptown Festival, the alt-comix festival held each year in Portland.

The Stumptown dates were announced months ago, so the change comes as a surprise. As one exhibitor who forwarded the letter told us, in previous years MoCCA and Stumptown were a week apart, which was hard enough, but now the already small pool of indie comics publishers and creators are going to have to skip one or the other.

The convention circuit has become increasingly crowded, with many festivals squeezing into the tight March/April/May season to avoid competing with big summer cons. An unspoken agreement usually prevails where similar shows in close territories avoid picking the same or proximate dates.

Stumptown and MoCCA are both part of a loose confederation of indie shows — others include APE in San Francisco, TCAF in Toronto and SPX in Bethesda, MD. While Stumptown and MoCCA previously were separated by a few months, MoCCA had to leave its traditional June date when they moved into the Lexington Armory, a huge building with no air conditioning. The first MoCCA held there happened to coincide with a heat wave which left exhibitors and attendees alike standing in pools of sweat.

MoCCA’s letter to pre-registered exhibitors is reproduced below:

“The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art – MoCCA – is pleased to announce to you, our advance-registered exhibitors, that we have finalized our dates for MoCCA Fest 2012! We thank you for ordering your tables in advance, and helping to make MoCCA Fest the continuing success that it is!

Please note that the next Festival will take place over April Saturday 28 and Sunday April 29, 2012, with exhibitor registration taking place on the afternoon of Friday April 27. This is slightly different than our tentative dates of April 14-15. If this date is not convenient or you find you have a conflict, let us know immediately and we will he happy to issue you a full and complete refund; this offer will continue to stand until December 31, 2011.

In addition, we would like to take this opportunity to show our gratitude for your continuing support by presenting you with SIX attendee weekend passes to MoCCA Fest 2012, courtesy of us. Please note that these are attendee tickets, and are non-transferable as exhibitor passes for your table. Bring family and friends to enjoy the festival the whole weekend through! This offer is only extended to our advance registered exhibitors.

Last year we celebrated the Tenth Anniversary of MoCCA, and in 2012 we will celebrate the 10th year of the Festival. This will prove to be a special MoCCA Fest for everyone following our most successful year, where as many of you know, we sold completely to capacity. The annual two-day Festival continues to attract thousands of comic art lovers and creators from around the globe to celebrate one of the worldʼs most popular art forms in the heart of New York City.

Since 2002 the MoCCA Festival has offered a unique venue to experience comics, minicomics, web-comics, graphic novels, animation, posters, prints, original artwork, and more. Each year, the Festival invites dozens of established and emerging creators, scholars, and other experts to participate in two days of lectures and discussion panels on a variety of comics and cartoon topics. Past exhibitors have included Abrams ComicArts, ACT-I-VATE, Ad House, Candle Light Press, Center for Cartoon Studies, Comics Bakery, Drawn & Quarterly, Evil Twin Comics, Fantagraphics, First Second Books, Joe Kubert School, NBM Press, New York University, the Norwegian Consulate, Paperkutz, Parsons School of Design, Pantheon, School for Visual Arts, TopatoCo, Top Shelf, Tug Boat Press, and many, many more.

Again, you have our thanks from everyone here at MoCCA, and we look forward to seeing everyone next April.
Should you have any additional questions, please direct them to Emma Rivera at exhibitors@moccany.org, or call the office at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

We’ll see you soon, and thanks again for supporting MoCCA!

Jack Walsh
Museum Manager

  1. Not to mention that SPX and APE have the past few years been a month or so apart which has kept me, as an east coast centered artist, from attending both. I could never take that much time off from my day job within the span of one month, nor, for that matter, actually afford two trips in the span of approximately one month. So to have two other big indie deals east/west coast happening on the same weekend, it makes one ponder just what the hell MoCCA was thinking. With the cost compared to what artists actually get out of these larger indie cons, one just starts to feel as if the odds, in general, are stacked against the artists themselves. I don’t really dig that feeling.

  2. Stumptown used to be held in October.

    My understanding (which may be wrong!) was that they moved it to April specifically because they didn’t want to compete with MoCCA.

    If I’m remembering right… then that’s extra-lame.

  3. If I’m remembering correctly, the stated reason Stumptown started being in April instead of October was so that exhibitors could attend both it and MoCCA.

    If I’m remembering correctly, then EXTRA boo.

  4. It’s hard to imagine this not poisoning the well for good against MoCCA–I rarely hear people talk with enthusiasm about it anymore, like they did in old 2004-2006 days. Going up against another well-thought-of show just dilutes the viability of both, comes off as aggressive or at least insensitive, and is an unnecessary complication for potential exhibitors and attendees. All this is not even to mention the proximity to TCAF, an extraordinarily well-thought-of show. I’ve never set up at MoCCA as an exhibitor, mainly because it’s just too expensive for not enough value, but this makes that decision VERY easy to make. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest MoCCA probably didn’t want to schedule their show against Stumptown. Scheduling a venue is tricky business in New York City, and sometimes you just have to do the best you can.

    I’m not saying I’m happy about it, I’m just saying this is probably out of their control.

  6. As a west-coast exhibitor, it’s an easy choice for me. Stumptown. Return against expense, I always do well there (even when I don’t have new material). If I was in the middle of the country, I dunno, tough call.

    Hoping that this is just for the year and not an ongoing thing.

  7. This sucks. The world of indie comics has managed to stay fairly drama free (within itself) over its 55 year history.

    Maybe this is in some way is a byproduct of starting to become all legitimate and stuff.

    Here’s hoping Mocca never meant to pick a fight, and they’ll adjust accordingly. This chunk of the medium has almost always been one big happy, I can’t imagine anyone would ever intentional try to rock that boat.

  8. Bad move by MoCCA – but I prefer to stay local these days, attending shows like MECAF and MICE. My sales are pretty much the same (sometimes higher!), the tables are much cheaper and the shows less stressful.

  9. New York and Portland, Oregon, are on opposite coasts, some 2800 miles apart.

    Just as few people now show concern when two comic-cons are held on the same weekend somewhere in this country, I don’t think anyone should be concerned when two alt-comix shows are on the same weekend. This isn’t Heroes vs. Wizard. But if you need the drama, go right ahead and kvetch.

    How much overlap was there in 2011? How many exhibitors attended both shows?

    Regarding MoCCA, why not hold the show in February? Yes, the weather is colder, but there’s less competition among other conventions, and hotel rates would be cheaper.

  10. This isn’t Heroes vs. Wizard.

    I thought it was more of “Wizard World” vs. “REED Pop Group” battle myself: one Con trying to steal thunder/exhibitors/attendees
    from another one by scheduling a competing Con on that other’s already-established event date…

    True, it’s not on the same City (much less just down the street), but you figure in the overlapping circles of the small ‘Indie/
    Alt Comics World’, there’s gotta be SOMETHING behind the apparent forcing of those Artists and Creators to choose in exhibiting one over the other— a drawing of the Indie/Alt borderlines, perhaps?

    Unfortunately, it does seem like it’ll boil down to geography when you factor in the cost of travel and exhibiting to the opposite coast: East Coast-living Artists opting for MoCCA while the West Coasters stick to STUMPTOWN. Kurt Busiek vs. Dean Haspiel? Peter Bagge vs.
    Gabrielle Bell? Johnny Ryan vs. Craig Yoe? And what of the Indie/Alt Publishers: will they also be made to choose one Con over the other? (I’d like to picture the Toronto- and Chicago- area Indie/Alt crowd staying above the fray as they go to TCAF.)

    Sad case for non-Mainstream/Superhero/Big Two Comics fan on either coast.

    But if you need the drama, go right ahead and kvetch.

    Just like the ‘kvetching’ done on this site with the CON WARS between Shamus’ WIZARD WORLD
    Big Apple Comic Con and REED’s NYCC last year? Pretty good ‘drama’ in the reportage and commenting there, iirc… So why not here, in the Indie/Alt version of that CON WARS?

    /fun with Con analyses
    /glad with the Small Press Pavillion, Indie
    Exhibitor Tables, Illustrators’ Area at SDCC

  11. As someone who was involved with the Heroes Vs Wizard thing in 2006, this is not that. That was an aggressive move by a (back-then) big company on a smaller show’s dates. I think this MoCCA date thing is closer to, as Raina said, just the unfortunate reality of locking down a venue in NYC. I don’t know anyone at MoCCA, although their public voice has always made them seem like they’re only dimly aware that there are other conventions out there, and that they’re not the central event of… comics.

    The indie calendar isn’t as jammed with cons as the more general calendar though–so for cartoonists like me and others, those shows are spread throughout the year, Stumptown and TCAF in the spring/early summer, MoCCA after that, various regional festivals here and there along with indie tables at “mainstream” cons, and then SPX, APE, and MIX in the fall, and the new Brooklyn show in December. A show like MoCCA coinciding with something like Megacon isn’t going to affect many people, but Stumptown and MoCCA on the same weekend creates real problems for potential exhibitors, some of whom have built those shows into their yearly schedules and budgets. I doubt it will matter too much to attendance at either, but it creates unnecessary pressure for exhibitors, and from a marketing standpoint just starts off the year in the minus column. Which, for MoCCA, is where they end each year as well.

  12. I spent many years contacting other show organizers in an attempt to not book the same weekend for SPACE. Afer being almost completely ignored I just gave up. Most of these shows need to be booked over a year in advance so it is difficult. MOCCA was also orginally scheduled in June to fit nicely between SPACE and SPX. Since I don’t draw much from NYC that really hasn’t had much of an effect.

  13. This puts a monkey wrench in my plans. I’m signed up in advance for both shows. MoCCA has steadily been losing it’s luster and value to me over the past few years, while last year’s Stumptown Fest was enjoyable and successful beyond my expectations. I’m very much rooted in the East Coast and NYC, but I’m choosing Stumptown over MoCCA next year. Hoping MoCCA is kind enough to refund my payment.

  14. If skipping MoCCA, then consider:
    King Con November 3-6, 2011 (no info)
    The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival December 3, 2011 (Oops, it’s curated, applications are closed) Full: $200, half $75

    MoCCA: Full $310 – 375, Half $190 – 255
    Stumptown: ??? (site not updated since May)
    APE: $300 full, $175 half
    SPX: ??? (sold out for 2011, hope they add a ballroom)

  15. I’m sure the Beat will follow this story up with an interview with a representative of MoCCA, explaining their scheduling of MoCCA Fest 2012. That said, I like to offer a few thoughts:

    Large auditorium space is rare in NYC, and booking can become quite a challenge. From what I understand, the 69th Armory is reasonably priced by NYC standards, which makes it highly sought after. Prices for the space may vary depending on the time of year, much like hotel rooms.

    I’ve read here before how some are upset about the price of the tables at MoCCA Fest, and to that I would point out that the price of everything is high in New York City where we all we pay through the nose for everything. I’ve also read that there are those who swear never to return to MoCCA Fest. I can only offer that MoCCA Fest sold out every inch of space in 2011, something it did not do the years prior in the Armory. It’s true that not everyone can come into NYC and cover their costs. Those who live in the NY Mertro Area are at a huge advantage here, since they don’t have to pay for hotels, plane tickets, or driving costs. But I would still do this con if I didn’t live here, since NYC is such an import place for media and the history of comics in general.

    Personally, I exhibited at MoCCA Fest for the first time in 2011 and had a great time. I spent time with old friends, made new ones, and saw a lot of great art. I also arrived early enough to see some of the work that the MoCCA people had to do. The Armory is quite different form most halls in that there are no convention hall employees to lug, assemble and co-ordinate everything. MoCCA volunteers do it all. And they do it for several long days without complaining.

    I’ve said this before here: If you don’t like the way MoCCA does things, then by all means show up at 594 Broadway in Manhattan and offer some solutions. Get involved. You’ll find that what the MoCCA staff and volunteers do is hard work and completely thankless. They do it for the love of the medium. They do it so the works of the great masters of comics can be seen in their original form in a gallery setting. They do it so that fan and creator can interact in an intimate setting. They do it so that the history of comics can be told, debated, discussed. They do it so that industry pros can come and teach their craft to the next generation in classes sometimes as small as twelve students. They do it because they love comics, and not because they’re trying to screw anybody on the price of a convention table or to punish another convention or festival. MoCCA is not a commercial enterprise and is not motivated by profit or pride. It exists to promote the mediums of cartoons and comics, and I for one am glad it’s around.

  16. Why don’t publishers in the West form partnerships with publishers in the East to reciprocally represent one another at the two shows? This is not an ideal solution, but one that could help everyone out to an extent. It could even generate a little publicity– East-West partnerships as opposed to an East-West rivalry.

  17. As a former NYC girl, I don’t see a Stumptown vs. Mocca thing here at all. I’ll bet a steak dinner that this was (as stated above) a question purely of being able to get the space for any date possible.

    But Cliff, I wonder if you’d really do the show if you didn’t live there. ;) For sure, NYC is an important media city, as well as being home to an amazing amount of native comics talent. However, the high costs of hotels in the city, as well as the travel costs, make it prohibitive to some who would love to display there. Add in the $300 table on top of that, & it becomes a very pricey show to do. So you have to make all those travel costs back, at a minimum, to make it worth your while.

    Creators who live closer to Portland will probably do Stumptown; NYC/Mocca. *shrug* I don’t see this as a rivalry.

  18. Like Ben, this throws a wrench into my plans too. Since I intended to exhibit at both Festivals. I do think even if MoCCA may not have wanted to schedule the date as they did- that they knew exactly what they were doing and that they were for some of their exhibitors creating a scheduling conflict- but don’t take my word for it’s in the letter above-

    “Please note that the next Festival will take place over April Saturday 28 and Sunday April 29, 2012, with exhibitor registration taking place on the afternoon of Friday April 27. This is slightly different than our tentative dates of April 14-15. If this date is not convenient or you find you have a conflict, let us know immediately and we will he happy to issue you a full and complete refund; this offer will continue to stand until December 31, 2011”

    That seems pretty clear to me that they were aware of creating a scheduling conflict.

    What else is wonky is that I’ve been exhibiting at MoCCA since 2005 and my entire time as exhibitor not once have they ever made this offer before:

    “In addition, we would like to take this opportunity to show our gratitude for your continuing support by presenting you with SIX attendee weekend passes to MoCCA Fest 2012, courtesy of us. Please note that these are attendee tickets, and are non-transferable as exhibitor passes for your table. Bring family and friends to enjoy the festival the whole weekend through! This offer is only extended to our advance registered exhibitors.”

    That’s just seems weird to me to make such an offer if you didn’t know there’d be some grumbling from exhibitors.

    Either way, It’s too bad that MoCCA decided to do this. I really enjoy both conventions and even when they were a week apart I still managed to get to both. I’m from Portland but I live and work in Brooklyn so for me this is a disappointment.

    I’ll be at Stumptown this year and the other half Rabid Rabbit will be at MoCCA. boo

  19. Also, did anyone bother to find out how the Stumptown people felt about this? Their Twitter post from Aug 6th by @stumptowncomics reads:

    “Don’t blame @moccany for their schedule change – It’s can be difficult to line up the venue for the weekend you want!”

    I think if they’re over it, the rest of us can accept it as well. There’s no bad guys here, just the cruelty of the calendar.

  20. It’s not about how one con feels about it; at least not for me. Although I would not have exhibited at MoCCA this year anyway. But doubly not the weekend before TCAF, my best show of the year. It may be unavoidable, yes–but I would respectfully suggest that MoCCA has been plagued with bad (or even unfortunate) decisions for years now, and has proven itself to be singularly bad at addressing those mistakes publicly. If I were in that position, I think I would have tried harder to find a better date, even if it were months away, and especially if I had already accepted early-bird payment from exhibitors who might attend both. Whatever the real implications are to exhibitors, Stumptown, TCAF, or other adjacent shows, this is a troubling thing from an organization that doesn’t need any more ill-will aimed at it. Isn’t the point of MoCCA to promote and support the museum? Most charitable functions I know of depend on goodwill and the support of their donor communities.

  21. Howdy, all:

    I’m the founder and Director of the Stumptown Comics Fest, and yeah, Andrew’s correct on that – Stumptown’s move from Fall back to Spring in 2007 was in response to APE moving to the Fall that year. If I remember correctly, we saw a gaping hole in the spring schedule and decided to fill it!

    I’ve posted our official response to this over at our site, http://www.stumptowncomics.com, but to sum up, I’m not assigning any malice to this schedule change. I believe it simply reflects the difficulties of trying to schedule an event in an already-crowded period of time, and being limited by the availabilities of our chosen venues.

    I do feel for the exhibitors who now have to choose which of these two shows they won’t be able to attend now, though. In this stingy economy, small pressers and independent creators need every outlet they can find in which to promote and sell their work, and having one of those outlets effectively closed off is going to be hardest on the exhibitors. I hope we can find a way to minimize that a bit!

  22. It’s very impressive that so many small market comics creators can afford to jet around the country, sell their wares at these shows, and make a profit doing it. Something like MoCCA would be the only sort of comics convention I might enjoy attending, but I couldn’t even consider it. The pet sitting bill alone would be more than I could afford.
    I wonder if Independent comics could find a niche along with all the traveling Arts, and Crafts festivals that seem to tour the country, or at least regions on a yearly basis stopping in the same cities year after year. It’s clearly a circuit which the sellers follow. People turn up for these things who you would think have no usual interest in art, and purchase things which end up on the curb, in 2nd hand stores, or in a corner of the garage. Apparently the “event” atmosphere stimulates casual purchases. Comics would lend itself perfectly to this kind of touring festival. The relatively inexpensive nature of the publications would lend itself perfectly to impulse buying. The alure of attractive women dressed in provocative costume attire alone is enough to turn out surprisingly large crowds of people looking for something to do where they can walk around, eat, drink beer, ogle costumed women, and listen to live music played by cartoonist/rock musicians.

  23. For me and a number of other indie/small press/self-published cartoonists, the cost of exhibiting, travel, accommodations, etc. make this is nonissue. I don’t do MoCCA because it’s too expensive; I don’t do Stumptown because it’s too expensive. I do SPX because it’s close, so I don’t have the hotel and food costs; I do SPACE because the tables are cheap (about $40). I’m not whining about the costs; that’s the way it is, and so I adjust my exhibiting accordingly.

  24. We should totally go the other way: have small-press and alternative-comics events EVERYWHERE the weekend of April 27-28, 2012. Coast-to-coast and even world-wide in cities and towns all over. Like Free Comic Book Day, not in giving comics out for free, but an Alternative Comics Pride Weekend, with events spotlighting small-press and alternative-press comics.

  25. SPACE Tablers are $45.00 for returning exhibitors until 9/15/11. (loyalty counts!) They will be $55.00 for new exhibitors for the rest of this year and $65.00 next year up to the show or sell out. I don’t want Marek’s comment to lead somebody the wrong way. Sorry for the spam.

  26. To clarify: Torstin’s prices above are off. A table at MoCCA is $415 for regular schmoes. If two schmoes want to split a table, it’s $255 ea., so $510!

    You can get tables at both KingCon and BCAF and buy lunch at each show for the same price.

    The excuse, “Everything in New York is expensive!” is a crock of shit.

    Just sayin’.

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