|Hope Larson at the smashing party she organized.|
Okay, this is our BIG Post-MoCCA post, and to break up the ranting we’ll intersperse it with a few of our less crappy pictures.
First, a few of my own notes. I think the Armory was actually not such a bad venue for the show — had it been a cooler day out, I suspect that more people would have been inclined to merely sit back and enjoy its eccentricities and unique architectural details. Like the Puck Building, it’s old and historic, but unlike the tenants of the Puck Building, apparently the National Guard doesn’t have the dough to install central AC for a space the size of an airplane hangar.
And, having everyone in one room on one floor was much better than the crazy quilt layout of the Puck. There was so much more room to stand around and talk and gather and read comics and drink water and just kick back. AND having the panels just a stone’s throw away was a HUGE improvement.
That said, while it was an okay venue in theory, several things made it not so good in practice.
|High ceilings ascend into blackness.|
Technorati Tags: Mocca 09
Okay, so a show made up of people sitting behind small wooden tables selling little pieces of paper does look kinda flea-marketish when plopped down into a dark airplane hangar. The Puck Building had classy floor length white curtains, diffused lighting and well maintained hardwood floors. This was not like that antique Gatling guns and copper-seating review stands aside.
I often maintained that it was impossible to take a bad picture of someone in the Puck because of the great lighting. That was not so in the Armory. Throw in hangovers, dehydration, and seven hours of sweat and you have a bunch of people who didn’t look so glowing. And they knew it. I think the Puck gave everyone’s self esteem a boost and the Armory kind of shot it down again.
Evan Dorkin expanded on his thoughts posted in a comment here and really buries the show. All of his complaints are legit, and the fact that he didn’t sign up again for last year is very telling.
Equally telling is Dave Roman’s equally negative report: Too hot to handle. Even allowing for Dave having had his magazine shut down the day before, he’s one of the most positive, level-headed people we know in this business, and he had some serious problems:
I’m a huge fan of the event and also a strong supporter of the MoCCA organization, who puts on the festival (as well as other great events in NYC throughout the year). It’s a thankless job run by hardworking volunteers. It’s easy to complain about what goes wrong, and not enough people stop to appreciate all the things that go right. Considering how many new people are running things this year, and since I generally like the people involved, I was ready to give the MoCCA crew a free pass. The show opening an hour late and all the panels getting shifted around certainly sucked. But there is a learning curve, and I assume the volunteers scrambled to right any wrongs.
But by mid Saturday, for the first in 15 years of exhibiting at cons, I seriously contemplated packing up my stuff and going home. Granted, having just found out that Nick Mag [the best job in the world] was coming to end, did not put me in a great mindset. But I seriously tried to embrace the changes and enjoy myself. As an SVA grad, I have fond memories of the neighborhood, and thought the historic significance of the Armory was cool. But once you are inside, you might as well be in any old warehouse. The inside of the Armory has none of the charm that made MoCCA feel unlike any other convention. I truly believe the Puck Building location helped people rethink comics! Is it a coincidence that the start of the MoCCA Art Fest coincided with the NY Publishing world suddenly becoming more interested in graphic novels and comics in general?
Much more in the link.
|Luckily these guns were not loaded, or there might have been strife.|
Someone I don’t know at all named Joshua Smeaton summed up the complaints regarding organization of the show that I heard over and over again:
There is no info on the website about Art Fest. I believe it’s the end of April before they get around to putting some very basic info up. Table assignment’s were not sent out until 4 days prior to the show. Most exhibitors like to share this kind of stuff and do self promotion. This show is the museums big fund raiser for the entire year. You’d think they would want as much info and promotion about it as possible.
Also this show is not cheap. For exhibitors or attendees. Part of that is because it’s New York and everything is expensive and part of it is because it’s about raising funds for the Museum. But for the amount of money they’re pulling in I don’t think it’s too much to expect such basic information in a timely manor. Yes this is a new venue and sure there are going to be some kinks. But they’ve been doing this for 7 years I think. It’s not like they’re starting from scratch.
Cheese Hasselberger of House of 12 joins in the pile-on:
So obviously, the lack of any AC is my biggest gripe (also maybe more then 1 garbage can for the entire hall would have been a good idea), but a close second is the announcement of next year’s table prices; $400 a table. And that’s the early bird price, making the regular price, what? $500? For many of MoCCA’s most ardent, core audience it’s the self-published comic, or mini or zine or hand crafted silk-screened one-off that makes the show special. How are those people supposed to make the table cost back? Or even close? For much of the room ‘making table’ is considered a success. At $300 it’s doable only if you huckster your ass off for 2 days, but $400-500? There’s no way. No one is ever going to make 400 beans selling a $.50 mini. They are cutting out the very people who made the show what it is. And that’s a shame. If I’m not mistaken, MoCCA 2010 is now the most expensive ‘small press’ show in the country… during the greatest economic nightmare in three generations… with print comics sales losing ground to web comics day by day… with no AC… and one garbage can…
OUCH. (Emphasis mine.)
Obviously there are some serious problems here. I heard, anecdotally, from several different people that air conditioning IS available for the Armory but it comes at a BIG cost. There were different figures, so let’s round them off and say the ballpark is $20K. (I often see giant AC truck pumping air in through an Andy Dufresne-sized pipe for the fashion and high end antique shows that are held regularly at the building, so it’s definitely doable.) That’s 50 of those $400 tables, so…a sizable amount.
I have no idea what other venues are available for what price, but that’s what event planning is all about. In their nostalgia for the Puck Building, a lot of people have forgotten that it is often hot. I’m not going to look at my old posts, but I must have used “Things Heat Up At Mocca!” as a post title every year — summer in NYC is hot and sweaty, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that heat must be taken into account.
I suspect that if MoCCA continues in June no matter where it is held, ladies will be fanning themselves, and gentlemen will be mopping their brows.
The general disorganization of the show — well documented by exhibitors and bloggers — is another matter and I won’t take time to point fingers or scold or whatever. Like Dave said, anything that’s volunteer is hard to do. It should be noted, though, that people kept going on about how great TCAF was, and not just because Toronto in May is perfect weather. They said that because Chris Butcher and Peter Birkamoe, the TCAF show runners, are PASSIONATE about the show, and PASSIONATE about comics. That kind of passion takes a lot out of you, and it takes a lot of time. I raved about the recent MeCAF show in Portland, ME, and so did everyone else. Many people said that for a first time show, the organization was flawless. Of course it was much smaller, but it was obvious that a lot of planning had gone into it.
It was obvious to everyone that MoCCA planning was not all it could have been. I did have one rather disturbing conversation with a MoCCA board member who, when I suggested that a lot of people were hot and cranky, said, incredible as it seems, that that was the first he’d heard of it. He did allow that perhaps people were telling me one thing and him another, but to suggest that the heat problem wasn’t obvious is risible. This kind of denial isn’t going to help anyone solve anything.
With Stumptown and TCAF winning so many plaudits, and APE and SPX running smoothly, MoCCA has a lot to live up to. And here my hometown pride steps in. Portland, OR and Toronto are great comics towns, but New York is second to none. The talent and diversity of the cartooning scene — and the designers, fine artists, illustrators and writers — is staggering. The programming at MoCCA was simple stuff, some of it seen days before at the Strand. And you know what? It still slayed. We NEED a MoCCA that reflects and enhances that. I love New York Comic-Con, but it’s not a show that makes economic sense for the indie and art comics publishers. I’m sad about that, but I always think “Well, we have MoCCA for that.” Now, most of the publishers I talked to are reconsidering their participation. And we can’t lose it.
Is it possible that these publishers will soften their heats when they see how much money they made at MoCCA? Possible, but given the rising costs, still a problem. To veer back into positive territory, despite all the heat and griping, MoCCA was still a VERY successful show for most of the publishers and artists who attended. But as it stands now, its future shape is very much something that needs to be hammered out.
For the negative comments I’ve spotlighted, there are dozens of posts that raved about the great, fun, beautiful, wonderful aspects of the show. Because you know, at night, it’s a different world, go out and find a girl. Some of MY highlights:
• Thanks to everyone who thanked me for my Dining Guide. It seems to have helped a lot of folks, and I’m pleased. Everyone liked the banh mi! Plus when you see Chris Staros and Gary Panter eating lunch at your usual workday hangout, it’s kinda cool.
• Just to reiterate, the Armory is weird and funky as hell! If people hadn’t been so distracted by the heat, they might have had more fun with the fact that the building contains both an old school wooden phone booth and a crystal cross.
• There were so many people I didn’t even know were at the show, like Hellen Jo and Kean Soo and Renee French and a kabillion others. MoCCA is a wonderful stew of friends and colleagues, and I’m glad I got to spend time with at least a few of them. At the risk of being soppy, a show like this is a reminder of how many smart, talented and kindhearted people I know, and being around them is a real privilege.
• The partying was strong and hard. Every one was well attended and fun in their own way. At the CBLDF Karaoke Party, we got to say hi to a lot of peeps, including Blog@’s Lucas Siegel, with whom we’ve had spirited blogospheric back and forths, but in person it turns out we’re pals, so it’s all good!
• MoCCA’s foreign contingent continues to be one of its strongest elements. The Scandinavian — and now Danish — comics on display were stunning.
|Jerry Moriarty and Alvin Buenaventura pose with the new THE COMPLETE JACK SURVIVES.|
• At the end of the show, I had a fantastic conversation with Jerry Moriarty, the artist of JACK SURVIVES, which came out in a gorgeous collected edition from Buenaventura. At 71, Moriarty, best known as a painter and art teacher, is a veteran of the RAW era, but he had some fascinating, to me anyway, observations on the development of the comics scene in New York. He recalled going to early Phil Seuling cons of the ’70s as a fine artist, but being inspired by the fantastic mix of cartoonists, artists and filmmakers even then. “We were always being wonderfully surprised by the unexpected,” he told me. Most folks think that the “comic-con” as a multimedia meeting place is a recent development, but clearly it has always been there. He also mentioned the Armory as a plus in that showing his comics in the same building where Marcel Duchamp introduced America to Modern Art was very fitting.
|A bittersweet moment as Tim Leong packs it up for the last time.|
• I must extend my thanks to Tim Leong, who let me sit with him when I needed a break or to eat my breakfast. Tim had bought a table last year before he knew Comic Foundry was going to shut down, so it was very much a swansong for him.
And now random pics:
|Friday night’s misty sidewalk party in BBurg.|
|Tucker Stone has the CBLDF Karaoke crowd totally rocking out! What a night! Thanks for coming out.|
|David Mazzucchelli signs his epic ASTERIOS POLYP. It was an immediate sellout both days.|
|The mystery of the crystal cross.|
|We saw several people actually making calls on the phone.|
|Michael Kupperman and Jason! Jesus, what if a bomb dropped?
How would we laugh or cry anymore?
|Some of the Finnish crew.|
|Make mine a Danish! I had these guys’ names but lost them, of course.
IDs in comments welcome. Also, apparently they read The Beat in Denmark?
|Kate Beaton and Randall Munroe…side by side for the whole show. Yow!|
|Those WPA* murals in the panel rooms were FANTASTIC.|
|More surreal vistas.|
|Ah, New York, you will always have my heart. There is nothing better than leaving at the end of a busy, busy show and walking three blocks and being right in our own home. Until next year.|
* I realize that some people may not know what the WPA is, or, like me, may have heard the phrase for years and not known what it is. Basically, during the Great Depression, with unemployment at historic levels (even worse than now) the Government set up the Works Progress Administration to hire people to build roads, fix bridges, and even create public art. Influenced by such contemporary artists as the great Mexican visionary Diego Rivera, the WPA artists created murals and sculptures all across the nation, many in this kind of epic institutional art-meets-Henry Darger-esque style. If for no other reason than getting to see these cool murals, I will always be grateful for the experience of MoCCA Fest ’09.