The recipients of the 2023 MoCCA Award of Excellence were announced over the weekend. Every MoCCA, exhibitors have a chance to receive an Award of Excellence. This is not determined by date of publication but by what most impresses the judges that is tabled that weekend. Awardees receive $100 sponsored by the M. Prize, a WACOM Intuos tablet, and their work exhibited online on the Society of Illustrators website with links to their own websites and portfolios. This year’s judges were Columbia University’s comics archivist Karen Green and artists Colleen Doran and N. Steven Harris.
Here’s the full list of recipients:
A ee mi, Emoland (self-published)
Taiwanese cartoonist and illustrator, studied MFA at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Emoland is a riso zine she produced in 2021. According to a NYPL bio of the artist:
“She makes use of psychedelic retro styles, bright colors, and comics that empathize with people’s lives to create therapeutic works on social media. A ee mi attempts to explore the meaning of love, life, and existence”.
Emoland is a compilation of 15 short stories by the artist. [Instagram]
Chad Bilyeu, Chad in Amsterdam (self-published)
An expat abroad. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, an art director, writer, and photographer, Chad chronicles his life and experiences living and working in the Netherlands with his ongoing Chad in Amsterdam autobio series (2018 to present). [Instagram]
Leela Corman, Unterzakhn (Schocken/Pantheon)
Unterzakhn (Schocken/Pantheon, 2012) received praise upon its original release way back in 2012 but caught more so overseas with its French and Italian translations. Hopefully this new award will bring it back into the limelight. It should be noted that Leela Corman has been busy since Unterzakhn – with 2016’s We All Wish For Deadly Force (Retrofit/Big Planet) and 2022’s Victory Parade (Schocken/Pantheon). [Instagram]
“A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths.
“For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York’s Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life’s lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the telling details of that street life, Unterzakhn (Yiddish for “Underthings”) tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the “golden land,” where the difference between just barely surviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions.”
Yiping Dong, The Way To The Underworld (self-published)
Graphic designer and creative technologist hailing from China. Currently completing a BFA at Parsons School of Design. Her website.
Valita Durkin, Hive (self-published)
Hive synopsis from website:
“On her coronation Queen Miel takes her virgin mating flight, to begin her new hive in the realm of light, but she flies too high and is sucked into a strange tumultuous world ( Earth.) Where the king of Man and two ancient goddesses are locked in a prideful struggle that results in the vernal goddess Flora withholding spring and the goddess of wynter unleashing two monstrous destructive boars upon the land. Miel seemingly stuck on Earth decides she is going to make it the best place she can to create her new hive by renewing spring and bringing peace to the land, but she will need the help of the Queen of man an accomplished weaver lonely for her seaside homeland far away and Ari an extremely talented spider with extremely poor social skills. Miel now must find a way to help this rapidly changing kingdom and ensure the safety of her children.”
Erik Kriek, The Exile (Living the Line)
Dutch artist Erik Kriek’s graphic novel The Exile was published by Living the Line following a successful Kickstarter campaign in October 2022. Making $15,063 over a $14,000 funding goal. The synopsis:
“After seven years of exile, battle-hardened Hallstein Thordsson returns home to Iceland, only to find that old wounds haven’t healed. His very presence disrupts the delicate balance and threatens to tip all of Iceland into violence.
“A remarkable decades-spanning epic, Erik Kriek’s The Exile is equal parts action “Western” and family drama, with a surprising story of violence and consequences at its core. Told in a naturalistic modern style but with tremendous fidelity to the historical period in which it is set, The Exile depicts the Viking age in all of its conflict, turmoil, and social structure, with every detail depicted vividly on the page.”
Shinyeon Moon, Celestial Beings (self-published)
New York-based Shinyeon Moon holds an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts. Has taught at SVA and the Fashion Institute of Technology, had multiple exhibitions and possesses a number of awards. Celestial Beings is a zine published in 2023.
A.T. Pratt, Healthy Body!? Healthy Brain!! (self-published)
“Healthy Body?! Healthy Brain!!” is an inventive 2019 zine following the artist’s endeavours with physical fitness.
“HEALTHY BODY!? HEALTHY BRAIN!! Clean 2018/Clean 2019 Health and Wellness Initiative Practice Power Progress Research Report: A Lifestyle Guide by Health Guru A. T. Pratt is a comprehensive guide to fun and fitness in your local gymnasium for a modern intellectual. Since I decided to become healthy in Clean 2018, I have been achieving one G (gymnasium) point for each day of the calendar year. Has this made my muscles extraordinarily swollen to create a certified musclebound freak? Will I be cast in a starring role in a big budget superhero comic book adaptation? Find out in this helpful guide. Featuring a 2 color purple and yellow Risograph popup foldout center spread (a recreation of my local gymnasium, Plant Finesse) and 26 alternating purple and yellow colored paper illustrated text/comics pages + back and front cover on yellow cardstock.”
Peter Rostovsky, Damnation Diaries (Uncivilised Books)
Russian-born writer and artist, Peter Rostovsky has seen his paintings and fine art widely exhibited and produces comics work has appeared in anthologies, zines and more. He is a teacher at NYU, Parsons New School, and Lesley Art + Design. Damnation Diaries (Uncivilised Books) is due for wider release in May according to the publisher’s website.
The book’s synopsis:
“Hell can get you down. It’s big, hot, often painful, and a hard place to get creative projects done. But something else is bothering inmate PKRx354—something beyond the unrelenting and often absurd torture routines, the demons, or the tormenting trio of his mother, father, and girlfriend also consigned to the Underworld. Luckily there’s help: Fred Greenberg—Hell’s only psychotherapist. With Fred’s stoic and perceptive guidance, the “talking cure” proves productive. That is until a dastardly terrorist act by a mysterious faction threatens the very nature of the Underworld. Will our self-deprecating hero get to the cause of his nagging “ennui?” Will Fred find his own redemption? And will our hero ever find peace, or at least a vacation?
“Combining Dante, Douglas Adams, and Freud, Damnation Diaries is equal parts horror comedy and character-driven drama, uniquely converging the look of bronze-age comics with sharp literary satire. The book’s imaginative and surreal landscape serves as a perfect backdrop for caustic social commentary fit for our equally surreal times. The setting may be imaginary, but the urgent issues addressed are not: growing economic inequality, student debt, political crisis, terrorism, and the attempt to find peace under the most hostile of circumstances.”
Andi Santagata, Yennefer’s Body (self-published)
A Centre for Cartoon Studies grad with multiple fellowships and residencies. Fave genres include horror, horror comedy, and teen dramedy. Also known for his webcomic Trans Man Walking (2016-2019), Jed The Undead and is a contributor to the Five Nights at Freddy’s: Fazbear Frights anthology series. His self published zine Yennefer’s Body debuted at SPX 2022 and caught the attention of the MoCCA judges in March 2023.
The synopsis from Santagata’s website:
“An autobio comic/zine (started as part of my residency as Teaching Artist in Residence at SAW) about blood loss, cheating death, and what happens when other people feel ownership of your body, told through the (hazy, anemia-induced) lens of video games and TV sitcoms.”
Wilfrid Lupano and Jérémie Moreau’s The Hartlepool Monkey (Knockabout, 2012) – award received by Stephen Vrattos (Fanfare/Ponent Mon) at the Fanfare Presents table showcasing British indie publishers Fanfare, Book Palace, Breakdown Press, and Knockabout Press.
Hartlepool Monkey synopsis:
“1814, off the Durham coast, near the little village of Hartlepool, a warship in the Napoleonic fleet flounders during a storm and sinks. At daybreak, amid the wreckage and flotsam on the beach, fishermen discover a survivor: a monkey dressed in full military regalia, the mascot of the shipwrecked French vessel. Now, the good people of Hartlepool despise all Frenchmen, though they have never seen one in the flesh. Nor have they ever seen a monkey. But this brutish, bestial castaway tallies with the vague impression they have of the enemy… this alone is enough for the ape to find himself court-martialled.
“Inspired by the famous legend of the Hartlepool monkey, this is a tragi-comic fable of war and jingoism, of xenophobia and ignorance and of the glimmering of enlightenment…”