MoCCA Arts Festival returned to the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City earlier this month and I have some notes and observations to share with you.
MoCCA took place over a weekend, April 1-2, of which I was able to make it for Sunday. I’m not a New Yorker, at least not a resident but a lifelong fond visitor. As luck would have it, I sort of stumbled upon the event this year–although I have plans to participate next year. With that in mind, I was eager to make the most of my visit as well as share whatever insight I’ve collected over the years with a new friend thru comics, Zebadiah Keneally. Between my partner, the cartoonist and writer Jennifer Daydreamer, and myself, we enjoyed the event all the more with his company. We introduced Zeb to friends and colleagues as we came upon them. First off, we were charmed by two wonderful career cartoonists, Dean Haspiel and Gabrielle Bell. Dean chatted with us in an easygoing manner. He’s excited these days about his new comic, COVID COP, which looks fantastic. Gabrielle is doing great and was there to promote her work with Uncivilized Books.
The last time I’d been to MoCCA was actually twenty years ago, and it was in full swing, riding an intense wave of interest in alt-comics, held at the grand ole Puck Building in SoHo. It was a huge show with a Who’s Who cavalcade of talent, a truly festive circus-like environment and completely free. I was rudely awakened to find that I needed to pay $25 admission for the day. And I literally had to beg for a program since they were nearly out. By comparison, Metropolitan Pavilion is a smaller venue. That said, I quickly got into the groove of things. There was much to see and, no wonder they were almost out of programs. It was nonstop activity.
Ellen Lindner is one of our great cartoonists. She is devoted to whatever project she takes on, like The Strumpet, which is one of the best comics anthologies I’ve had the pleasure to read. And I also know that lately she’s been devoted to a comics project about baseball. Part One and Two to Lost Diamonds are available now. It was fun to chat with her and introduce her to Jennifer and Zeb. Ellen made a wonderfully insightful comment having to do with the creation of comics and the navigating of a comics career: “Do what you want. Pace yourself. Making comics is hard!” Well, perhaps it was a little more nuanced than that but that’s the gist of it–and I must say that I agree. Comics are hard to make, at least the kind that are worth a hoot.
Joe Sikoryak is a filmmaker who decided to follow his brother, R. Sikoryak, into the world of comics. Joe says that is was during the pandemic that he got the idea of a comics series based upon his early years of fandom. When We Were Trekkies follows the adventures of a group of teenagers back in the ’70s who witness, and take part in, the advent of comics fandom as we know it today, going back to the development of interest in reruns of the original Star Trek television series (1966–69) which would evolve into a pop culture phenomenon. The series will be collected into a graphic novel.
Panayiotis (Pan) Terzis is an artist, printer and publisher based in New York. Terzis is the founder of the risograph publishing platform Mega Press. In 2015, Terzis co-founded the RisoLAB, a risograph studio based at the School of Visual Arts. The RisoLAB presence at MoCCA was certainly a hit. It was a pleasure to chat with Pan and to purchase one of his prints.
I got into a conversation with this young student from Syracuse University and lost his card. And then found it later after I had time to decompress. Your comics look great, Nikkos! I briefly got to speak with Frank Cammuso, the professor of Illustration, and was delighted to learn about the university’s comics courses.
Alex Segura is a writer you may be familiar with, especially if you keep up with comics. Segura is the author of Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall and the acclaimed Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery series, as well as a number of comics. He was at MoCCA in support of his new novel, Secret Identity, published by Flatiron Books.
MoCCA Arts Festival has survived the pandemic and looks to be on steady ground. I could see only happy and content customers in every direction. This festival began in 2002. I was there for its second year and fondly recall the excitement. Indie comics had crossed a significant threshold in the general public’s recognition and anything seemed possible. There was a giddy feeling crossing generations and everyone was there celebrating: Danny Hellman was there. Sophie Crumb was there. Denis Kitchen was there. Kramers Ergot was arguably at its height and flying high. It was fun. People were excited.
Now, a generation has had time to mature and reflect. Covid has robbed us all of that same innocent euphoria. If it’s there, it’s just not the same. It’s tempered. It’s battle-weary. I’m battle-weary but, as Ellen Lindner pointed out, you’ve got to pace yourself! So, I keep reminding myself that I’m an artist and I’m a cartoonist, even though I don’t really need to remind myself. And, before I made my exit, I stopped by and paid my respects to the Fantagraphics table and kissed the ring of Gary Groth. Well, I say that in jest. It was a pleasure to see him. I handed him a postcard of my new book, George’s Run, and tried my best to give him a fast pitch about it, just for the sake of conversation. You can consider this postcard a preview for my being at MoCCA next year. Anyway, it was a nice thing to do. And I couldn’t help but recalling doing a different pitch for a different book to him at MoCCA all those years ago. I was full of hope then and I’m full of hope now. That spirit is still around. It had better me. It never really left. It’s here. I know it is.
MoCCA Arts Festival returns next year, the weekend of March 16-17, 2024.