Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
I came to shop.
Seriously, I was just about as excited for this past weekend’s MoCCA festival as I’ve ever been for any comic convention. And it wasn’t because of the guests or the panels or even getting to see so many of my friends and colleagues — it was because of the comics. The best thing about a small-press show is your ability to dig into the tables and come away with enough treasures to keep you reading happily for weeks. Proceeding from the top left of the picture above in as logical a fashion as I can manage, here’s a rundown of my personal treasure trove…
Cage Variations Vol. 1 by Sean T. Collins & Matt Rota and The Side Effects of the Cocaine by Sean T. Collins & Isaac Moylan: I apologize if it seems crass to include comics I myself wrote and helped sell at the show, but I assure you, these books were as new to me as they were to anyone else who bought them. As a mere writer (though I prefer the phrase “pure writer,” of course), my involvement in the production of actual books to contain the comics I’ve done is beyond minimal. I just bankrolled the print run for The Side Effects of the Cocaine (a David Bowie bio-comic), while the very existence of the Cage Variations mini (containing interlocking stories about a college kid who imprisons one of his fellow students in a cage in his basement) was unknown to me until Matt told me about it two days before the show. Isaac and Matt did all the hard work, and the result was as much of a discovery for me as anything else I bought. Thanks, guys, and thanks to the Partyka table for giving me the table space to sell these!
Jumbly Junkery #9 by L. Nichols: The latest installment of Nichols’s one-woman anthology minicomic series, featuring maybe the most striking cover of the lot. I’ve got a backlog of Nichols material I’m psyched to make my way through in the coming weeks.
The Troll King by Kolbeinn Karlsson, Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell, and Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker: The results of my raid on the Top Shelf table. The Troll King was the weirdest-looking book in the publisher’s so-called “Swedish Invasion,” a creepy-cute fairy-tale-lookin’ thing, right up my alley. Second Thoughts was published before the “Swedish Invasion” proper and I had a review copy, but I wanted the real thing, largely on the strength of Asker’s gorgeous Farel Dalrymple-meets-Adrian Tomine art. Finally, Eddie Campbell’s art has always impressed the pants off of me (no pun intended), but at the same time the writing of his autobio work hit me as off-puttingly knowing and arch. I’m excited to plow through his entire autobio oeuvre in one go to see what I really think.
Mr. Cellar’s Attic by Noel Freibert, Closed Caption Comics #8 by Closed Caption Comics, and Held Sinister by Conor Stechschulte: The latest bounty from the Closed Caption Comics collective, a squad of MICA grads who seem to grow more ambitious and prolific with each show they attend. There are so many CCC’ers, and they make so many comics, that it’s almost impossible to keep up with them, but I always come away from their table with two or three new gems. Any issue of their flagship self-titled anthology is a good place to start.
Monstrosity Mini by Jorge Diaz: I met Jorge because he was sharing a table with L. Nichols and Jess Fink, and he was kind enough to hand me a copy of his new minicomic, a tiny package that looks like it was loaded with its tiny nine-panel-grids by some kind of machine. He’s got some real control over his line, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to giving this a read.
Studio Visit by James McShane: I liked McShane’s ambitiously constructed minicomic Archaeology a lot, which I suppose is what persuaded him to hand me a copy of his new one. Flipping through it, it looks like it’s staking out some of the same territory as its predecessor, dealing with the interaction of physical space and emotion, but in a much less minimalist style. Intriguing!
Snow Time by Nora Krug: Krug was my big discovery at last year’s MoCCA, thanks to her killer suite of interwoven books collectively called Red Riding Hood Redux. I’ll now pick up whatever she’s doing, as if the lovely blues of Snow Time weren’t enticement enough.
pood #1, edited by Geoff Grogan, Kevin Mutch, and Alex Rader: I’ve admitted my skepticism about newsprint, but taking a look at this impressive, giant-sized anthology, it’s easy to put those doubts to rest. (Besides, as Geoff Grogan told me, the paper stock was a question of economic necessity, not nostalgia.) From its striking Sara Edward-Corbett front page on down, this is a compelling collection of comics off-the-beaten-path creators both (relatively) well-known and obscure. I ought to cut quite the figure flipping through this gigantic thing on the Long Island Rail Road!
Wiegle for Tarzan by Matt Wiegle and The Numbers of the Beasts by Shawn Cheng: My ersatz tablemates from the Partyka collective are among the most acclaimed practitioners of the art of the minicomic around, and it seems that at every show they have some new marvel of comic efficiency to boast of. This time out, we’ve got one maybe Wiegle’s funniest effort yet — about his run for the oft-neglected office of New York State’s official Tarzan — and a child-style counting book from Cheng once again showcasing his love of mythological monsters from around the world. These guys can draw, and the production quality of their little books is second to none, especially considering the low low prices.
Dose #1-2, edited by Brendan McGinley: My former Wizard coworker Brendan gifted me copies of the first two installments of the humor anthology he helms. For what it’s worth, I think there were fully a dozen former Wizard staffers on hand, two of us as exhibitors. There’s probably a message of some kind there.
To Teach by Bill Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner: This comics adaptation of educator, activist, and former Weatherman Bill Ayers’ memoir was pressed into my hands by NYC altcomix gadabout Jeff Newelt/Jah Furry, who’s apparently more down with pallin’ around with terr’ists than Sarah Palin was. I still think not getting Ayers on a panel with Frank Miller was a major dropped ball for the show.
Chiggers by Hope Larson: I used the occasion of getting a David Bowie sketch from Hope as an excuse to buy her young-adult summer-camp graphic novel. I’d never read it before but, after checking out her new book Mercury, I really wanted to.
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso, Weathercraft by Jim Woodring, and Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 by Michael Kupperman: These are three of the jaw-dropping 13 books Fantagraphics debuted at the show. Kelso’s Artichoke Tales has been almost a decade in the coming, Weathercraft is creepy-looking new tale from Woodring’s darkly psychedelic funny-animal Frank-verse, and Thrizzle is the latest installment in Kupperman’s killer humor series, now in full color. I already had copies of Tim Hensley’s Wally Gropius and Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches and Jaime Hernandez’s Penny Century and Gilbert Hernandez’s The High Soft Lisp or I doubtless would have picked those up, too. You could safely shop only from Fantagraphics and still experience a hella great comics industry in microcosm.
Trigger #1 by Mike Bertino and Shitbeams on the Loose #2, edited by Rusty Jordan and Dave Nuss: Look at those covers! I’d heard of and been intrigued by the Shitbeams anthology thanks to a Tom Spugeon review,
but a Ron Rege Jr. cover is always gonna get me to pick something up sight-unseen; he’s one of the most fascinating, and graphically lovely, cartoonists in alternative comics. UPDATE: Ugh. After writing all that about how much I love Ron’s work, editor Dave Nuss informs me that isn’t Ron’s work, it’s Andy Rementer’s. Don’t I feel like a horse’s ass. Anyway, Trigger was sitting next to it on what I assume was the Revival House Press table, and got bought through a case of reverse-guilt by association. The contents aren’t as Providence-y as the cover might suggest, but Bertino’s style comes across like a greatest-hits tour of the past half-decade or so of altcomix, and I think it’ll be fun to discover if it reads as well as it looks. And the thrill of discovery is what a show like MoCCA is all about.