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MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is small but mighty. On Saturday and Sunday, the show will take over the second floor of Lesley University’s University Hall, better known to locals as the Porter Exchange. Admission is free, and the roster includes a mix of local creators, aspiring artists just out of school, and some big names, including special guests James Kochalka, Emily Carroll, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman and Box Brown.
We talked with one of the organizers, Dan Mazur (a comics creator and publisher in his own right), about the challenges of running a small indie-comics show in general and the unique qualities of MICE in particular.
Brigid Alverson: What is the focus of MICE, and how is it different from other comics festivals?
Dan Mazur: MICE is an independent/alternative comics show, in the vein of larger shows like SPX, MoCCA Fest and APE, and others like TECAF, CAKE, MECAF. … So it differs from the mainstream comic cons for its lack of superheroes, cosplay, etc., and for the preponderance of minicomics. But for those familiar with the alternative scene, I guess we do have more of a focus (though not exclusive) on a local comics scene, and also on kid-friendly material and activities, to a degree.
Boston gets its own small-press show this weekend: The fourth annual Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, aka MICE, takes place Saturday and Sunday at Lesley University in Cambridge.
While Boston may not be New York City, or even Portland, Oregon, we do have a pretty good comics presence here, and it’s also close enough to other cities that artists can easily make the trip. This year they have a pretty amazing guest list that includes Chris Duffy (editor of SpongeBob Comics and the just-released Fairy Tale Comics), Maris Wicks (Primates), Josh Neufeld (The Influencing Machine, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge), Nick Bertozzi (Lewis & Clark, The Salon), George O’Connor (The Olympians, Journey into Mohawk Country), Mike Cavallaro (Foiled!), Nick Abadzis (Laika, Hugo Tate) and R. Sikoryak (Masterpiece Comics).
MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA for the Boston area. Sponsored by the Boston Comics Roundtable and the Art Institute of Boston, MICE is in its third year, and last year’s show was such a hit that tables for this year sold out within three hours. The headline guest is R. Sikoryak, and the roster includes Box Brown, Ming Doyle, Cathy Leamy, Kevin Church, Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (who will be debuting their latest Pet Shop Private Eye book at the show), Adventure Time team Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, and many more too numerous to mention (more than 150 in all). Besides Venable and Yue’s book, there are several other debuts at the show, including the Boston Comics Roundtable’s Hellbound III, Cathy Leamy’s Diabetes Is After Your Dick and Mike Lynch’s Don’t Let the Zombie Drive the Bus.
As much as I love the big shows, and I’ll move heaven and earth to get to New York Comic Con every year, I really enjoy smaller shows like this. Boston has a lot of native and nearby comics talent, and while the room does get crowded at times, it’s still more laid back than a big con. You get to see talent at all stages of its development and interact with creators while they are still making their comics by hand. Plus it’s in a great location, easy to get to and with a ton of good restaurants nearb y— no shriveled-up turkey sandwiches for $9 a pop or fake coffee in a Styrofoam cup. Admission is free, too. So if you’re in the area, hop on the T and check it out.
I spent an enjoyable Saturday at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, a.k.a. MICE, last week, and I came away very impressed with the quality of the work on display. This was MICE’s biggest year so far, with three rooms and some corridors of the Lesley College building in Porter Square filled with table after table of hand-crafted comics. For much of the day, the place was packed.
People don’t think of Boston as a comics town, like Portland or Brooklyn, but there’s a lot of talent here, much of it gathered under the aegis of the Boston Comics Roundtable; in addition, a number of the artists had come from New York, Rhode Island and Maine. Here’s a sample of some of the minicomics I picked up.
By far the standout minicomic of the show was The Potter’s Pet, by Braden D. Lamb and Shelli Paroline. The story feels like a traditional folk tale, although I don’t think it is; it’s about a potter in a Moroccan-style marketplace who makes a robot, then keeps re-customizing it to please his customers. The story is well told and the art is professional quality, which is not surprising as Paroline has been doing professional work for some time now, including the art for several of BOOM! Studios’ Muppet Show comics. In The Potter’s Pet, she carries the Moroccan theme through in the panels, which echo the shapes of Islamic architecture. I would say it’s the best $5 I spent at the show, but the book sold out before I could get a copy and I had to borrow it from a friend. I hope they make more.