I walked into MoCCA Arts Fest a few minutes after it opened, with my friend Erica Friedman, and we noticed the difference right away: The last two shows have had an improvised, “Let’s have a comics show! We can use my father’s barn!” kind of feeling. They weren’t disorganized, exactly, and the talent has always been top-notch, but the show floor felt crowded, cluttered, and confusing.
This was the first year that the Society of Illustrators was running the event. Organizers had a lot to prove, and they proved it. The show felt professional. The aisles were wider. A very simple addition — a bright red backdrop that ran behind the tables — made a huge difference, giving visitors more focus and eliminating the distraction of looking out across that cavernous space. The red curtains also set off a small gallery at the back of the armory that featured original comics art from the Society’s collection, a gentle reminder that they have been welcoming comics creators for more than 100 years. Visitors could buy a slick, nicely produced catalog for $5, and there was a modest cafe downstairs, a pleasant addition that allowed friends who met at the show to sit down and have a bite and a chat without disrupting the experience too much.
Conventions | The Tokyo Big Sight convention center in May will lift the ban on events associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. Creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki and numerous venues that were hosting manga and doujinshi (fan comics) shows have received threatening letters, some containing liquid or powder, and as a result, Kuroko’s Basketball fan events have been canceled and doujinshi tables have been banned from several comics events. (More background here.) [Kotaku]
Publishing | J. Michael Straczynski discusses the revival of Joe’s Comics, which returns in May with the Image Comics release of Ten Grand, illustrated by Ben Templesmith. Top Cow was home to the imprint from 1999 to 2004, publishing such series as Delicate Creatures, Midnight Nation and Rising Stars. A preview of Ten Grant will be available in April at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. [MTV Geek]
Creators | Ryan North, creator of Dinosaur Comics and the writer for the Adventure Time comic, talks about his work habits. [Lifehacker]
Creators | Penny Arcade co-creator Mike Krahulik talks about Strip Search, the reality TV-style webseries they will launch on Friday. [IGN]
Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who hasn’t been associated with the show since 2000, has been brought back to the Gwinnett County Jail and booked on child molestation charges that date back to August 2000. The 51-year-old Kramer was released on bond after his initial arrest following accusations that he sexually abused three boys, and has avoided jail and court for more than a decade because of his health problems, although he was under house arrest for a while. He was arrested again in Connecticut in 2011 for violating the conditions of his bond after he was allegedly found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. Atlanta Magazine ran a lengthy expose on Kramer last year. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Museums | So what is the deal with the move of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art to the Society of Illustrators? They are being “transferred and acquired,” says MoCCA President Ellen Abramowitz, although the headline on this article says “rescued.” “After the transition, the Society of Illustrators will go on to be the sole overseer and manager of the holdings. ‘It’s in excellent hands,’ said Ms. Abramowitz.” [The Wall Street Journal]
The press release sounds a little ominous:
The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) and the Society of Illustrators have announced plans for MoCCA to transfer its assets to the Society, creating a single cultural institution supporting and celebrating illustration, comics, and animation.
Does that mean MoCCA is going to disappear? Apparently not:
The Society will continue and expand MoCCA’s mission in a number of ways: staging MoCCA Fest in its current location, dedicating a gallery in the Society building to MoCCA’s Permanent Collection, continuing MoCCA programming, and curating a special exhibition of works from MoCCA’s Permanent Collection in their Hall of Fame Gallery (on display March 5-May 4), which will run in conjunction with a major exhibit, “The Comic Art of Harvey Kurtzman,” curated by graphic designer and comics-anthology editor Monte Beauchamp. There will be extensive arts programming around both of these exhibits, including lectures, workshops, film and music series. Current MoCCA memberships will be honored at the Society of Illustrators.
This being New York, it’s all about the real estate, or at least that’s how it feels; the museum’s earlier digs, at 594 Broadway, were in a cool neighborhood but on the fourth floor. MoCCA President Ellen Abramowitz told The Comics Journal last month that MoCCA’s lease was up and they needed to decide whether to stay or go. The new space will be a ground-level gallery on East 63rd St., a few blocks east of Central Park.
As for the Society of Illustrators, they seem to be pretty comics-friendly; previous members include Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, and Rube Goldberg—the list in the press release is heavily slanted toward newspaper comics. The question is to what extent MoCCA will be able to keep its own identity, and it seems like for the next year at least, that won’t be a problem.
Organizations | Following the abrupt closing on Monday of the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art’s decade-old New York City location, President Ellen S. Abramowitz promises, “MoCCA is not dead. Some reporters assumed we were going to a virtual gallery, but that is not the case. There will be a new physical space.” She tells The Comics Journal that the new space, expected to be announced at the end of the month, will be an improvement over the old one, which occupied 975 square feet on the fourth floor of a SoHo building. [TCJ.com]
Publishing | ICv2 provides more evidence of an increasingly robust direct market with the news that eight comics, driven by Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men and DC’s New 52, sold more than 100,000 copies in June, tying the number in November 2011. Those two months had the most titles over 100,000 since January 2008, when nine passed that milestone. In addition, three graphic novels sold more than 10,000 copies in June and and two sold more than 20,000. [ICv2]
After more than 10 years in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art announced today it’s immediately closing its current location.
The news arrived this morning on the museum’s Facebook page; a banner on the MoCCA website states the museum “is currently closed to the public.” Details about MoCCA’s new venue are expected to be revealed at the end of the month.
Founded in 2001 by Lawrence Klein, the museum is dedicated to “the collection, preservation, study, education and display of comic and cartoon art,” and regularly hosts exhibitions. However, it’s probably best known for MoCCA Fest, the independent comics convention that serves as a fundraiser for the organization.
Read the full announcement below:
Retailing | The retail news and analysis site ICv2 contends sales of graphic novels in the direct market may be better than recent numbers indicate because of the way Diamond Comic Distributors reports those figures. While the distributor’s calculations are based on the wholesale value of shipments, ICv2 based its estimates on the retail value, and found graphic novel sales rose 24.4 percent in March, rather than declined 5.7 percent (versus a year ago), and climbed 27.7 percent in April, rather than just 12.6 percent: “The big differences between the wholesale and retail rates of change in recent months appear to be caused by big increases in the number of graphic novels liquidated through Diamond in March and April. So retail dollars were up, while wholesale dollars lagged. ” [ICv2]
Conventions | Audrey Gillan previews this weekend’s Kapow! in London by casting a spotlight on organizers Lucy and Sarah Unwin — they’re partnered with Mark Millar — and their efforts to create a female-inclusive comic convention. “We ourselves as women organising the show have been accused of misogyny because of the obviously male guest list, but there is just this lack of female creators and it’s the nature of the industry,” Lucy Unwin said. “There’s no point in taking it to heart because I don’t employ the creators. I would love there to be more women at the show in terms of guests.” [The Guardian]
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
Dust off your shoes and pull your tote bag out of the closet kids, it’s MoCCA time once again. The annual indie/small press comics show hosted by the Museum will take place at the Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City this weekend. It promises to be a grand affair, with tons of publishers, minicomics, books and panels to choose from. Underneath the link we’ve put together a quick rundown of some of the more notable and interesting (well interesting to us any way) goings-on at the show this weekend.
Publishing | Sales of comic books and graphic novels in July fell 6.17 percent versus July 2010, with dollar sales of comic books sold through Diamond Comic Distributors falling 4.27 percent and graphic novels falling 10.10 percent year-over-year. Unit sales for comics were only down slightly, at .52 percent, which ICv2 points out “indicates that comic book cover prices have in fact declined. The problem is that circulation numbers have not risen enough to make up for the decline in revenue from lower cover prices.” Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #666, which kicked off the “Spider-Island” event, was the best-selling comic of the month, while League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century #2 from Top Shelf topped the graphic novel chart. John Jackson Miller has commentary.
Marvel saw a slight increase in its dollar market share for July when compared to June, while DC’s jumped from 28.03 percent in June to 30.55 percent in July. IDW, the No. 5 publisher in terms of dollar share in June, moved to the No. 3 position in July. The top seven publishers were rounded out by Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite and BOOM! [ICv2]
You might be familiar with Rick Parker from his work on the Pekar Project, the Beavis and Butthead comics he did for MTV, or his comic Deadboy, but if you don’t have kids around the house, you might not know his most recent work, the parodies Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid, Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring, and Breaking Down, all done for NBM’s children’s comics imprint Papercutz.
If those all sound like updated Mad Magazine parodies, well, all I can say is check out the art. Like seminal Mad artist Will Elder, Parker likes to fill the backgrounds of his panels with lots of small, often hilarious details. (Finding the word “Potrzebie” in one of them convinced me that the similarity was intentional.) Like Mad, the humor in his books is juvenile and sophisticated at the same time.
I have seen Rick at cons, usually sitting at the Papercutz table sketching away, and at MoCCA I decided to say hi. My suspicions were immediately confirmed. “I saw Mad Magazine in 1957 or 1958, and it rocked my world,” he said, reeling off the names of Mad artists—Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Wally Wood. “I modeled myself after Will Elder,” he said. “I wanted to do that in the present day. I was the artist for Beavis and Butthead, and I tried to put some funny stuff in there.”
He pointed out a panel in Harry Potty that featured a room full of crystal balls bearing assorted faces. One had the face of Mad publisher William Gaines, and another featured the face of his editor at Papercutz, Jim Salicrup. “I should give out little magnifying glasses with Harry Potty,” he said.
“One of the great things about comics is that people don’t move on until they are ready,” he said. “I want to be able to squeeze as much juice out of the lemon as possible. If people are going to spend time on something I have done, I want them to enjoy it.”
“I just want to make people laugh.”
With a cheerful crowd, a pleasant venue, and plenty of exciting creators and books, this year’s MoCCA seems to have been deemed a success. Both Christopher Mautner and I were there, and we decided that rather than write two separate blog posts, we would have a dialogue in which we contrast our impressions of the show. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive report on the show, check out the MoCCA report by our CBR colleague Alex Dueben as well as Tim Callahan’s writeup of his visit.
Chris: I’ll start: Was this your first time at a small-press comics show? I know you’ve gone to NYCC and several manga/anime related shows before, but I didn’t know if you’d been to something like MoCCA before? What was your general impression?
Brigid: This was my first time at MoCCA and my first time at a small-press comicsshow like this, although I have been to art shows with a similar feel.
First of all, I loved the locale. I actually used to live a few blocks away, so it was a bit of a homecoming for me to walk through Madison Square Park in the sunshine. The building itself had a nice, open, loft-like feel with plenty of rough edges—it felt artsy.
The show itself seemed like a giant, really good, Artists Alley. (I kept getting this feeling of deja vu because there were so many people I had just seen at C2E2.) The show definitely felt crowded, but never overwhelming. I made a pretty good circuit of the floor, but I felt like I missed as much as I saw, and I could easily have spent twice as much time there as I did.
One of the regular features of the new Comics Journal website is a diary comic by a different creator each week. They started off with Brandon Graham, and as this week’s diarist, Pascal Girard, notes, that’s a tough act to follow. Girard is off to a strong start though; his first comic chronicles the doings of Night Animals creator Brecht Evens, who is already becoming a bit of a MoCCA legend (see Peggy Burns’ epic MoCCA post at the Drawn and Quarterly blog for more). Stay tuned!