June 14, 2005

MOCCA '05 -- hot and heavy

Originally posted by THE BEAT from MILE HIGH COMICS presents THE BEAT at COMICON.com, reBlogged by ts

(Asleep on the job: Taeko Baba, president of New York Tokyo, CPM’s Bochan Kim, and yours truly at Sunday morning’s Gender and Representation in Manga and Anime panel at MoCCA. Photo by Tim Leong.)
Let’s cut to the chase: The 2005 MoCCA fest was another huge success. Terrific exhibitors, a stellar programming line-up, good after hours socializing and attendees with money to spend made it, in many ways, the model indie comix show.

Not to say that there wasn’t a bit of adversity. Although last’s year’s show was threatened by sticky floors, this year had to deal with a broken air conditioner on a day that turned New York into festering New Orleans, with 95 degree days and 85 degree thunderstorms. Temperatures soared, everyone glowed, and conditions in room C got pretty desperate. The most precious commodity on the floor was no rare comic, but rather a chilled bottle of Vitamin Water. However, had this been a traditional comicbook convention, the smell may have been unbearable. Here let it be said for all times, indie cartoonists and their fans have fairly good hygiene, and the smell never took on visible dimensions.

The sultry conditions did nothing to deter the enthusiasm of the attendees. An army of volunteers in Sara Varon t-shirts had everything running smoothly, and exhibitors were happy overall. Most folks we talked to — Fantagraphics, Adhouse Books, Quicken Forbidden, Gigantic, Top Shelf and so on — reported strong sales, if not the huge lines of ‘03, the BLANKETS year. Most new books were sold out by Sunday.

While we have no figures on attendance, it was certainly on a par with last year’s. As usual at MoCCA, the crowd was incredibly diverse, all ages, all races, probably half female, generally drawn from what might be termed New York’s “hipster” crowd, but an intelligent, art-loving one.

The programming track, in particular, was so good that it was easy to skip the floor for the panel room (which had better AC the whole weekend.) On Saturday, the Gary Panter slideshow covering his career from Jimbo to PeeWee and beyond was a highlight. On Sunday, it was bumper to bumper goodness for many tastes, despite The Beat’s snooze, captured above. Frank Miller was late for his Neal Adams panel (the legend grows), and the Sikoryak/Karasik panel on comics adaptations sounded good (We missed both).

The marquee event of the show, however, was clearly the Jonathan Lethem/Daniel Clowes chat. The room was absolutely packed, with people sitting in the aisles, and most of the cartoonists at the show stopped by to feel the magic.

Lethem, the highly regarded author of Fortress of Solitude, among other books, and Clowes, whose Ice Haven has just come out, were well prepared and clearly informed readers of each other’s work. Lethem did most of the questioning, with detailed comments on aspects of Clowes’ oeuvre, and interesting observations —reflecting the critically-viewed nostalgic bent of both authors — regarding Clowes childhood environment. There weren’t any real bombshells on the panel, aside from a discussion of music downloading that could have put both Lethem and Clowes on the RIAA’s watchlist. Lethem revealed that he had drawn comics in his teenaged years, and chatted briefly about his work on the upcoming OMEGA, mostly on how he was handling the collaboration with artist Farel Darymple. Clowes discussed how much easier it was to put unpopular opinions into the mouths of “foul mouthed art chicks” — the conceit behind GHOST WORLD.

There was also a discussion of what an audience member termed the “fetishization of unrealized art.”

Ingrid1Clowes mentioned how a single image of Ingrid Pitt from a horror movie might seem laced with promise, but upon watching the movie, it would be just another horror film. Or how a single existing still from Thomas Edison’s lost Frankenstein adaptation seemed so tantalizing. Lethem mentioned the some phenomena in music. “The greatest Dylan song is always the one that didn’t get put on the album.”

So it is with the creative process, said Clowes. “My comics are perfect before I begin to draw them. Then the creative energy becomes dissipated in drawing just three panels.”

The Lethem/Clowes dialog was a MoCCA standout, an example of drawing on the resources of the local creative community to present a memorable experience. If the MoCCA fest can keep up this level, they will truly become a force in the intellectual life of comics.

(continues at The Beat… also see the MOCCA Fest Photo Parade, fun stuff)