Graphic Universe at the MoCCA Festival

Both myself and Danny Lerner, who just joined us at the Graphic Universe office, attended MoCCA Fest this year. It was Danny’s first time, and my ninth. Below we offer our reports. Danny, being the newbie, will go first and give the event a proprer introduction.

The 2011 Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) Festival was held on April 9th and 10th at the historic 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan. The event offered an arsenal of color and inspiration, brimming with authors and illustrators, publishers and fans of comics and graphic novels.

For Graphic Universe the event was productive and lively. Several Lerner authors and illustrators were on hand for signings and promotions including the talented author/illustrator duo of Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue who brought us the popular series Guinea PIG, Pet Shop Private Eye. Also, gifted and versatile artist Yuko Ota, illustrator of both The Secret Ghost and Detective Frankenstein (from the Twisted Journeys series) was in attendance.

Although small in size and scope compared to the behemoth New York Comic Con held in October and the even bigger San Diego Comic-Con, the MoCCA Fest offers a unique opportunity for Graphic Universe to scout an exciting crop of up and coming artists who just might become the next future success stories in the comic world. And Graphic Universe is eager to play a vital part in that process.

Danny Lerner

Photo by Madalyn Baldanzi, see more at Impose Magazine.

The MoCCA Festival is not, officially at least, a small press event (like SPX) or an alternative press event (like APE) but it does tend towards that spectrum of the comics industry. Exhibitors are often self-publishers (like myself) or medium to large size graphic novels publishers who tend towards artsy rather than commercial (like Drawn and Quarterly or Abrams). Marvel and DC are not in attendance (and, as far as I know, never have been). You might find the occasional excentric in costume, but often they’re dressed as a creature of their own invention. I remember one year I met a girl dressed as Art Spiegelman. It’s that sort of convention, and it’s my favorite convention.

Like most comic conventions, MoCCA Fest offers a number of panels and workshops. This year I was part of their programming. I offered a cartooning workshop with Tom Hart, one of my favorite comic educators. In just under an hour, we had a room full of kids piece together a comic book using predrawn panels (courtesy of cartooning protege Stephanie Mannheim) AND design their own covers using a Print Gocco, potato stamps, and a smattering of office supplies. It was super fun, and 6-year olds using a long arm staplers is super adorable (they have to put all their weight to make it budge).

Tom Hart at our workshop. This great photo, and many others, are by Jody Culkin and part of “Photo Mania: MoCCA 2011” in Publisher’s Weekly.

When I finally hit the exhibition floor, I was looking for a certain type of comic: the minicomic. For those unfamiliar, minicomics are selfpublished, hand-made comics. Though we call them “mini”, they can come in any shape or size. If you know what a zine is, then you know what a minicomic is. Zine is to magazine as minicomic is to comic. Got it?

I can buy graphic novels at books stores, comic book stores, or online. A convention like MoCCA is one of the rare places I can find minicomics. here is my haul (a modest pile this year, since I was too busy to shop!)

One of my favorite comics from this convention is sure to be a hit with Graphic Universe readers. Dragons! is a new and FREE comic anthology edited by Greg Means and Alec Longstreth. It is chock full of fun comics, activities and facts about (you guessed it) dragons! Get all the details on Alec’s blog.

MoCCA Fest was a blast, hope to see you there next year!