|I got back last night from my weekend in Manhattan spending most the time there, behind my table at the MoCCA Art Festival 2007.
For those of you not familiar with the Art Festival or for that matter, MoCCA in general, a (somewhat) quick description:
Now I have to let you know up front, don't expect a huge building filled with vast rooms of exhibits. The gallery is quite small, a large room actually (though I'm not too surprised, an upkeep on a museum, especially one with a narrow audience - comic art fans, isn't the type of place to draw large attendance numbers. Mort Walker has been trying for years to reestablish the other Comic Museum since it's moved from Rye, New York and then to Florida and if a well known, well off artist like him can't get one going, I don't know who can.)
I visited the Museum Friday night, after registering for the weekend show. Currently running in the gallery (Feb. 23- July 3) is Stan Lee: A Retrospective. This is a MUST, in my opinion, for any fan who's been reading comics since the 1960's. As I mentioned before, the gallery is small, but the material MORE than makes up for the lack of numbers. I could spend hours just studying the hanging original artwork of Ditko, Kirby, Romita Sr., etc....
Here's a link to MoCCA, for more info about the museum :http://www.moccany.org/
As for the Art Festival itself, the show is held at the Puck Building on Lafayette street, just two blocks away from the museum. When I last attended, years ago, it was a one day event, packed into two rooms. It has since grown to three rooms on the ground floor and one massive room in the skylight ballroom on the 7th floor.
I had an interesting area to set up at. I was in the third (and largest) ground floor room located right by the only entrance to the room, so I could get the crowds coming and going. This was the first time I tried this booth set up and I think it turned out pretty good.
I do all the artwork and writing on my books. I self publish the books and (unfortunately) self distribute the work as well. Since I'm a one man show, I also travel to and do shows and cons, by myself. Setting up this particular booth was a bit of a pain, but it stayed up!
Each day's show began at 11:00, so I had some time to walk the rooms' after I set up and before the crowd arrived. Whenever I hear someone talk about comics and comic books and automatically ASSUME that they're all super hero books I cringe. Hey I like super hero books and still buy and read the occasional title but there's just SO much more that comics can do.
As I walked the rooms, the tables were filled with a variety of creative works. Books of all shapes and sizes, black & white, color, pen & inked, painted, computer illustrated. Paperbacks, hard backs, comic stock, paper stock. Personal stories, fantasy stories, humor, adventure, satire, adult, children books. Really, there's every type of book available for anyone!
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the show, is with the exception of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf, there were no huge companies.
Nope, this was a weekend for creative people selling their work. Creative people who for the most part, do this work for the love of what comics can say and do. This was weekend for those who love to read and so many books for them to fill up their next few weeks reading lists.
Now, was there less than stellar work available? Sure. There were many pieces that was, artwork wise, amateurish at best. And there were one too many teenage angst titles for my taste. But it's so refreshing to see and talk to so many creative, comic loving people. And while everyone wants to make money, I believe if they can get their work into readers hands (since comic shops won't do it) this two day weekend is their best avenue to do so.
Another notable difference between MoCCA and a normal Comic Book Convention - women!
As the early afternoon began I had lots of times to think things over. Why do I bother? Why do I take the time to write, draw and ink these works every weekend & evening? Why am I here behind this table in this stuffy old building on my vacation rather than relaxing on a beach or some other vacation spot? What's the point?
Then, almost on cue, a guy walked up to my table, picked up a copy of Action Figure and said "I've heard a lot of good things about this book. I was looking for it but my local comic shop doesn't carry it." and he bought a copy, and as he walked away he said he was looking forward to read it.
By the time 6 PM Sunday evening arrived and I closed and packed up my stuff and drove out of New York I'd done pretty well. sales-wise at the Art Festival. I sold a decent amount (was surprised by all the copies of Bastard Tales I'd sold!) and had a chance to talk to and meet some nice people.
Sure, the climb to get my work to the public is a very steep climb and those moments when I phone up and hear, once again, from a Comic Shop owner that they only order Marvel and DC comics I'll question myself, what's the point? Why do I put so much time and hard work during my free hours to produce this work, why do I bother?
I'll think back to that guy who walked up to my booth with the soul purpose of looking for my book or of the others, men and women who bought copies and said they looked forward to reading it.
It's experiences like that that I had at the MoCCA Art festival this past weekend that keep me going on. Knowing that the work I do can and will entertain people. That I can't stop, that I have to keep producing these comics because despite the obstacles, there are people out there who want to read and enjoy my work.