May 27, 2012

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A Very Belated MoCCA Report

Just before things started to conspire against me personally, I made arrangements to go to the MoCCA Festival for the first time and take my first-ever trip to New York City.  I only live a few hours away from the Big Apple, so I was excited to make the show.

Two days before the show, I started coming down with my second case of bronchitis in four months.

Now a smart person would have stayed home, eaten the bus ticket, and rested.

I am not very smart.

Excited for the show, knowing staying at home I would have been miserable, and feeling bad that I would let the show down after their courteous extension of a press pass, I medicated the hell out of myself, brought enough hand sanitizer to satisfy even Howard Hughes, and set off against all hopes of sanity.

The trip up was one of the worst of my life, as I had no fluids and coughed constantly.  On top of everything else, I was underdressed for the windy, chilly weather, because I was afraid the con would be too warm.  Walking around the most storied city in America improved my mood, however, and I headed off to the show with high hopes.

MoCCA, as it turns out, is an interesting combination of the Small Press Expo and a zine fest.  The venue itself reminds me of something that a smaller show might use, a very open space that reminded me a lot of a warehouse.  The space is used quite well, with nice, wide aisles that allowed for people to pass each other easily without the usual passel of bumps and pushes that I'm used to at SPX and other shows.  Panels were held in the basement, and the room I visited had excellent sound and visuals.  In addition, the volunteers running the show were numerous, courteous, and kept everything moving efficiently.

The show, from what I experienced, was very well run.  My problem was that, being sick as a dog, it was hard for me to enjoy it.  I left a lot earlier than I expected, and I was almost embarrassed to speak to people, which meant I definitely missed out on some of the things I like best at a show.

In terms of the artists and publishers, MoCCA has a strong overlap with the Small Press Expo and Baltimore Comic-Con, which makes sense given the geographical closeness of the three shows.  (This fact made me feel a little better about not getting to interact the way I normally do, because I will see a lot of the same people in September.)  A few New York publishers who deal more with book books were there with comic wares, and it was interesting to see how they approached it.  My impression was they did a good job, as their booths modeled those of Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, and others.

One major difference was the strong presence of Scandinavian publishers and creators.  For some, this was a show highlight.  My samplings of comics from that part of Europe don't really grab me, but it's a unique perspective that MoCCA brings to the table, especially given the doubling-up in other areas.

I only attended one panel, mostly because I hate being disruptive when I cough.  It was sponsored by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and was a history of comics censorship.  The panel was quite good, with some contributions by the audience, making for a relaxed atmosphere.

By early afternoon, I wasn't doing so well and I opted to leave the show early, before some of the signings I had hoped to make, such as Michael Kupperman and Jason, along with saying hello to some other creators I follow, such as Chandra Free.  I did get to briefly say hello to Johanna, who wisely kept her distance.  I spent the rest of my time in New York getting semi-lost and seeing the sights, which were awesome.  My trip home was better hydrated, even if I did have a seat-mate who thought it was okay to have his iPhone cord tied tightly over my legs, making it impossible for me to move.

Overall, MoCCA is a cute, small show that's worth making the trip if you are anywhere nearby, perhaps best combined with taking in some of the sights and sounds of what used to be New Amsterdam.  Those going, however, should be aware that there is heavily overlap with the larger Small Press Expo, which might impact on their plans.

I will almost certainly be going back next year, if only to see how much better I can enjoy the show when I'm not medicated and afraid to shake anyone's hand.

NOTE:  A special thanks and apology to the organizers of MoCCA for the long delay in this write-up.  Your patience is appreciated and congratulations on putting together such a well-run show!