Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival 2011
Tommy, Cyn and I drove up to the BROOKLYN COMICS AND GRAPHICS FESTIVAL 2011 on Saturday. I’ve written a detailed report on the events of the day long festival. If you want to read it then click right here, why don’t you.
So, as I was saying, Tommy, Cyn and I drove up to the BROOKLYN COMICS AND GRAPHICS FESTIVAL 2011 on Saturday with Philly cartoonist, Bob Pistilli, in tow. It was a sunny and mildly cold day. After arriving, we went to the show and said hello to fellow Philly cartoonists, Ian Harker, Pat Aulisio, and Box Brown who all had new books to sell. We were hungry, and seemed as good a time as any to eat as to not interrupt the rest of the day. We headed northwest a few blocks to Bedford Avenue in search of perhaps a falafel. We spotted OASIS, a middle eastern cafe, just off Bedford on 7th Street. We all had a falafel platter which was very good and filling. The platter contained several large falafel balls, interesting salty green pickles, a beet salad, humus and a pita. I got mine with “the works.” We were set for the rest of the day.
We hurriedly got back to the Fest. We all wanted to see the great Jack Davis, who began his career at EC comics with their horror titles and continued there with MAD. This incredibly fast-working artist’s work was ubiquitous in the sixties through eighties and he’s still at it. Mr. Davis, who turned 87 over the weekend, was at the show to promote a new career retrospective book published by Fantagraphics. We got to the location, a hipster bar called Union Pool (which used to be a swimming pool). We walked through the bar to a courtyard then to another small building with a bar and stage. It was a very small room and it filled up quickly. We were lucky to get standing room at the back, about a fifty feet from the stage. Mr. Davis was interviewed by cartoonist and illustrator, Drew Friedman and Fantagraphics publisher, Gary Groth. Bill Kartalopoulos, an organizer of the Fest, introduced the panel and ran the Power Point presentation. Groth and Friedman interviewed Mr. Davis, primarily focusing on his early career at EC and Mad, then moving on to his later illustration work for TIME and TV Guide magazines and his work for the TOPPS Bubble Gum Company. Friedman frequently asked Mr. Davis if he ever met the star or celebrity he illustrated, He responded, “I never did,” in his slight southern drawl. The running gag got more and more laughter each time the same question received the same answer. It was a great rare opportunity to see and hear this legendary comics artist talk about his work and his years as an artist.
We then went back to the Festival to check out the books on sale. We dropped off a bundle of PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPERs, which had been released earlier that week. It was the annual “Comics Issue” and featured a cover by me and the results of the comics contest that I judged. We also began to pass out the PHINKWELL promotional postcard. It was a quick stroll around the dealer’s tables then back to the Union Pool Bar for another panel. This one featuring the cartoonist David Mazzucchelli author of ASTERIOS POLYP, and celebrated book designer and uber Batman fan, Chip Kidd. The panel was moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos. We were lucky enough to get a better spot in the room. This time we got a place to sit on the stairs about twenty feet form the stage. Mazzucchelli and Kidd first talked about comics and then went into a lengthy discussion on the difficult birth of ASTERIOS POLYP. The book had many obstacles to overcome from getting PANTHEON to pick the book up at all to design and printing problems. Mazzucchelli was laid back but very forthcoming and Kidd was in his usual entertainingly tart persona. It was an incredibly interesting discussion on the behind the scenes look at the making of a book at a major publishing house.
It was time to hit the dealers room again. We split up to explore at our own pace. I was happy to see that NOBROW the new publisher from England was at the show. I was equally pleased that Luke Pearson, one of my favorite new artists, had a new book out. A gorgeous full color, European album format, book called HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT. A followup to last year’s HILDAFOLK also from NOBROW. It’s the story of a young girl and her mother who live in a cabin in the woods. Hilda meets many strange monsters in this delightful comic for all ages. The art is jaw droopingly beautiful. Pearson is certainly a man to watch. The NOBROW rep said he has another HILDA and an adult comic on the way in the next year. I also picked up THE WOLF’S WHISTLE by Bjorn Rune Lie and Co. This picture storybook is about a wolf at the dawn of comic books industry in the early 1940s. Lie’s beautiful drawings easily caught my eye. I’ve seeked out NOBROW books at the east coast conventions this past year. They are producing incredibly beautiful books.
I also got a chance to meet, chat with and shake the hand of another young cartoonist I’ve grown to admire. Michel DeForge caught my eye with a few strips he did for the free tabloid comic SMOKE SIGNAL published by the Desert Island comics shop in Brooklyn. I loved his solo comic LOSE #3 (which I picked up at MoCCA) and I was happy to get the last copy he had on hand of LOSE #2. The latest issue of SMOKE SIGNAL was also available. It sported a (Philly’s own) Charles Burns X’ED OUT cover and a six page strip drawn by DeForge and written by Benjamin Marra.
Finally, I also picked up Joseph Lambert’s I WILL BITE YOU, a book that premiered at last spring’s MoCCA Festival. It’s a gorgeous looking book that I wished I’d picked up then. Mr. Lambert graciously threw in a wind up chattering teeth toy. I’m looking forward to reading it soon some quiet evening.
The Philly comic scene was well represented at the show. We also saw CITY PAPER “Comics Issue” winner, Mike Sgier who we heartily congratulated again. We also saw Dre Grigoropol, Jo Jo Sherrow (also of the PCP “Comics Issue) and Derik A. Badman.
We were planning to leave town between 5:00 and 6:00 but we decided to stay for the last panel at 7:00 with the cartoonists Brian Ralph and C.F. moderated by that venerable nexus of all comics realities, Tom Spurgeon of the COMICS REPORTER. I am so glad we did. We had some time to kill before the show so Tommy, Bob and myself took advantage of the taco truck in the patio area of the Union Pool for a bite to tide us over. I had a tasty chorizo taco and washed it down with my favorite soft drink, Jarito’s Tamarind soda, a Mexican soda made with sugar for a clean finish. Mmmm mmm.
So, we got great seats, right up front for the Brian Ralph/C.F. panel. Tom Spurgeon mostly got the conversation ball rolling and listened. Like the rest of us, he was hanging on every word. Something about the venue: although it was very small, thus making it difficult but necessary to squeeze a lot of people in, it made for discussions that seemed far more intimate than standard comics panel fare. I really got to like that small space.
The talk between the two cartoonists, inevitably, touched on the much beloved FORT THUNDER comics collective of 1995-2001. So they told some stories of what it was like to live and work there. They also talked of their comics philosophies. Brian Ralph spoke of his experiences as a teacher of comics. C.F. was a super relaxed buddha espousing his wrinkle on the philosophy of the comics life, peppering his insights liberally with the “F word.” C.F. was actually very articulate, especially insightful and a real pleasure to listen to. I got a quite lot out of the nearly one hour discussion from both artists.
Spurgeon did make one very intriguing remark during the conversation. He relayed something that Jack Kirby’s son had said (to him?) about his father. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “When (Kirby) was in his studio working, you could feel enough energy in the air to power the house.” I imagine you could! A thrillingly great quote and remembrance.
We said our good-byes and headed out back to Philadelphia. On the way home the topics of conversation meandered and touched on such diverse topics from Molly Pitcher to the Crimean War. The longest and most passionate debate was on the paucity of mainstream comics for 11 year old girls, which continued mile after mile, through two states, until there was no more fight left in anyone from shear and utter exhaustion. Whew!
It was a great festival, a great day and a great time was had by all.