Critical Mob at MoCCA Fest 2012
This past weekend's MoCCA Fest was a dizzying, exhausting, and totally unique experience. As a reporter covering it for Critical Mob, it was my intention to check out every artist in attendance and sit in on as many comics-related panels as possible -- no easy feat, given the sheer volume of stuff happening there at The Lexington Avenue Armory. By the time the smoke cleared on Sunday evening, I had an overgrown-looking stack of mini-comics and homemade zines -- the bedrock of alternative comics and a major draw of the annual festival. However, in between perusing tables manned by publishers and self-promoting artists, I made sure to check out several of the panel discussions going on in the basement. Here's some highlights from both days:
* Gary Panter, a highly-influential underground cartoonist during the 1970s, was presented with the prestigious Klein Award, given each year to an artist who helps elevate the comics medium. After receiving the award, Panter reflected on his career, which included painting and serving as a set designer on the '80s children's show Pee-wee's Playhouse. He won three Emmy Awards for the latter. "Every medium is different, and it's important to be sensitive to that and try to push them as far as possible," he said.
* A number of cartoonists who had collaborated with comics legend Harvey Pekar discussed his yet-to-be-published works, including the upcoming graphic novel Harvey Pekar's Cleveland. His widow, writer/artist Joyce Brabner, described it as, "kind of a love letter to the city, and answers the question of why he never left Cleveland for a place like New York. It's really a love letter between a person and a place."
Towards the end of the panel, Brabner mentioned that she and Harvey were in the process of completing two other books when he passed on, giving hope to Pekar fans that neither Cleveland nor this summer's Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me represents his swan song.
* Meanwhile, upstairs there was no shortage of comics artists and graphic novelists taking part in guest signings. At one point on Saturday, David Mazzucchelli (pictured above) was on-hand autographing, among other things, copies of his masterpiece Asterios Polyp.
* Sunday's discussions included underground rocker/artist Daniel Johnston talking about his new graphic novel Space Ducks, the plot of which revolves around ducks and a war in outer space. Although the Texas-based musician labored at times to describe his creative process, he did mention R. Crumb and Jack Kirby as some of his major artistic influences. Johnston said that his cartoons are somewhat autobiographical, but teased, "I've never been in space with a bunch of ducks."
* One of the last panels scheduled for the 2012 MoCCA Fest featured comic book writer José-Louis Bocquet (The Adventures of Hergé) in conversation about Kiki de Montparnasse, his recent graphic novel about the famous French model. Along with posing for the likes of Man Ray and other artists during the 1920s, Kiki was also a popular nightclub singer, and the panel included the playing of "La haut sur la butte," one of the few surviving recordings of her from the period.
Bocquet mentioned being inspired by Man Ray's famous photograph featuring her, Violon d'Ingres, to seek out Kiki's life story. "It was a very famous picture, and we know that at some time this girl was Kiki de Montparnasse," he said. "To search for the background on this picture was very exciting." The American translation of Kiki de Montparnasse is due out May 1.