Nib Lit Gets Weird @ MoCCA 2010!
Mykl G Sivak
On April 9, 2010, I packed my bags and headed to Harlem to sleep on Bam-Bam and the Barbarians creator Josh Bayer’s couch. I helped him clip his Guinea Pig’s toenails. Later, I wandered the city alone and got drunk on Canadian whiskey and tonic. After that, I ate an egg and cheese on a hard roll, downed a coffee and went to sleep. This is why I felt like crap at MoCCA Fest, one of indy comics’ top yearly events. Despite the hangover, I recorded a handful of interviews with a number of comics creators. With the exception of my interview with animation legend Bill Plimpton they all turned out pretty good, I’d say (the Plympton interview is probably the worst one ever).
After the fest, I ate dinner at the Chat ‘n Chew with Tim Fish, Monica Gallager, Tim Piotrowski and a few other notable comics artists who happen to prefer boys to girls. Then it was on to the official MoCCA afterparty at The Village Pourhouse. The party was overcrowded, the drinks were weak and overpriced. I mostly just hung out on the sidewalk with New Haven’s own Andrew Bonia, writer of Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and House of Twelve Comics’ Dave McKenna, who I always love talking to.
The sidewalk experience was also good because I finally got to meet Nick Abadzis, Londoner turned New Yorker and writer/illustrator of the acclaimed graphic novel Laika, which is about that dog the Ruskies shot into space. He’s got a comics CV that includes work for Marvel, DC and 2000 AD. I told him how I felt British directors, in their films, love to explore just how precious and quirky their countrymen are. He is a patient and tolerant man.
I hung out with Abby Denson, Matt Loux and a few others for a while. At some point, someone handed me a slip inviting me to a semi-secret afterparty at the Brooklyn loft of some local artists and soon enough Bayer sent me a text inviting me to the same joint. The party was pretty chill. Black Hole writer/illustrator Charles Burns was there too. So, that was cool. I drank a few 22’s of Yuengling beer that cost me a dollar seventy a piece at the corner shop. Gross but cheap. I smoked some Black and Mild cigars and took a few hits off a little bottle of Jameson this girl stole from her roommate. The subway ride back to Harlem took about two hours and the sun was high and yellow by the time I got back. I ate an egg and cheese on a hard roll, downed a coffee and went to sleep. This is why I felt like crap at MoCCA Fest day two.
Bayer and I drove down to the fest on the West Side Highway. There’s a bike path that runs beside the highway along side the Hudson River. We saw some guys in suits and trench coats wandering the path. They turned out to be NYPD homicide detectives. A cluster of them, along with uniformed officers were huddled around a white body bag in the grass beside the path. We could make out the shape of a corpse inside. “A floater,” I said. Then we talked about The Wire for a while.
Considering my double hangover, I think I did a fair job of grabbing a few more interviews, including a weird one with Gabrielle Bell, whose comic Cecil and Jordan in New York was recently adapted to film by director Michel Gondry. Sunday was “family day” at the fest and there were a few kids running around the auditorium. It was interesting to see the hungover cartoonists talking to the children. The whole fest now had a new vibe. Talking to the artists, I had the sense that we’d all been through something together. It felt good.
Comics is often a terribly lonesome thing. The act of creating them is a solitary experience. It is isolated, meticulous work. Often, it’s thankless as well. As an artist, you lock yourself away behind your drawing table in your little artist’s lair. You sweat and fret over line and composition and story arc. You push yourself to take risks, artistically and otherwise. You challenge your own sensibilities and you push yourself to create things at the outer reaches of your philosophical comfort zone. Then you post your art on a blog or personal website and hope that someone somewhere finds some enjoyment from the fruit of your labors. You hope it provokes some thought in the mind of some anonymous websurfer. Then you feel terrible and consider giving up comics altogether.
Facebook friends may give you a thumbs up here and there. If you’re lucky some comics blog might repost your work. But in the whole, you garner little response. This is why events like MoCCA are so important. They uncover the very real community all indy comics artists are a part of. To quote that film My Blue Heaven, “You are so not alone.”
To quote myself: “though comics are initially a solitary endeavor, they open up the possibility of a special type of community. A thoughtful, vibrant and talented community, whose prime psychological directive is one of perpetuating creativity, freedom of thought and communal connection.” I was reminded of this April 11. But perhaps more important than any of this has little to do with the artwork we creators produce. Perhaps, the most import thing that festivals like MoCCA supply us is the simple opportunity to intermingle with like-minded peers. I’m sure I’m not the only comics nerd to feel consistently alienated and/or marginalized by the surrounding masses. However, from April 9th to the 11th, I didn’t feel like a weirdo. I saw that I was a member of a very large club of extremely talented and creative individuals. I saw that we aren’t flawed freaks, but people with unusual and special abilities. To paraphrase, with particular vision comes particular cost.
Maybe I’ll never have a normal life. Maybe I’ll never have a well-paying job. Maybe I’ll never be able to express myself well to the many people that surround me each day. But a few times each year, I get to interact with a group of people I understand and whom I feel understand me. I get to have long conversations about the types of things I think about every day, but don’t always have the opportunity to discuss. I get to discuss the craft, techniques and materials I work with everyday of my life, with others who do likewise. I get to see some people who have actually been able to find success and make a career doing this strange thing I love. This makes me glad for them and hopeful for myself. And best yet, I get to throw a few back with these people I admire so much.
I don’t have to worry about jocks, or fratboys, or elitist intellectual boors who in reality are talentless hacks offering nothing in terms of new thought but are spectacular at intellectual regurgitation. I get to experience art in the making. And this makes the double-hangover doubly sweet.