The MoCCA Festival Experience

This past Saturday, I went to the MoCCA Festival in Manhattan. It’s a smaller independent based comic show put on by the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. I’ve lived in New York for 3 years but never made my way over there.

I know this seems ironic, as I’ve received the rating of indie guy from much of the iFanbase, but the fact is, I’m still fairly mainstream in my tastes, and more so my comic knowledge. We don’t cover the festival with a video show because, we don’t really know enough of the scene to do a good job with it, and if you can’t do something well, it might be best to leave it to someone else. That being said, it’s an utter crime that I’ve skipped the small, cozy show in my own backyard for far too long. These are the folks in comics who need the support. But then, judging by the crowds, they’re doing OK.

My first impression is that it’s a small show. Housed in the 69th Regiment Armory (replete with real soldiers inside and real camo Humvee’s outside), it’s one big cavernous room. While certainly not the size and spectacle that San Diego or New York offers, it wasn’t a tiny affair either. It was perhaps a little bit smaller than HeroesCon. Represented were a whole lot of folks making their own comics and mini-comics, as well as the bigger industry. No Marvel, DC, Image or Dark Horse at this show. Nope, Top Shelf and Drawn and Quarterly were the big dogs at this show. There was a Vertigo table, but it was a pretty low key affair in general.

The cool thing about a show like this is that there’s none of that *stuff* that comes with other comic shows. No dealers but the people who make or publish comics. No toy sales. No nothing. It’s sort of like one big artists alley, and if you know your indie stuff, or just want to find something new and meet some passionate artistic people, it’s the place for you. There were some signings from some of the publishers, but it was all fairly low key.

Even if you’re not too familiar with the scene, you might have recognized some of the faces. The Vertigo table was one good place for sightings. Brian Wood was camped there most of the day, looking slightly less misanthropic than usual. Cameron Stewart did a stint talking about Seaguy. One of our current favorite guys, Joe Kelly made am appearance for his Vertigo work. Traveling along the floor, there were others as well. Big names (singular) in indie comics like Seth and Jason were spotted. Hope Larson and Adrian Tomine were on hand. I even spotted Zander Cannon, the bravest man in comics, the man with the matinee idol name who dared to try to fill Alan Moore’s shoes on Top Ten. I’m pretty sure I could hear his balls thumping on the ground as he walked from across the hall. His brother, Kevin Cannon was on hand because his new book from Top Shelf, Far Arden, which was Top Shelf’s biggest seller of the weekend. I spent some time hanging out with my pal Alex Robinson. Then his buddy, Freddie and Me creator Mike Dawson showed up. (Alex and Mike have started a podcast that has nothing to do with comics called Ink Panthers, and they’re pretty funny guys. It’s not on iTunes yet, but you can check it out here.)

One of the highlights of the day for me was talking to Charlito of Indie Spinner Rack. I’ve been a big fan of Charlito since meeting him in San Diego at the first podcasters panel. I eagerly bought their first anthology, Awesome, and was really excited to see their second such effort, Awesome 2: Awesomer, this time, being put out by Top Shelf. With a top notch list of creators, and a cover by Jeff Smith of all people, I’ll be picking it up as soon as possible. Those guys put out a great show, and it’s obvious that people love them for it. I’m one of them.

I also ran into and said howdy to some other podcasters like Joe Gonzalez of Comic News Insider and Bryan Deemer of Comic Geek Speak (No, there’s no rivalry.) It’s possible I was also stalked by Darrell, but it’s best to keep that fairly mum on that score.

But wait, why didn’t I pick up anything? Funny thing about that. I walked into the show, and realized I didn’t have a single cent on me, and while there were a few places here and there that took credit cards, that wasn’t really the spot where I would have wanted to spend my money. I suppose I’m so used to going to cons, and having the crew and the camera, and stuff to do that it didn’t occur to me that I’d actually want some cash. Eventually I made my way out to an ATM and picked up some cash, but only bought one thing.

What was that you ask? Alex Robinson introduced me to his friend John Kerschbaum, creator of
Petey & Pussy, which was nominated for an Eisner for best humor publication in 2008. John had some issues of The Wiggly Reader, a series of issues some of the best designed covers I’d seen in a while, one depicting an infinite number of Lincoln Assassinations and that’s really what sold me. It wasn’t new by any means, but honestly, I needed no more.

Given the chance, I would have also gone for Ace-Face from the aforementioned Mike Dawson, because I’ve been meaning to.

But eventually, I just had to clear out. The only drawback of the whole thing was that for some reason, it was hotter than hell in that armory. Say what you will about mainstream comic fans, but when the heat gets pumped up, they stink just the same as the indie folks. Plus, far more of the people at MoCCA were wearing synthetic fabric vintage suits.

By the way, I need more affectations. My glasses don’t scream indie comics, and my clothes aren’t in any way vintage. I kid. I learned it’s just as easy to make jokes about the indie scene as the superhero set. It’s not any more right to do it to them. It is fun in either case, however.

If you want a show that’s ALL about comics, and comics of all stripes, there are much worse places to be. It all supports a great comics scene and a whole lot of tireless artists who need the exposure. They love comics as much or more than anyone, and these are the folks who will create the future of comics. It’s important to pay attention. If you get the chance, it’s a great little show.


  1. Nice article, Josh!  I was at the MoCCAfest too and I have to say it gets better every year (this is my 3rd year going).  I always have such a great time at this fest, and I always exit the Fest with a happy/excited-for-comics feeling (unlike the bigger cons).  Just like you said it’s a giant artist alley — great one-on-one time with the creators.  Some of my highlights:

    – Cameron Stewart drew a nice sketch of Chubby from Seaguy yelling "DA FUG!!"

    – Talked to the Cannon brothers (Zander about his Top 10 and Kevin about Far Arden)

    – Met Fred Chao and had him signed my copy of Johnny Hiro (definitely should check this book out when you guys have a chance —

    – Sean Murphy (the artist from the 2 issues of Jason Aaron’s hellblazer) was kind enough to do a free sketch for me of Constantine.

    Josh: not comic book related, but did you check out Baoguette outside of the armory? it’s a small joint where they sell vietnamese food in a baguette… amazing stuff, man!

  2. You mentioned Jason, awesome. "Why are you doing this?" is one of my favorite stories

  3. @Simmons: What’s "Why are you doing this?"? Is that a short story?

  4. It’s always nice to read about indie cons or just smaller events in nature. Good article josh.

    This line will haunt me for awhile though:

    I even spotted Xander Cannon, the bravest man in comics, the man with the matinee idol name who dared to try to fill Alan Moore’s shoes on Top Ten. I’m pretty sure I could hear his balls thumping on the ground as he walked from across the hall’

  5. Great article. I’ve heard about this show on Comic Geek Speak (I’m glad there’s no rivalry), and I was curious. I wish I lived somewhere like New York so I could check out small indie events like this.

  6. Cool stuff!!  I’m a fan of the smaller indy cons myself.  I’ve gone to APE in SF for the last two years and quite enjoy it every time.

  7. @gat0rl1vebeatz, its an original graphic novel. Its short and can easily be read in one sitting. "I killed Adolf Hitler" was good too, and it is similar to "Why are you Doing This?"

  8. I’ve heard of that Vietnamese place and it crossed my mind that I was in the right neighborhood, but that was as much information as I had. 

  9. I remember the 2003 show at the Puck Building down on Lafayette as being cozy yet air-conditioned, but I guess they outgrew that venue.

  10. And all this time I had thought that when comics podcasters met it was like a scene from West Side Story.  Great article Josh.  Good to see that an indie convention doesn’t look like those scenes from the Wrestler (which I am ashamed to admit I had envisioned).

  11. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Very, very jealous. This sounds like a blast. Great coverage, Josh. 

  12. @WilliamKScurryJr: The Puck Building got way too tight in 2008 — and I dont know if you remember but the top floor had no air conditioning at all — straight up heat.  So you should check it out next year if they come back to Armory

    @Simmons: Thanks… I’m def. getting some of those books in the future.  I just saw Jason’s work from that Marvel indie anthology book — check it out:

  13. Josh clearly enjoyed his time at the show, and I know he is far from alone in this, as I’ve spoken to many other attendees and exhibitors who have expressed what a success the weekend was for them personally and professionally.  However, the grumbling that can be heard online about problems associated with this year’s show really can’t be ignored by the organizers of the festival if they want to ensure that it remains a must-attend event for lovers of independent and small-press comics. I do not want to be too harsh in my criticism, as I understand that there was a complete turnover of the staff of (volunteer) organizers from the previous year, and I know that the new venue was the source of many problems that hopefully can be resolved, but I will sum it up this way: Comics creators, professionals and fans all deserve better than what they got this weekend.

    I do plan on addressing my concerns to the organizers in a constructive way, but I appreciated that Josh took the time to attend the event and to write up his reaction, so I thought I would chime in here with my two cents.

  14. Is anyone going to APE in SF this October?  I’m really looking forward to that!  The only con I’ve been to so far is WonderCon (2008 and 2009) so I’m super excited about APE.  One of these days I’ll make it to SDCC though.

  15. … So gonna be in this next year.

  16. @Victoranomalous I would highly recommend that for you.

  17. @RyanHoyt: I’ll be going to APE. I’ve gone every year since I moved to San Francisco about ten years ago or so, and last year was my favorite so far.


    Make sure to check out the Isotope after party too! (I can’t go five minutes without mentioning the Isotope in real life either. Ask any of my friends.)

  18. this looks really neat!!

  19. @kenkneisel: Awesome thanks!  I will go to APE for sure, but maybe not the after party.  I’m too socially inept.  I said hi to the iFanboy guys once and I was just really awkward and felt like a tool. ha…

  20. If it helps you feel any better, we probably don’t remember.  Wait, that sounds terrible.

    Try this: I’m positive there were weirder and more awkward experiences than yours.  Guaranteed.

    You know, or we’d remember it.

  21. LOL that makes me feel much better, at least until the next time! thanks Josh!