It was the first actual day of winter on Saturday, a wet raw day that no sun could pierce with the sky spitting out alternate fits of rain, freezing rain, snow and sleet — sometimes all at the same time.
Despite the inclement weather, the first annual (another is planned) Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival at Our Lady of Consolation Church and Secret Project Robot hit its marks. The venue — a church basement decorated by wood paneling and tinsel in the fashion of the finest church basements — was very small. The above excerpt from a photo by Joel Speasmaker, shows that you could pretty much see exactly who was in the room at all times. It was also quite crowded and really hard to get through the aisles at times, but everyone was so well socialized that there was no stress. Or perhaps the fact that the crowd was so young, good-looking and mixed (in the Williamsburg way) that made bumping into one another more of a social event than a problem.
Although the room was crowded, it probably didn’t hold more than 200 people, so this was a mini show. The panel venue was also cozy, and packed. One shudders to think what might have happened if the show had been held on one of the mutant 60-degres-Spring-Day-In-December that we’ve been having. A fire marshal crisis might have erupted.
Whatever the setting, there was no disputing the enthusiasm of the crowd. The room was energetic and engaged. The vibe had a distinctly Brooklyn hipster edge to it, but if such hipsters venerate Charles Burns and Mark Newgarden, who are we to put them down? Assembled by Desert Island’s Gabe Fowler and PictureBox’s Dan Nadel , the exhibitors had a far more unified esthetic than at most shows — what Jack Kirby is to San Diego, Gary Panter is to BCaGF.
Most everywhere you looked, the walls were covered by dense, near-abstract doodles, mostly executed as hand made silkscreens, a worrying vista on such a wet, horrible day– so many treasures in so much jeopardy. (I would be terrified to bring my sketchbook out on such a day, but I saw people passing theirs around.) This report by Richard of Dumbo Books of Brooklyn has pictures of pretty much everything at the show, so you can see for yourself. I’m not sure that a lot of money changed hands — Brooklyn hipsters are notoriously tight with a dime — but they knew the material and acted like it mattered. The cartoonists were mostly as young as the audience, and clearly thrilled to be rubbing elbows with the masters on hand like Panter.
I only got to attend one panel, the “Flatlands” panel, with Lisa Hanawalt, Mark Newgarden, Ron Regé, Jr., and David Sandlin, moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos. While the panel description made it sound like a dire grad school paper presentation, it ended up being artists talking about their work and how it got that way, my most favorite kind of panel, with digressions for literalism vs. realism and whether craft helps or hinders (the answer varied for each of the panelists.) Supposedly a lot of the panels were recorded, so hopefully there will be podcasts of them all one of these days.
Even for someone as fried on comics shows as The Beat this was a success. I picked up a few minis I had missed all year, found out what folks are planning for 2010, saw some old familiar faces, and got excited about comics all over again. The day pinpointed something about the moment, and the energy of comics as self expression that felt very vital. According to Nadel, they are planning on doing it again next year — they might need a bigger venue or they might not — a lot of the day’s charm was because of the crowded, tinsel-bedecked vibe. Getting all fancy seems very much against the spirit of the day.
Some other blog posting:
§ Nancy Smith from Art Lovers New York
It was the very first day of real snow, preceded by a very heavy windy cold rain – so they weren’t sure if this brought out the huge, mostly robust guy crowd – or if they were lucky !! conversely: that it was bad weather – which might have discouraged the less die-hard of the breed from slogging through the cold wet misery outside – cause they didn’t have any crowd control plans . . . and it was crowded. super crowded. all day from the get-go. for me, it was way more fun to be at, esp since it was the first time they ever did this – than running around at any played-out art fair in Miami, mostly because of the (genuine) talent – that popped up, with such startling & graphic !! appeal. put it this way, if forced to pick between Vito Schnabel parading around the one-trick pony not to mention, visually challenged Bruce Almighty ‘nerds’ (the New York Times word for them, not mine !!) – in thrift shop polo shirts – no less.