MeCAF 2011: Out to Sea

BY JEN VAUGHN

The Maine Comics Art Festival gains momentum with each passing year like the gentle fog typically shrouds the city. The Saturday night before the show started out just right with a stop off at Casablanca Comics. The store is situated in downtown Portland next to Dobra Tea, the take-your-shoes-to-sit-on-pillows type of place, and an honest-to-Batman record store.

Shelli Paroline, Jesse Lonergan, Zack Giallongo and Nomi Kane enjoy the selection

The atmosphere was not only welcoming but owner Rick Lowell had put up window and bookshelf displays featuring the comics of MeCAF cartoonists. The cute hand-drawn signs even let the customers know they could meet the creators at the convention.

Rick and Zack Giallongo (who drew the con poster in back) pause for the camera.

Next, the con set up a tour of local beer brewing company, Shipyard. This was hopefully not comment on the lifestyle of cartoonists but merely in walking distance of the major hotels MeCAF reserved and the con location itself. We all know that had the tour taken place at a coffee roasting company, everyone would have been just a pleased but no one would have gotten any sleep.

Left to right: Jesse Lonergan, John Platt, Marek Bennett, Morgan Pielli, Nomi Kane, Steve Seck, Sarah Lindo, Cathy Leamy and that Zack guy again on the tour, which was smartly done at the beginning of the evening. Stairs are like a sobriety test in a bar.

Mort Todd and Rick Parker darken the doorway.

On the day of the con, Sunday was as chilly as they come. Given that the Ocean Gateway has two large conference buildings on a long pier, attendees found themselves lining up outside the first building and plenty of signage directing them to the next building.

Local artist Corey Olmsted of Maineland Studios and a tired booth babe

At first it was hard to determine where the many workshops, readings and portfolio reviews would take place. A lovely woman and her three boys thought I was some sort of authority figure and followed me down some stairs, up an elevator and then down the same stairs again before we found the room. But before I could draw breath to complain to the googly-eyed eight year-old next to me, a volunteer ran up with more signage and a helpful smile.

Fellow reporter and cartoonist, John “Darling” Platt

As one of the special guests, Colleen AF Venable, gave a reading and drawing workshop around her Guinea Pig comic book series illustrated by Stephanie Yue (a proven delight for the young, old and everything in between). The children lapped up the silly voices of the readers and party hats passed around because how else are you supposed to call upon your muse to draw?!

Colleen AF could command a room of all but one little girl who is obviously a badass

The slow start of the con sped up as lunch time arrived. Kids marched in, recognizing cartoonists from the year before like Jason Viola “there’s the manatee man, Dad!” and I witnessed no less than two small thefts of comics made by Matt Aucoin and Nomi Kane. Kane’s new comic “Sugar Baby” narrates a story full of family, hope, and diabetes. Her diabetes bear with the appropriate test shot locations drew in many children.

This little girl went to market. This little girl walked away with a Nomi Kane comic.

The opposite could be said for Steve Seck‘s beer bottle character, Brownie, who showed up in a fancy dress tie. Seck told parents that if they let their kids watch the Simpons then his comic would be fine, which was a surprisingly small number.

Sarah Lindo and Steve Seck

Jesse Lonergan as well as many other cartoonists relied a lot on selling their kid-appropriate prints and sketch cards instead of their adult-themed comics. *cough* GrammarSex *Cough* Of course that didn’t keep adults from purchasing said books on sex, grammar, lady fluids, depression and the like.

David Yoder and Penina Gal of CCS

Some intrepid cartoonists like the Werewolf comics anthology (originating from CCS) took all the kids into consideration when they created TWO recent issues: Werewolf! 4 and Were Pups. The Center for Cartoon Studies held two workshops, one for their one-sheet comic magic taught by Caitlin McGurk and Betsey Swardlick while Robyn Chapman and Jon Chad conducted portfolio reviews for eager students.

Andy Runton‘s one break from signing books for kids

Another driving force at this convention drove in a few hours to get there: the Boston Comics Roundtable. With several anthologies out like the Inbound series and most recently the teaching anthology, Show and Tells, attendees had the pleasure of walking around and grabbing signatures from the cartoonists present.

Eric Boeker and Ron LeBrasseur of the Boston Comics Roundtable

Rick Lowell and his great group of volunteers made the 3rd Maine Comics Art Festival quite a draw. For most of the exhibitors, it was their second time in Maine and they definitely are returning for the con in addition to all the good food and entertainment around corner. With both the attendance and exhibitors numbers climbing, a lot of people are promising themselves to have “at least ONE comic suitable for kids” next year so I’ll be a-looking. They are the indeed the future of comics.

Jen Vaughn would like to thank Zack Giallongo for the use of his camera, you are a man among men. She will also miss her con buddy and best friend, Nomi Kane, as she is leaving for the West Coast. APE and SF Zine Fest better treat her right.

Comments

  1. Sorry I missed it this year! Great report, Jen!

  2. the show overall was great (thank goodness for the adults buying comics at MeCAF!), but it was most definitely strange to have to continually tell kids & parents who were interested in my work not to buy it. needless to say, i’ll have to prep a couple of squeaky-clean minis for next year…

  3. So glad to see such an awesome show making a go of it in my home state. One of these years I really hope to make it up there to go.

  4. Another great report, Jen! I am very jealous of your Shipyard tour — that stuff is the bee’s knees.

  5. Whatta good time! Had a ton of fun this weekend! LOVED Shipyard – They combined so many things I love into one event – comics, beer, filmstrips, factory tours, pizza – and it was all free! I also really enjoyed getting to see a lot of kids react to my books – they tend to be pretty honest when they do or don’t like stuff. And Andy Runton = super nice dude!! My only problem was that I never got my lobster roll…such is life, I suppose!

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