BY JEN VAUGHN – Fantagraphics Books isn’t necessarily THE MAN of the comics world but since I’ve only ever self-published my own comics, MoCCA 2012 was my first two days on the job as a staff member of the independent comics publisher. There are more than a few differences between the two experiences. Read on!
Fantagraphics’ Kristy Valenti speaks with Kim Deitch before his signing
1- The Work, as in amount of time spent working the table is constant. Seeing as there is a bit more marketing, publicity and established artists’ work on the table we rarely had to describe the content of the books. Jacq Cohen, Kristy Valenti and me (along with former intern Sophie Yanow) manned the four tables full of books and artists signings. Kristy and Jacq barely left the tables to eat and I’m pretty sure that bottle of lemonade under the table was not . . . lemonade.
2- The Digs where we stayed were MoCCA-recommended because they were smack-dab in the middle of Manhattan, right next to the Armory making for an easier walk each morning and night. The hotel room was tiny but the expansive lobby (pictured above) was an homage to both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and those plastic hamster balls. Originally built in 1903 and called the Martha Washington, this former women’s residence-turned-hotel was the perfect place for the woman of Fantagraphics to rest their heads. No long train rides in from Brooklyn this time!
Daniel Johnston and Fantagraphics’ Jacq Cohen
3- Cross-promotion of artists turned out to be one of the joys. Some Fantagraphics artists spoke on panels (like the ever-charming Shannon Wheeler) so an attendee would grab his Oil & Water book but then toddle off in search of a signature at the Boom! Studios table where Wheeler was selling his Too Much Coffee Man. Likewise, folk artist/musician Daniel Johnston was too busy pouring over our new Nancy book to be bothered to remember what time his book signing was until Boom! editor Adam Staffaroni herded him in the right direction.
Nicolas Mahler signs not only his Fantagraphics book called Angelman but also previous publications bought from the Top Shelf table.
4- Table set-up and take down turned out to be an all-day affair itself. Taking a total of 9 hours we three worked together at set-up on Friday, inventory on Saturday morning, tear down on Sunday and money counting. MoCCA had all but wrapped up save for us and Abrams‘ Charlie Kochman and marketing fiend, Nancy Lambert, waiting to see the movers grab our boxes of books. Typically, a self-publishing cartoonist throws everything in one suitcase (because you SOLD and traded a lot by the end of the show) or even donates a lot, so the trek home is easy.
5 – The creeps were definitely NOT out perusing at our tables compared to the self-publishing toonies. Maybe they know they can get a ton of one-on-one time when you are shilling your own books because of the natural ebb-and-flow of the room. One year, I was mistaken multiple times for Jess Fink (despite the fact she is 100 pounds slimmer, a foot taller and probably doesn’t wear glasses). Those guys really wanted to talk about Chester 5000 in an upsetting way. The only one I noticed hit heavily on NYC cartoonist, Marion Vitus, but she possesses all the grace and glory we often lack in a crowd setting. Everyone I interacted with at the Fantagraphics table was passionate about the books, talking about the artists and future publications!
6 – The after hours were less party-filled than usual and more business-y dinner. At a fine Italian restaurant called Stuzzi, I ate too much food flanked by Nicolas Mahler and THE Jason. Hans Rickheit and Fredrik Stromberg also joined Kristy, Jacq and me. After a long (should I say European-style?) dinner, we headed to the Official After-party that had already ended but continued to the Burp Castle where Boom! Studios had also decided to roost along with My Friend Dahmer cartoonist Derf Backderf and MTV Geek‘s Bradley Hatfield. Excellent, excellent beers were had by all even though the bartender ‘shushed’ everyone every five minutes. Perfect to hear the soft voices of Jason and Mahler.
7 – The books, zines and minis I picked up are few in number but all I could manage while working AND with an impending move to Seattle. So many new, old, returning cartoonists spread their wares out for all to enjoy! The sheer joy of creation, the infinite pleasure of reading a book and sharing with the ones we love. Whether you attend a con as a consumer, work for a company or hope to sell your own work, some things will never change.
Still not enough room to take a picture of all the zines and books!
Jen Vaughn thanks New York for another fine mess you’ve gotten her into.
Picture by Boss & Bacon Chief Heidi.