A friend suggested I should call this post “MoCCA SUCKED!” just to get attention. But I don’t think MoCCA Festival was really all that bad. Not exactly. Just maybe a little bit off. And all cons and shows should be allowed an off year.
Still, no one seemed particularly excited about it this year. I was, more or less, but it wasn’t the all-consuming “I can’t wait!” excitement I’ve had in the two previous years. Basically, MoCCA (when I finally got it into my head what days it actually was) became a good excuse to get out of town for a couple of days.
I remember spending brunch last year on the Saturday of the show studying a print out of the long list of debuts that Robot6 had posted. That blog had three posts this year, as far as I can tell, on MoCCA, and none of them were that extensive. The Beat had a little bit more, but still, it didn’t seem like there was really that much new stuff. (A lot of the coverage of MoCCA seemed to be more about events surrounding it — pre-parties and signings and after-parties and such — than the show itself.)
And my experience with the show kind of made that clear. I mean, certainly, when you go to a bunch of these things that are all centered along the Mid-Atlantic, you’re going to see the same creators again and again, quite often with the same comics. But I saw very few mini-comics that I hadn’t seen before. When I compare it to last year, where I felt like everything I saw was new and exciting, this just felt like more of the same.
The bigger publishers — First Second, Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, etc. — were doing good business and my web searches seem to indicate that’s why a lot of people were there. Don’t get me wrong — I was delighted to have Mike Cavallaro sign my copy of Foiled!, but I’m not someone who really cares about getting books signed all that much. If I want books from these publishers, well, that’s kind of what Amazon is for. (I know that sounds terrible, and I’m only partially serious, but you get my point.) The bigger-name guests like Frank Miller also kind of seemed out of character for the show.
So what do I think happened this year?
I think the change to April — even though people knew it since last year — threw some people off. Comics take time and when you’re used to knowing you need to have something done by June, you may be hard-pressed to get it done by April instead, even if you have a good amount of warning.
I also know exhibitors weren’t too happy about various issues last year — floor layout, the heat, and even the building itself. I don’t know their reasons, but there are a handful of people that I’ve seen in the previous two years that weren’t there this year. (A friend overheard on the train home that exhibitor space didn’t sell out — which would explain the random round tables occupying some of the space in the back.)
MoCCA this year faced some competition — both from Boston Comic Con and Stumptown Comics Fest in two weeks. The economy being what it is, I think some West Coast creators that may have done MoCCA otherwise had to pick between the two and stuck with the one that was closer to home. (That happened to me — last year, I had every intention on making it to Stumptown this year.)
And about that: I’m not necessarily blaming this all on the economy, but I have noticed that so far this year, some other events have seemed a little scaled-back. I think last year, we were all hurting but we had plans in place and were able to go through with them. This year, we’re still hurting which meant we had to make some choices. Maybe solo creators couldn’t afford the table fees; maybe they didn’t have the funds to get their comics printed. And so that left the “bigger” indie publishers — who are in the one part of the publishing industry that’s not entirely sucking — to pick up the slack.
I don’t really know, though. I think MoCCA’s in transition and I think that’s OK. It’s still a good show and I think it will continue to be a good show, even if it changes into something else (on Geek Girl on the Street, I mentioned I think there’s absolutely room for a “literary” comic con, and if that’s the direction MoCCA moves in, that’s cool).
Still, I think for me, if next year is a choice between going to Stumptown and going to MoCCA, I’m going to Stumptown (mostly because I’ve never been).
But Drink & Draw Like a Lady was blast and I’m glad I came here just for that.