by Kevin Czap
Ah, feel that in the air? It’s the first refreshing signs of comics season. After three months of sitting around in the heat, I was eager to start hitting the road again and start selling books again. This weekend was the third year (I believe) of the Philly Alternative Comics Convention in good old Philadelphia. Kudos are really in order for Pat Aulisio, who once again pulled this whole show together. PACC being a small show doesn’t make how well-organized it all is – and how smoothly the show went – any less impressive. Even though the weather was terrible and the roof was leaking and the Rotunda was packed like a can of sardines, everyone seemed to be have a blast.
In addition to the main show, Aulisio also spearheaded the creation of the next Big Important award in comics – the Grawlix award. Winners receive Peanuts books… how cool is that? The award ceremony came at the end of a casual mixer in Pat’s studio the night before, which gave the exhibitors who came early plenty of time to get to know each other and get pumped before hitting the tables the next day and getting to business (the really laid back and fun kind of business, I mean). We were all treated to a performance by the ad hoc house band consisting of Aulisio on drums, Mike Turzanski on guitar and Bob Pistilli (the MC of the evening) on harmonica/spoken rant. I usually miss out on the social aspect of shows since I often only have the weekend and am traveling from such far-off distances. Having been around long enough in Philly to experience some of it, I really see the benefit of this kind of community building. Of course, as I would come to observe, it makes sense that these Philly comics kids would do such a good job of it.
I have not yet witnessed a more close-knit, supportive comics community than the one in Philadelphia. Everyone in the scene, regardless of what kind of comics they make or level of exposure out in the greater comics universe, knew each other very well, were talking up each other’s books and just being excellent to one another. From what I could gather, a portion of this camaraderie comes out of their Philly Comix Jam group, which meets on the regular to do it up jam style (James Kochalka is scheduled to make an appearance in the near future). Nothing makes me feel happier than seeing a thriving scene and man, Philly really did seem to take the cake in this department. It was really nice to get in on the jams at the end of the show, helped make me feel like I was really a part of it all. As I continue to work towards a scene here in Cleveland, I’ll have these cats as a positive model.
The show was just a lot of fun. With punk music playing softly in the background, there was never really a shortage of activity despite the torrential rains outside. And did I mention that fellow Comix Cube contributor L Nichols was my neighbor? It was great to hang out for the first time since just barely meeting at last year’s SPX. The character of the show, at least my impression of it, was overall more on the grungy art comix side, the Panter family tree kind of stuff. Very visually powerful, both in terms of subject matter and execution. Sharp colors and sharp shapes. On the other hand, there was more than a few more visually straight cartoony works – some autobio, some magical realism. Either way, the DIY mentality ruled the day, and the show was all the more exciting for it. Low on cash, I limited myself to purchases that were smaller, personal and less likely for me to really find anywhere else. Even with these restrictions, I had a very very hard time passing things up. This is what I love about small local shows, the ability to get in on the ground floor and really discover that the small nooks contain work as astounding as what usually gets trumpeted on the internet.
All in all, a great start to another round of fall conventions, and many fond memories were forged. Love ya, Philly.
(f)Art Monster, Anxiety Attack, and Whiskers — Kat Fajardo: Kat‘s someone I’ve been following for a little while on the internet thanks to a recommendation by Darryl. Still young, she’s already turning out great drawings set to funny/creepy comics. “Anxiety Attack” is a really exciting little formal game. The page is folded up into a tight single panel, which you then unfold – as the tensions rise, the panels and the page get bigger until the full-sized freak out at the end. Then you can go backwards and do it all over again. Fine stuff. (Also, her buddy Monica drew a super cute drawing of the three of us hanging out in the rain. Thanks, Monica!).
Sad People Sex #4 — Heather Benjamin: Benjamin‘s work can blow you away. Really intricate and really grotesque drawings painfully mixing sex and violent wounds. Her style makes me think of a combination of Lala and Dame Darcy. Her piece in the Grawlix award winning anthology Dimensions really impressed me, adding psychedelia into the mix. Something to check out for those with strong constitutions.
The Regular Man — Dina Kelberman: Dina was originally my neighbor to the left at the show before roof leaks sent her searching for dryer parts. Not only are these one-pagers really striking with their covers, altered versions of familiar literary works, but I also really respond to Kelberman’s sketchbook-y cartooning. The forms she draws are exceptionally simple, offset by playful layouts and Joe Lambert-like typography. She’s taking the basic rules of comics and going off to pave her own way with the form. Quite admirable.
Rom — Josh Bayer: Josh Bayer first came to my attention in the pages of Secret Prison, and so even though he’s based in New York, I have a strong association between him and Philly. His work is really out of control, celebrating the handmade mark and the palimpsest. Most of what I’ve seen takes a preexisting character and recasts them in Bayer’s thick grease pencil – this book works over ROM: Space Knight.
Kid Spaceheater — Josh Burgraf: Josh was responsible for one of the awesome posters for this event, so I was excited to see more of his work. Kid Spaceheater is a high speed cartoony adventure that blends Kirby mechgeometry with Meathaus grotesqueries. I really like how there’s a layered flatness to the images, as if the figures were cut from paper and placed on the background image. The compositions are tight and the grayscale is really effective.
Invisible Sandwich — Mandy Dunn: I needed this comic. I’ve talked a bit and thought even more about graphic design in/as comics. This gorgeous object is like an answer to my dreams. No figures, the short narrative is told through beautiful graphic symbols and sophisticated typesetting. As I hold this book again, I feel that I have to admit this is my best of show. The most expensive book I got, but totally totally totally worth every penny.
Badman’s Cave — Derik Badman: I’ve been a fan of Derik‘s abstract comics since I first learned there was such a thing as abstract comics. His newest book continues his task of translating the comics of Jesse Marsh into visual poetry. I love the use of naturalistic landscapes set up against hard graphic forms.
Hope Mountain 1 & 2 — ed. by Peter Lazarski and Mike Turzanski: Beautiful tabloids where each artist fills a page with a big single image, typically. Some comics work, usually in the centerfold. Pete and Mike also do some wild t-shirts, prints and comics, like FUKM. Good guys.
Zoos Bluez, Joe Likes Potato Chips and Thor of the Pineys — Dre Time: Nice little minis by the very cool Dre. I like her brushy, big-eyed drawings. The cat in “Joe Likes Potato Chips” is really pretty damn cute too. Check out her stuff!!!
The Fox and the Grapes, Over Capacity and Herald of the Gods — Carey Pietsch: That is the fucking coolest crane I have ever seen (“The Fox and the Grapes”).
Faire du Vélo — Cyn Why: Bikes! Vomiting! Pigeons! Cyn had a lot of cool stuff at her table, including a zine of illustrations called “Chicks with Dicks,” which, thanks to Serial Mom, I will always find hilarious.
Heroes & Villains — Sam Thurman: Really nice and deceptively simple, at first glance it’s a book of illustrations. By the end you realize there’s much more going on between the lines.
Ghost Comics — ed. by Ed Choy Moorman: A handsome anthology put together by the strapping Ed Moorman. Features top-notch work by favorites Warren Craghead, Aidan Koch, John Porcellino and Maris Wicks.
The Ones that Got Away
Ok, so Jen Tong was at this show, and she had so much amazing work. Because her stuff is so lovingly put together, it costs a little more than you’d typically find at these kinds of shows. Again, Jen’s work is 100% worth it and it was hard to walk away without any of it. She’s got an etsy account, maybe you can join me in trying to convince her to sell her comics on there? You need them too, after all.
Adhouse, Secret Acres and Meathaus were all there at the show with their typically fantastic stuff. I know that with books like Edie Fake’s “Foie Gras” minis or Jesse Moynihan’s new Forming book or the new sketchbook collection Go For the Gold 4, there’s a better chance of getting later on than the other minis in my haul. But still. And I still don’t own Joe Lambert’s I Will Bite You. Sigh.
Other folks who had work that I really responded to but had to pass up include Corinne Mucha, Ze Jian Shen and all her tablemates, the new Dirty Diamonds anthology (featuring Carey Pietsch and Dre Time), etc etc. There’s too many folks to shout out to, but just know that if we hung out or even just talked, I’m thinking about you. Mwah.
See you guys at SPX!