by Kevin Czap
Wrapping up this wonderful year we have the granddaddy of a show that is the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest. Hopefully we can get L to talk about what it was like on the other side of the table soon, but I was just some guy who flew to New York to buy comic books. Given the pedigree of BCGF’s roster, there was a lot of spectacular work to pick up, to the point where I had a hard time singling out any for on-the-floor recommendations. I’d been looking forward to checking this show out for a while and I feel like it was a fitting end to 2011.
The last time I was in New York was last December, spending the week of New Year’s wandering around and reconnecting with friends. It was also the first time I’d been since surrendering my life to comics completely, so the memory I have of the city is basically this amazing place where you can buy any comic ever made easily, and where there’s a cartoonist around every corner. BCGF is the physical manifestation of that impression. So, like my last Brooklyn trip, and presumably every one to follow, this past weekend was marked by wonderful friends, serendipity and more comics than I could afford/fly home with.
Though a smaller show than something like TCAF, in a way there was way too much at Brooklyn to choose from (if that sounds like criticism, it isn’t). I was at the festival from open to close, roughly, and while I was aware that I didn’t look at every single thing at every single table, reading other blogs’ recaps I was surprised at how much cool stuff I managed to miss. I think I was undone by my tendency to overplan. See, I walked into that church with an extensive list of all the debuts and books that had been holding my attention. List in hand, I went around and crossed out line after line until it was all in my Koyama Press bag (nine hours of carrying all that weight on my shoulder was fun). After that, I had to become extra picky to survive. I think I ought to avoid this approach in the future, but then again, few other shows have so much wanna-get material.
One of the nice things was that this time it wasn’t all about me – I had a number of friends who were checking out the show as well. I like the challenge of trying to match what I know about comics to other people’s interests and tastes. It was pretty easy at this show, however, with Koyama, Adhouse, Secret Acres, Pizza Island, Retrofit, Collective Stench, Nobrow, Closed Caption Comics, Spit and a Half, etc etc on hand.
Aside from the cold hard realities of commerce, the show was great for meeting (and remeeting) cartoonists, critics and other personalities. Going hand in hand with BCGF being a magnet for stellar work, the show’s also a magnet for comics lovers of a particular stripe. There’s something kinda special about being around so many people that are on the same page about at least one little thing, and having skipped out on Thanksgiving, this communal gathering was just as good. It was also the third time ever that the entire staff of the Comix Cube was all in the same room (think Tri-Force).
I also got to check out the Gestural Aesthetics panel with Austin English, Dunja Jankovic and Frank Santoro, moderated by Bill Kartalopolous (thanks Derik for the heads-up). I get fired up whenever I hear or read Frank riffing out, and the argument put forth — that the dominant style of cartooning is a hold-over from the mechanical limitations of production that haven’t been applicable for years and that it is worth exploring different forms of mark/image making — is incredibly persuasive. I’m less familiar with Jankovic’s work but what I saw at the panel (and later her table) was compelling. I’m still resolving how I feel about Austin English’s work, but I do know that I appreciate his ideas in general.
All in all, despite consumerist anxieties of completionism, my experience at the Brooklyn Fest was largely positive. There is a lot of strong, interesting work being done in comics and while BCGF only represents a portion of it, that portion is a generous helping, loaded with vitamins and nutrients.
After talking with my colleagues, I think I might do the Haul section a bit differently this time. Rather than go crazy and overwhelm you (and myself) with everything I picked up all at once, I’m going to spread out the love. Do several posts that cover fewer books with more depth. This will also give me more time to read and digest what I’ve got and write something worthwhile.
For now though, I’ll say a tiny bit about the books that I was most excited about grabbing. Kramers Ergot 8, like for many people, was one of the debuts that I really had to get my hands on. The list of contributors and the production design are extremely nice. Whereas Kramers is a fine showcase for the sure-bets, the stable of talent that Ryan Sands gathered together for kuš! #9, ‘Female Secrets’ is arguably fresher. 27 of the best young comics artists from around the world put their best feet forward in this gorgeous little book which is leading the polls for my “Best in Show.”
A surprise get was a brand new mini from the inimitable Vincent Giard, who I finally got to meet. He’s been previewing some of it on his blog recently, but of course the actual book is a greater whole than its parts. The stunning Eleanor Davis cover on the new Study Group Magazine is just the beginning of the good things about Zack Soto and Milo George’s revamped anthology, which is another collection featuring a read-em-and-weep full house of a roster. L Nichols has also released a number of new work in the past month or so that I had been dying to get a hold of. Oh, and of course, Michael DeForge‘s new work, including the next installment of Open Country, the first of which was one of the most powerful things I read this year.
I’m a tall man, and sometimes flying can be uncomfortable. On the way home, I somehow ended up with having to fly first class. The flight attendants treat you like a human being, and the leg room… The leg room was exquisite.
the title of this post comes from my favorite release of this past year (not comics)