I attended my third Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art festival in New York City this past weekend, my second at the 69th Regent Armory on Lexington Ave. Last year's MoCCA festival landed on a particularly hot day which became a major complaint from exhibitor and visitor alike. No such worries this year as we were granted a seasonally appropriate temperature for the event. It was cool outside but even cooler inside with amazing artists showing off their work and talking about the industry.
MoCCA is a great place to find blooming talent. There's so much packed into that room it's hard not to walk out tons of amazing artwork and other creations. I kept myself on a tight leash this year but I did splurge on a few stand outs. Neil Fitzpatrick, creator of Neil Jam comics, had not only his books on hand but also several pop-inspired framed art. He calls them Neil Jam Icons and they're all Neil Jam-ified. I couldn't pick between the superheroes so I decided to take home a Harry Potter instead. My other purchase of the day was an Odd Fauna by Emma San Cartier. I couldn't choose between her several gorgeous prints so instead opted for a tiny fox from her sculpture line. It's currently sitting on my desk looking freaking adorable. The stunning Catwoman sketch from above comes from none other than one-half of the Zuda Comics' Timony Twins, Bobby.
I attended just one panel while at the festival and it happened to be the most popular. "The Art of the Superhero," moderated by Jeff Newelt, featured Frank Miller who was joined by artists Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets), Paul Pope (Batman Year 100), Kyle Baker (Plastic Man) and Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma). In an over-capacity room the panelists shared their love of Jack Kirby and Miller's own Dark Knight was praised heavily. Miller said his New Gods work was his personal favorite from Kirby. "He brought an Old Testament sensibility to the superhero, drawing us back into ancient texts by way of guys in skin-tight costumes which I think was an astonishing accomplishment and clarified, for me, a great deal of what a superhero is," he said, "Everything comes from something."
"The passions can be described without showing the act," Miller said about sex in comics. "In Dark Knight 2, when I had the tryst between Superman and Wonder Woman, I was really trying to redress something that's always bothered me. Whenever they involve superheroes and sex, all of a sudden, they're in bed and it looks like it could be anybody. Sorry, but Superman and Wonder Woman, there's gonna be hell to pay. I mean, aircraft carriers are gonna topple over."
Miller said he looked to high-fashion, like Versace, when designing costumes for the hookers in Sin City, while Kyle Baker mentioned he turned down a Spider-Man job once purely because of the costume. "Any character you draw, you're gonna have to draw him eight thousand times," he said, "You might love plaid the first time you draw it but as you get closer to the deadline you go, 'Damn!'" Jaime Hernandez said he hates drawing cars and Miller pointed out that a cartoonists dirty secret is they draw what they like to draw. "When I came up with Sin City it was vintage cars, buildings, beautiful women, guys with guns. Now I gotta do a story about them," he said, "You really want to spend your time drawing or looking at a Mazda?"
An audience member started a really interesting chain of conversation when he asked what the panelists thought was wrong with modern superhero comics, to which several of them had no choice but to be offended. "Well, if there's anything wrong, we're still making them," said Baker and then added a sarcastic, "Thanks for buying 'em!" Paul Pope said he would like to see more flexibility from the top editorial staff of the Big Two, "to let creators create new things and not just do another fucking Batman or Superman." Miller had to chime in with, "I'd like to see another fucking Batman."
Miller then added seriously, "What I'd like to see is the price go down." Which, you can imagine, was met with lots of applause. "Paying four bucks for something that used to cost a dime is getting pretty dicey." He also thinks pamphlets are on a suicide course, "For twenty minutes pleasure, at tops, spending four bucks, boy are there better ways for you to spend your money." Along those lines, another audience member wanted toknow why there hasn't been any new superheroes with staying ability. "Your target audience is too young to help you," said Baker.
"I would reemphasize, it might be an editorial decision outside of the creative talent, who are capable of coming up with new concepts," said Pope. Baker pointed out that the talent was right upstairs at the show or online. "They may not necessarily have the powerhouse money to be marketing their really cool, nifty idea," he said. Miller pretty much ended the panel with his final thoughts on the matter. "Comic books went through a long, long dead end period where they were only kept alive by Neil Adams and Jim Steranko. It was because they didn't pay us, they didn't pay us squat. We were working for slave wages," he said. "It's an obstacle to figure out how to pay us to get us to do stuff for your iPad," Miller. "They're going to have to figure out a way to make it worth my wile."
Speaking of iPads, after Zuda's Kevin Colden did an illustration for me in my sketchbook, a fan came up and handed him an iPad. That's where he wanted his sketch drawn. You may have seen Jim Lee's impressive iPad creations he posted recently via Twitter. Is this going to be the new thing? And there I was with my lousy paper. I'm so not cool anymore!