MoCCA & CCS recap


As so often happens with good intentions, I realize I'm quickly running out of steam when it comes to doing a big blog post about my week on the east coast for the MoCCA Festival and a trip to the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT. I came back with more minis and other comics than I have from any trip in years, so the idea of highlighting the highlights has proven to be too daunting.

One thing that strikes me after attending MoCCA, and being given so many decent submissions, and see much of the work on display, is that maybe for the first time I can think of, there really is more good work being created than established publishers like Fanta, D&Q, Top Shelf, etc. can publish. I see so much good work that even ten years ago we probably would have published but just don't have room for these days. It's remarkable. 

I had a great time at MoCCA, hanging with my coworkers Mike Baehr, Jacq Cohen and Janice Headley, as well as old comics pals like Jaime Hernandez, Charles Burns, Frank Santoro, Dan Nadel, Todd Hignite and Peggy Burns. It was my first MoCCA in a few years and I thought everything was run very smoothly; the show was unequivocally a success for us, it was possibly the best-ever non-Comic-Con weekend we've ever had at a show, actually. So that was nice. I got some great sketches for my daughter's sketchbook, including contributions from Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth! There's about 87 years separating Mr. Jaffee and my daughter, so that was particularly special for me. 

But the real highlight of my trip came after MoCCA, when I took the Dartmouth coach from Manhattan up to sleepy Vermont and this most unlikely Shangri-La:

Myself, critic Douglas Wolk, D&Q Publisher Chris Oliveros, Scholastic Books Creative Director David Saylor, and First Second Books Art Director Colleen AF Venable were all invited to the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT for the school's annual "industry day."  The school, founded by James Sturm about four years ago, pretty much owns White River Junction. Students seem to staff everything in town, and signs of comics exist everywhere. It really is a strangely idyllic place for a cartoonist. I felt at home and loved the town and the school. Here's a blurry pic of Douglas Wolk in the awesome Charles M. Schulz comics library, which I wanted to spend the night in: 

I don't have the stamina to really write up the highlights from my three days in WRJ, but I couldn't have had a better time. Our hosts — the aforementioned Mr. Sturm and CCS President and co-founder Michelle Ollie and CCS Secret Weapon Robyn Chapman — were wonderfully gracious hosts and clearly have created something special in WRJ. I've been to a few other schools that offer curriculums in cartooning, and hands-down, the quality of work coming out of CCS was the best I've ever seen. Very little work derivative of the dominant genres in comics — namely, manga and superheroes — and instead a focus on personal expression and style with little regard for learning what it takes to be a "commercial" artist. We all did portfolio reviews one afternoon and I was frankly dreading it a bit but found myself thoroughly enjoying it. 

I saw a *lot* of good student work, but there were several who stood out, including but not limited to Kenny Widjaja, Katherine RoyMark BilokurCasey BohnJose-Luis Olivares and Nick Patten. Also, I was introduced to the comics of CCS teacher Jon Chad, who is doing excellent work. I also picked up some new work from CCS grads (and still WRJ residents) Joe Lambert and Chuck Forsam, both of whom I can't get enough of. 

There were other students I could single out but it's been a week since I got back and if I don't cut this short now I'll never finish it. But thanks to everyone who helped show me a good time in Vermont. It was even worth almost not making it home at all