Sunday, 17 April 2011

Leaving New York's never easy.

This year I went to New York City's MOCCAFest comic convention, along with Colin Mathieson, co-founder of AccentUK and his son Scott. This was our first Mocca event and had been recommended by a few people as 'the comic event in the US for Small Press and Independent comics', but it was Cliodhna Lyons, who seems to have been to most of the US Cons, who finally convinced us to go. Flying Delta airlines was problem free, and whilst being tempted on the plane to part with $995 in order to have my very own Easter Island Head, I arrived in JFK airport tired, but pretty much OK.

I've done a few Cons now and I tend to keep a little 'journal / scrapbook' going to capture the events of the days. Before I did this I'd get back from a trip completely exhausted and struggle to recall much of what had happened.

I've scanned a few pages of the book and scattered them, hopefully not randomly, amongst the write up.

So, arriving on the 7th April we found ourselves checked into the hotel and were wandering passed the Chrysler Building by around 3pm. The Chrysler has always been my favourite building and it is even more impressive than I thought it could be when seen in person. We had a bite to eat in Grand Central Station, remembering the films that it had been featured in, wandered around Times Square, avoided Comedy Club ticket salesmen, and then planned what we'd do tomorrow, as we had a day free before the Con started. The Museum Of Modern Art was top of the list, Colin for the African Art exhibition (hoping to see some Zulu art I bet) and myself to see the Picasso Guitar exhibition. Scott was happy to pop in with us as it was on the way to Midtown Comics, kind of :o).

The exhibitions were amazing, and the normal collections very impressive. It always strikes me how much more impressive paintings are when seen for real. Pollack's explosions of colour just don't translate into smaller books.

Midtown Comics is a real comic shop. A huge selection of comics and minimal toys and other merchandise. We actually found some AccentUK titles there as well, which is great.

This was followed by lunch in a 'posh' diner (well, it was more expensive than the others we'd been to), before setting off to find The Strand, which is a great bookstore. Selling both second hand and new books, and being on 4 floors. We miscalculated the time it would take a little I think, but we made the 40 block walk and it was certainly worth it. The store is incredible. Sadly out of time we had to leave and decided to return on the last day and buy a whole heap of books, if we had room in our suitcases.

We took the subway back. It was certainly quicker.

The evening was finished off with a Chinese Meal, plentiful portions meant that none of us could finish it, but the food was great, and cheap. The fortune cookie had me a little worried though. 'Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come to watch you burn', can be interpreted in a couple of obvious ways, one good, the other not so.

And so the 9th April had arrived. No need for breakfast as I was still digeting last night's Chinese meal, Colin, Scott and I set off, suitcases loaded with comics, in search of the venue. What can I say, the grid set up to the city streets made it painless to find.

The venue itself is the Armory on Lexington Avenue, which is still in active use, and consequently pretty basic to look at. What you could sense though from first entering the building was the passion and energy being generated by all the creators setting up their stalls. I'll not talk about the event from a comic's perspective (or try not to anyway) on this blog as that will be covered, with photos, over on but will say that our comics were received very well. We met a number of very talented creators, mostly in our immediate area as it was difficult to wander off for too long, a spent some cash picking up some really interesting comic books.
I'll mention a few of the books I picked up. 'Jack' by Olivia Pelaez is a great little understated story illustrated very nicely, and her little greyscale paintings were wonderful ( Manny The Bot, by Maurice Murdock (who almost had the stall next to us) shows an emerging talent and is all the more impressive for being produced so quickly (, two amazingly designed anthology books called The Anthology Project from Lucidity Press ( and Ten Thousand Stories from Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr of Idiots' Books (, all of whom have reviews and thoughts on Mocca.

I also got to meet some of the people who contribute to AccentUK's anthologies, Morgan Pielli, Jonathan Baylis and Charles.D. Chenet for example, as well as Martin Flink who was part of a Danish group who had travelled over. It's great being able to put faces to email addresses. A big surprise was meeting Ed Traquino again. Ed was a regular on the UK comic scene a few years ago but seemed to disappear. Well, that was because he now lives in the Bronx, NYC, and works as a story board artist. See, the comic world is not that big.

I also met Dennis Kitchen... ... briefly.

It was an amazing two days.
One of my main aims whilst there was to sort out an outlet for electronic versions of the AccentUK books. I've got an iPAD now, (yes ... I know ... it'll probably only give me 2 to 3 years of pleasure), and want to see our books in that format. I spoke to a very helpful guy called Frank Reynoso who had a contact for me. I also spoke to Justin Mound who is setting up a Comixology set of apps for Independent Comics. It's early days for Justin but what he does offer is an electronic store that doesn't get swamped with 30 X-Men titles every month. Following a few follow up chats with people we've decided to use Lush.
and see how it goes. I'm more than happy to share our experiences as we enter ... the Twilight Zone ... err ... digital age.

As we had a free morning, before our return flight, we went back to Midtown Comics. We wanted to meet the manager and thank him for stocking our books. We also had 8 comics left (from 4 boxes) and wanted to leave them with him as a free gift, and so the space that they would have taken up could be filled with other books :o)

A really nice guy. He knew of our books and was more than happy to stock them. His attitude to comics was excellent, actually using the sure sales of Marvel etc to allow him to take a few risks on some Independent titles.

And then it was just a quick trip to The Strand book store, by Subway this time, a morning buying books, a quick lunch and then the flight back home.

I would recommend Mocca to anyone, as either a creator, publisher of reader. It's one of those Cons that has a real identity and is all about comics. No Hollywood stars signing autographs, no props from movies, nobody only selling trading cards or merchandise.

We've already booked the same table for next year ...

... just need to create some new books for it now :o)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Making the most of the journey.

When I took my new job, two months ago now, the thing that worried me the most was the traveling time. No longer was it going to be a 15 minute car journey, but a 45 minute train ride. No longer was it going to be 20 minutes door to door, but an hour. The words of advice from a good friend were, 'Make the journey a useful part of your day, that way it won't seem like the journey eats into your day but is part of it'. Wise words indeed. And so I chose to make use of the 45 minutes by reading, a passion of mine that I'd never found much time for over the last 10 years or so. So I now own a Kindle and get through about a book a week. No longer do I wait for the train to arrive before getting comfortable with my book, but start reading it on the platform. The journey is now very much part of my day. Why then did I find the trips I used to have to take to London once or twice a week such a daunting task ? OK, the train journey was about 2 hours and not an hour, but back then my iPOD still worked. OK, I had to get up pretty early and was generally too tired to read a book, but what about the journey from Euston to Canary Wharf ? The trip on London's Underground ? And then it all came back to me. The journey down the escallator into the furnace, getting hotter the deeper you got (which made the Northern Line almost unbearable at times), the platforms crammed with bodies (it usually took 4 tube trains before I managed to get even a chance of getting on one), the mass of bodies crammed into the carriages, when you finally managed to get on one, where you spent the next 20 minutes looking at someone's armpit. So that was it. There was no chance to unwind and relax. The days were too long, I was too tired, and by the time I was awake enough the tubes were never hospitable enough. Although I remember that some people on the tube had managed to master reading a book whilst being supported by the mass of bodies around them, it was something that I never aspired to. For those who still make the journey or, worst still, have to use the London Underground every day, here are a few survival tips from the calendar.
Hopefully something that will never prove useful, but here they are anyway.
I'm off to New York this week, for the Mocca Comic Book event. I've never been to New York before and maybe I'll end up on the Metro (I think they call it the Metro), way below the New York blocks. I wonder if its as unwelcoming as the London Underground ? I can't imagine it being worse, although hopefully I'll be avoiding 'Rush Hour', which in London seems to cover about 2 hours these days, so I'm hoping for it to be less busy.

I'll not be taking my Kindle though, just another thing to worry about on the journey, and will fall back to reading things on paper. I've picked this week's New Scientist and Fortean Times magazines, both of which look very interesting, so I should be fine.