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2007 archive at Andy Hartzell: the Blog

Steaming MOCCA


June 26th, 2007

Howdy, nonexistent readers!

I’m home, back from the Wild Wild East. The trip started with forebodings and ended with frustration, but the heart of it, the debut of me and my book at New York’s MOCCA festival, was a blast.

Forebodings: the convention was preceded by a few days at the beach, sharing a Rhode Island cottage with my sister, Liz Reumann, and her family. Her idea, and a fine one–you’ve got to take every chance you can to hang out with nieces while they’re still little and adorable. When I get to Rhode Island, however, I discover that my brother-in-law is sick and miserable, due to a stomach bug he had contracted from their 20-month-old. The moment this fact is disclosed, the 20-month-old in question, Marieke, makes a beeline for me, climbs up to my chest, and basically hangs there for the rest of the vacation, putting her spit-covered fingers in my mouth whenever I speak.

It was very sweet…she loved me with the desperate love that only a toddler can feel.

Or did she? Was it germ warfare? Was there a Reumann conspiracy to make me sick so I’d miss my convention? On Thursday night I had myself convinced that I was coming down with something. But the feeling passed–no doubt it was merely my anxieties about the con taking the form of nascent illness. By Friday, when I arrived in Manhattan, I was feeling fine.

Always I approach a convention reluctantly, with that “day of the big test” clamminess. It ain’t easy to play “salesman.” The anxiety was compounded this time around, because I was part of the Top Shelf booth for the first time, and because I was about to see my book for the first time.

But the Top Shelf guys were friendly and welcoming, and the book turned out gorgeous. The con was a nonstop blur of faces and chatter; when the hall closed Saturday night, we proceeded straight to the TS 10th anniversary bash and the faces and chatter continued, now slightly blurrier thanks to the influence of free alchohol. Then it all started over again on Sunday.

Highlights:

–hanging out out with fellow Top Shelf Freshman Jeff Lemire. His Tales from the Farm packs a world of loneliness and longing into 112 spare pages. the comic works like a good short story…I was gonna say “Flannery O’Connor”, but Jeff’s work is less astringest and more sentimental…maybe “Eudora Welty”. Out of a few well-observed details he gives us three fully-realized characters, whose drama builds to an unexpected climax and an emotionally satisfying resolution. The cartoonist himself is as laconic and grounded as his work.

–The opportunity to meet my cartoonist idol Kim Deitch and hear him read from his work.

–Reconnecting with comics comrades Dylan Williams, Bak, Austin English, Jon Lewis…seeing Zander Cannon for the first time in ten years (still good-lookin’, shorter hair now).

–Having beers with Tom K and talking over the future of the human race, and hatching a brilliant idea for a “Utopia”-based anthology.

–Meeting the irrepressible Charlito and Mr. Phil of Indie Spinner Rack, whose off-air personalities are just slightly less rambunctious than their on-air personalities.

–Realizing I like James Kochalka. I had bought into the line that he’s a grandstander whose work is far too precious, buut I hadn’t read Superf*ckers. How can anyone resist Superf*ckers?

–And other stuff as well. I don’t want to go overboard with my reveries…the con also contained a fair bit of standing around anxiously, worrying that I was missing something good or failing to connect with someone I really ought to meet, or grinding my teeth that someone else was receiving attention that rightly belonged to me. But I left feeling elated, once again psyched about the possibilities of comics, resolved to buckle down and draw.

By the way, the “frustration” alluded to in the fist paragraph: a nightmarish ride home that left me stranded on the tarmac for three hours with a screaming baby behind me. ‘Nuff said.