CAB 2015: More Comic Art Brooklyn Notes

CAB 2015 part two Electric Boogaloo

CAB part one report here.

OK - so I’m just gonna try tell my NYC CAB stories as best as I can recollect them and put them down. I got to NYC on Thursday afternoon at rush hour. Juan Fernandez drove us up. Me and the books, I mean. And Juan. I didn’t bring too many books because the plan at the Comics Workbook table was to test out the Comics Workbook Travel Team. Connor Willumsen, G.W. Duncanson, Juan Fernandez and Pablo Selin was the starting line-up, with pinch hitting from CW-contributors Aidan Koch and Ron Wimberly. So, a murderer's row of makers. We had comics all the way from Chile. And Yonkers. And Pittsburgh. And Montreal. Some in Spanish. Connor had a zine with some French words in it. And English, of course. “Pittsburghese”. And we also had some “silent” comics. Haha, tricked you. All comics are silent. Listen. (D. Mazzucchelli's joke) 

I saw peers and colleagues loading in before CAB started and then didn't see them the whole day. It’s even a relatively small show, so that speaks to how fast-paced it is. Every year it’s like that. Despite maybe feeling less crowded, like I wrote in my first report, it was steady. And then even though it starts really slow, down near the final bell at 7 pm, it’s better than the usual 6 pm of most shows were it feels cut off too early. So, I think the format is great. I actually like the space of the church gymnasium and the cafeteria downstairs. There’s a good vibe. Maybe that’s just the Catholic in me, I dunno. It feels like show and tell day at school - which was always an exciting day. I mean that all respectfully. Like I couldn’t imagine this show in another type of building. It was lose much of it’s charm, I think.

Soon it was after 11am and I noticed people were shopping now so I had to get out of the way and let Connor Willumsen take center field. I’ll tell ya, that kid can draw. Holy smokes. He can draw circles around just about everyone in the game. A natural if I ever saw one. He had his Breakdown Press published, Treasure Island for sale. Both volumes. The green one and the red one. No more rounded corners though on the reprint of issue one. Only collectors like me care or even know what I’m talking about. Sorry. Apparently, number three will be done toute suite. Connor showed me the new stuff he has been working on and suffice to say it is some next level shit. He’s a monster. A very handsome and at times cute and cuddly monster. But a monster all the same. Go find out more about his work HERE.

I had the pleasure of catching up with the also monstrously talented Aidan Koch. She had original pages from her fantastic book The Blonde Woman for sale as well as alternative versions of her Paris Review cover. “They made me redo it a bunch of times,” she laughed. I bought one of the alternate versions for Nicole Rudick who needs a parade down Fifth Avenue for managing to get stuffy literary types to take a good long look at Aidan’s work. I hear the summer Paris Review issue with Aidan’s cover and portfolio inside was a popular smash hit. Hopefully, Aidan will be the vertical invader we art comics people have all been waiting for. She can invade the literary comics world and teach them comics poetry. If anyone can storm the castle, it’s Aidan. Her and Connor made handsome tablemates. 

And then I went outside to get some air and came back and there was Ron Wimberly sitting between Aidan and Connor. Now, that was a great image and I tried desperately to get them all in the frame. What a photo-op. Put this on Page Six in the Post or on the cover of the NYT’s Weekend Arts section. This is what is cool about NYC. More chances of seeing this type of murderer’s row of talent. Comics is so f-ing interesting right now. And to me, some of the most interesting makers were at CAB. Of all the shows I did this fall, and I did a lot of festivals, I think CAB had the best exhibitor list. Or at least had the highest percentage of art comics makers who aren’t necessarily trying to play the middle ground literary comics route. Not a lot of the vinyl banner people who are better served out at the comic con in the mall. Thank God. 

(Below Aidan Koch, Ron Wimberly, and Connor Willumsen at CAB 2015) (Chris Anthony Diaz has the best photos of CAB. Check out his Instagram here.)

Aidan Koch and Connor Willumsen

IMG_4088 (2)

Ron Wimberly and Connor Willumsen

Interestingly, I had a lot of customers who are not makers of comics. I often ask people who shop at my table, “Do you make comics?” Generally, for years, the answer has been "yes." However, I’ve noticed that changing over the last couple years. I ask the same question and I get a “No, I just like comics”. And then I get REALLY interested. I ask them a million questions.The rarest of all rare birds, the art-comics reader/buyer who is not interested in making comics. Market research GOLD. Why do I think these readers are so interesting? Because they seem to read more and have more diverse tastes than makers. Makers get obsessive often for one kind of thing or style or a particular artist. I know from helping run the PicBox table for years. So, it’s interesting to me to understand buying habits of non-makers; of “pure” readers. We need more pure readers. I think so, anyway, in order to have a healthy balance.

No one seemed to be confused about the one day Saturday show and the programming on Sunday. Last year that was confusing. Also last year, it was really only when people said “I can buy this tomorrow”. I think it’s a good way to deal with the programming if you don’t have the room to do it at the venue. In theory, panels and presentations are meant to draw traffic off the floor and then to highlight that author or authors afterwards at a signing table. There was a signing area after panels at the Wythe hotel on Sunday for CAB. Everything seemed smooth. 

I saw the Brian Chippendale, Mickey Z, Sammy Harkham panel moderated by Jacob Berendes; and Daniel Clowes interviewed by Naomi Fry; and Derf Backderf interviewed by Karen Green (who also organized the programming). 

Brian Chippendale is a rare sighting at any indy comic book con. You will easily find him at a comic con out at the mall (any mall—who knows when and where he might be on tour with his band Lightning Bolt). However he will be looking for back issues at those mall cons. Here he was a special guest to promote his new Puke Force collection (strangely, no D&Q presence at CAB or at CXC - maybe they are done doing shows?). Brian is always fun to watch onstage even when he is struggling to answer curveball questions from Sammy about “intent” or “inking”. Brian talked about drawing directly in pen, as did Mickey, which I find endlessly fascinating. Sammy talked about his penciling/inking process as well. I loved it and wished it could have gone on for hours. There was a good back and forth between everyone and Jacob Berendes managed to keep it all on track and bring the train into the station on time. I will say that I always think three people on a panel including the moderator should be a rule. If it’s an hour long panel then it is really 50 minutes or more like 45. Even if the introductions take only 5 minutes (they usually take 10) then that means each person only gets like 10 minutes if there is a plan to have questions at the end. But usually, like this panel, the first person talks for too long (sorry Brian) and then the others get short shrift. Just saying. If you limit the panel to two people and a moderator—three people total on stage—it’s always better time management and usually better presentation.

What I like about CAB is that since it is in New York and specifically in Williamsburg there is an air of being part of the culture at large. We aren’t isolated somewhere in a hotel off an exit ramp in a suburb. It’s not quite Art Basel Miami but for the States it’s the hippest show. Did that make you laugh? Was it the Williamsburg part? Like Williamsburg hipster funny? I lived in Williamsburg in 1991 and there were roving packs of wild dogs that would chase you to and from the subway. It’s funny to have seen it change so much. Parts of it look like Battery Park City over in Manhattan. But it’s still pretty cool if you compare it to Pittsburgh or anywhere else. There’s so much to do that the demeanor of most attendees and guests and exhibitors of CAB is always “up”. We are all in the flow of life. I know people (I can’t reveal their names and embarrass them here) who don’t go to CAB cuz they just can’t surf the NYC vibe. It’s too expensive, too crazy, too whatever and they prefer the suburban exit ramp comic book convention. And HEY! That’s OK. All I’m trying to say is that it’s a good show to go to even if you “don’t get in” as an exhibitor. You should still come and see people. Meet people. See some of the most interesting comics being published at this moment all together in one place.

Here are some of my favorites: 

Lale Westvind’s new Breakdown Press book, Hax

Sammy Harkham’s new Crickets #5

a new Aidan Koch riso print

Conor Stechschulte's new Breakdown Press book

Lane Milburne’s new self published collection of Spectral Worlds strips

Bob Stevenson’s table of old (like from the 50s, 60s, 70s) zines and minis and Tijuana Bibles. OMG.

Dan Nadel showed me a Sarah Ferrick zine I messed and a Andy Burkholder zine I missed. They both looked good.

So go to CAB next year. It’s a different show than TCAF and a different show then SPX. And it’s good to go to them all if you can, whether you are a maker or a reader. You laugh. You don’t have the money. you say? Well, sorry. Then you miss out. These shows are where it all happens. Where all what happens, you ask. You get to meet the authors who are making some of the most amazing work in the world at the moment. Worth it’s weight in gold. To me, anyways. I love “circuit season” and CAB is one of the highlights.

That’s all I got. Here’s John Kelly with his own observations to try and make a more well rounded picture.


CAB 2015 Video Roundup
By John Kelly

Thanks Frank. Like last week, I'm going to keep my writing about CAB to a minimum and instead let the artists speak for themselves in the videos below. And, as usual, Frankie covered the younger artists and I will focus on some of the older folks. So, here we go:

Like other festivals of its type, CAB is a place where artists unveil new work, or at least tease attendees with what will be forthcoming. For example, for a while on Saturday, Dan Clowes could be seen carrying around an unfinished proof copy of his highly-anticipated Patience, which had been five-years in the making. David Sandlin was also at CAB and had a copy of the second volume of his staggering 76 Manifestations of American Destiny, the extremely limited-edition (20 copies) series of prints and paintings of US triumphs and disasters for which he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship last year. As Sandlin explains in the clip below, when unfolded the collected works measure 27 feet in length.

While you had to do a bit of work, could could find plenty of comics history at CAB, with Bill Griffith Charles, Burns, and Denis Kitchen among the veterans selling and signing things on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly talked about how some of the earliest work in the comics form was just as inventive, bizarre and, to use one of Art's words, "profane," as the new things being sold by today's young artists at CAB, SPX, TCAF, CXC, and elsewhere.

Questions from the audience following these festival panel discussions can be painful, insightful or both. In last week's CAB column, Dan Clowes talked about his career and the making of Patience. This week, in the clip below, he recalls for an audience member the genesis of "The Future," a strip that appeared in an old issue of Eightball.

And in the clip below, Clowes takes on another hard-hitting audience question with this explanation of what type of drawing materials he prefers:

More history could be found slightly off the CAB Brooklyn campus. On Wednesday, just before the CAB weekend events, I attended the second (and possibly last) version of Drew Friedman and Stephen Kroninger's presentation about caricature artists at a theater in the School of Visual Arts. Friedman and Kroninger gave a slide show talk about a dozen commercial artists who were well known in their day but hardly remembered today, reprising a presentation they gave at the Society of Illustrators in May. At several moments during their talk, Friedman and Kroninger gave thanks to John Wendler, who assisted in collecting images by several of the artists in the presentation and who flew in from Chicago to attend the event. One of the forgotten artists added to the latest talk was Kate Carew, the sister of legendary New Yorker cartoonist Gluyas Williams and aunt of Collier's magazine cartoon editor Gurney Williams.

fff246katecarewForgotten caricaturist Kate Carew interviewing the Wright Brothers

Writing and drawing for The New York World in the 1890s, Carew--who referred to herself as the "Only Woman Caricaturist"--interviewed and drew leaders and celebrities of the time, such as Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, and the Wright Brothers.

"These drawings haven't been seen by the public in over 100 years," said Kroninger of the Carew images he presented.

"Stephen and I have had a long passion for caricaturists, especially the ones who--for one reason or another--have been forgotten, have been passed by," said Friedman. "These people [often] worked at the same time as Al Hirschfeld, and some of them were as popular, if not more popular, in their day, but over the years their work has somehow disappeared. So, we're going to revive their work tonight."

We'll end this week with one more video about a forgotten artist. In it, Friedman talks about the career of Sam Berman, a much-in-demand illustrator in the '30s to '50s, who, among many other things, created the art for the opening credits for The Honeymooners, which includes a drawing of Jackie Gleason that Friedman called possibly the most famous caricature image in history.