CAB 2015 Roundup(s): Clowes, Kitchen & Head

Frank Santoro here, this week we have a double column about the CAB festival. I’ve got a brief report and then John Kelly will take over to give a much fuller account of the activities. John and I will both have more on CAB next week as well.

The 2015 Comic Arts Brooklyn (CAB) presented by Brooklyn’s Desert Island Comics was held on Saturday, November 7th. Organized by Desert Island proprietor Gabe Fowler, this marks the third year that the show has been called CAB and the seventh year of the show, which was originally called The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Gabe has turned the fest into a well-oiled machine and this year Karen Green programmed a series of panels and interviews with authors on the day after the Saturday exhibitors showcase at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.


I exhibited as Comics Workbook and tabled next to the great Aidan Koch (and the great Ron Wimberly, who appeared like a vision for a couple hours at Aidan’s table). The Comics Workbook table consisted of myself, Connor Willumsen, Juan Fernandez, G.W. Duncanson and Pablo Selin (who came all the way from Chile). I thought it was a great show. I think curated shows are definitely the way to go in 2015, and CAB is a curated show. I understand that many may not agree with this but think of it this way: first come first served or a lottery system does not necessarily serve the community. Mr. Fowler’s knowledge of “what’s happening” in comics comes directly out of his experience as a retailer and I think he curates the show like he curates his store. And Desert Island is a great store which definitely serves the community. So, ‘nuff said. 

CAB is such a whirlwind of a show. Maybe it’s the New York City atmosphere. It all just goes by so fast. I barely get to see anyone or really visit with them for long. It was busy. Sales were solid. Same as usual even if it seemed like there were less people there than in previous years. I think there are so many comics festivals these days (curated and non-curated) that maybe the bloom is off the rose. Fine by me, as I dunno if I can add anymore shows to my already busy circuit season. CAB also represents the end of the season in many ways. SPX is the first big show of the season, the starting line in many ways, and CAB is the finish line so to speak.

You may be asking, “But what was the show like and who was there?” Well, check out this exhibitor list HERE (and then the Sunday programming page by scrolling beneath the exhibitors). What was the show like? Well, honestly, John Kelly will do a better job telling you about it than I can in my present state. I’m too exhausted from my marathon run from SPX to CAB. We have also wrapped a successful crowdfund to build the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency and are in the middle of actually buying the property. The whole process has been really humbling and I’m truly thankful to have the opportunity now to give back by building a physical school. I’ll have more CAB reportage next week and more photos. Thanks!

—Frank Santoro

And now, here's John Kelly.


Despite being until recently a life-long New Yorker, I had never been to a CAB show and this year I was anxious to attend. But before CAB, my trip back East started on Wednesday night with a talk at the School for Visual Arts (SVA) with Drew Friedman and Stephen Kroninger, in which the pair of noted caricaturists talked about a dozen of their now mostly forgotten predecessors. Check back next week for a full report on that event. Thursday was spent at Bill Griffith's home in Connecticut, where we talked about Arcade, Zippy, and the graphic biography he's at work on about Zippy's inspiration, Schlitzie the Pinhead, best known from the cult film Freaks. More about all those topics later.

The weekend brought CAB, and as Frankie said up above, the show was fun and hectic. During Saturday's sellers market, amid the spread of new material from young artists, I found myself drawn time and again back to Bob Stevenson's table downstairs that was full of early comics fanzines, underground and mini-comics, and Tijuana Bibles. Whenever anyone would ask me if I found anything good, I'd nod and pull them over to Bob's table where they'd linger before dropping some bucks on a prized find. I picked up a few things for research purposes and also got to examine an extraordinary Roger Brand sketchbook (not for sale), which I'll focus on, again, in a later column.  Bill Griffith was upstairs, signing copies of Invisible Ink, as was Denis Kitchen, who I visited the previous evening at the opening of his one-man show, The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen at the Scott Eder Gallery.  Eder was downstairs too, selling several tables full of original art by the likes of Rory Hayes, Robert Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Kim Deitch, Chris Ware, Gary Panter, Drew Friedman, Tony Millionaire, Peter Bagge, Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez, etc. If I had the $10,000 asking price, I would have picked up the Hayes color original that Eder had acquired from Kitchen's collection. You can look at some of the stuff below:

At his opening party at Scott Eder, Kitchen was kind enough to walk me through the back story of a few of the dozens of originals in the show, as you can see in the video below:

It was downstairs that I also ran in to my old friend Glenn Head. I always thought Head was at his strongest when he was doing comics about himself, and his recent comics find him back in the territory he explored in early works like Avenue D. Head was at CAB to promote his acclaimed new autobiographical work Chicago, which follows his days as a young wannabee artist who at once longs for the romantic lifestyle of his underground comix artists and decadent writer heroes, but who also finds himself ill-equipped the deal with the harrowing realities that marginal lifestyle entails. In the following clip Head talks about Chicago, as well as his next venture in to the auto-bio comics genre:

One of those early biographical pieces by Head was a strip called Belinda's Topless Go Go Lounge that appeared in the alternative compilation Bad News #3, edited by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden in the late 1980s. Belinda's chronicled Head's time living above a notorious Brooklyn strip bar and the complications he encountered as a young artist there. Following his talk with artist/musician Leslie Stein on Sunday at CAB, Head and several friends went off in search for somewhere to grab a bite to eat and ended up at a newish spot on Bedford Avenue called TRIX. Turns out TRIX was the former site of the actual Belinda's club and Head's apartment, so it was a bit of a coming home event. In the clip below, Head recounts a story from the old days at Belinda's:

The hardest seat to get on Sunday's CAB talks at the trendy Wythe Hotel was for the discussion with Dan Clowes, whose forthcoming book Patience has been five years in the making. Clowes was interviewed by Naomi Fry and spoke at length about his career. In the clip below, he talks about the "torturous" and "surreal" experience of spending the past year coloring Patience:

According to the Fantagraphics press materials, Patience is said to be an "indescribable psychedelic science-fiction love story," and in the clip below Clowes talks a bit about science fiction. Or sci-fi. Or SF. Or whatever:

Clowes also talked about the differences between working the mediums of films and comics:

And, finally (for now), he reflects on the changes in his work he's seen in his career:

That's it for now. As Frank said earlier, next week's column will have more on Sunday's programming, including more Clowes, and Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly's talk on the comics they read in their youth. Until then, have a great week and keep it Plonsky.