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MoCCA 2015 – There and Back Again

by | Apr 16, 2015 | Appearances | 5 comments

We decided to try something new for MoCCA Fest this year. One was bringing two small humans along.


The other was leaving one of them behind. With Bob. We weren’t sure how that was going to go, but as we rolled out of town, initial reports were good.


We also brought the incredible Maya Betley, AKA world’s greatest intern, whose mad artistic skills are trumped only by her abilities as a child whisperer.


The kids used to want to hold MY hand in the parking lot of rest stops.

We made it to NYC without incident late Friday night.


As we raced through the Holland Tunnel, Robbi read interesting facts about its construction via the New York City Roads website. Apparently, the big challenge when it was built in the 1920s was figuring out how to deal with the exhaust buildup in such a long tunnel. The problem was solved via 86 industrial fans, an innovation for the day (air is completely recirculated every 90 seconds!).


But this is not a blog post about tunnels. Nor is it a post about the noise created by urban renewal and its unwholesome effect on my children’s ears.


We were feeling good as we set out Saturday morning. MoCCA Fest was our destination.


Sass was our prevailing attitude.


Leavened, perhaps, with a bit of excitement. It was the kids’ first time seeing what we do at shows since they were 18 months old (the official age of being banned from further participation)


They were eager to pitch in. And pitch in they did.


The fruits of participation included a ride in a freight elevator ten times the size of their bedroom.


MoCCA Fest is run by the Society of Illustrators, which, over the past few years, has done a fantastic job elevating the show through professionalism and polish.

Alden at MoCCA


And panache. Meet the inimitable Anelle Miller, the Society’s feisty and fearless executive director. The festival inhabits her spirit, her confidence, her attention to detail. MoCCA is so lucky to have her.


Eventually we arrived at our table, which presented itself as a blank blue canvas of opportunity.


While Robbi and Maya set up, the kids and I walked around and talked to the other creators, including Matt Moses of Hic + Hoc press. While Alden earnestly shared her ideas for her upcoming book “Tiny,” Matt desperately made notes in his book, promising to steal her best ideas.


The festival was housed in an old warehouse/factory building on the lower West side. The kids were fascinated by the stairwell lighting.


And by the doors of the aforementioned freight elevator.


Eventually, the show began.


As did the blistering commerce. We spend so much of our time being quiet and solitary in the barn. It’s great fun to dip into the flow of humanity every now and then and show people what we’ve been up to.


Far more important than the selling of books, however, is the meeting of people. Sometimes it’s a kid who wants to share her work with us.


Sometimes, it’s a non-kid who wants to share his work with us.


And sometimes it’s a honcho from a certain satirical magazine that Robbi and I both loved as kids, who feels a certain kinship with our work and wants to have a conversation about how we might work together.


We love all kinds of conversations, but it is this latter variety that tends to send our careers in unexpected directions.

As for the aforementioned children?


They spent some of their time walking around and looking at books. For example, Alden had the chance to meet one of her illustration heroes, the fabulous Tomm Moore, who designed the characters for The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea.


But as you may know, kids sometimes get tired of brushing elbows with celebrities, and when that happens…


It’s nice to have a Plan B.


As we were talking to the people who stopped by, we repeatedly had the experience of them stopping mid-sentence to gasp, alarmed by the emergence of a tiny foot from beneath a table they had assumed was unoccupied.


For her part, Maya, budding artist and maker of books, wandered MoCCA, seeing new work and meeting other creators. Here she is with her $1 portrait. I wish I could tell you who drew it.


Eventually, the first day of MoCCA came to a close, and we walked back to where we were staying via the High Line, a stretch of defunct elevated rail platform that was converted into a part a few years back.


The High Line is gorgeous and surprising.


With beautiful views of the city and river. And all manner of humanity.


The older I get, the more I appreciate New York. I find it less overwhelming than I once did. I know better now how to enjoy its best aspects without being defeated by its worst.


Its best aspects include the kind of food I cannot get in Chestertown.


Yep, that’s kimchee. How do you know for sure?


Note that kimchee detractor Robbi actually tried some (her actual relationship with fermented cabbage is a lot more complicated than is apparent at a surface level) before deeming it too spicy.

But she had no difficulty dominating a bowl of ramen.


Kato, tired from so much urban wonder, did not make it through the meal.


The next morning brought new adventure. And gripping questions. Such as, what happened to this poor cake? Kato argued that it looked clean enough to be consumed. His mother, usually pretty permissive about such things, drew a line. We did not cross it.


On our way back to MoCCA, we once again took to the High Line.


The High Line is carefully curated. For example, within a tunnel beneath a building, someone installed a wall of gorgeous green stained glass.


Everything is beautifully designed to fit elegantly into the landscape. I’m sure these benches were not made for leaping.


And yet they accommodate it so nicely.

And though the High Line (and NYC in general) is full of art, I want you to know, definitively, that tarp-wrapped mini-dumpster below is not to be considered among it.


On Sunday, there was more MoCCA. Sometimes the people are as interesting as the comics.


We had an early visit from the parents of Bobbledy Club members Conrad and Beckett. Said parents, being thoughtful and kind, brought us a box full of goodies.


We got a chance to catch up with our dear friend (and illustrator) Melanie Reim.


And I got a chance to practice my most withering gaze with comic artist Kenan Rubenstein (Kenan is still in the process of honing his withering stare).


And to reconnect with rising star Natalie Andrewson, who we met when we spoke at ICON a few years back and who considers Robbi her “fest mom.”


If we have to have another kid, we could do far worse than Natalie Andrewson.

And last, but perhaps most, the wonderful, legendary Annie Koyama of Koyama Press.


For those of you who don’t know her, Annie is an icon in the small and indie publishing industry—a patron, champion, and fairy godmother to comic artists everywhere. Her reach is amazing. Her generosity is legendary. We are lucky to count her among our friends.

As a side note: though Kato may seem to smile quite often for photos on this blog, he seldom emits the “boy am I glad to be sitting next to this amazing lady who just bought me my first comic book and has been telling me fascinating things about Star Wars” kind of smile you see above. Just another Annie-inspired thing for which we are grateful.

But alas—before we knew it, it was time to go home. I’d like to say our return trip was smooth and without incident. But unfortunately, waiting in the line for the tunnel for 45 minutes before realizing (the moment before finally getting the opportunity to enter the tunnel) that you have left your laptop back at your friend’s apartment and so have to repeat the entire ordeal with your tail between your legs, counts as an incident.

Nevertheless, several hours later, we eventually did leave New  York.


We drove home in a happy daze, another MoCCA in the books, old friends seen, new connections made, and so many blank pages yet to be written and scribbled upon.





  1. steve

    sounds FANTASTIC!

  2. jenifer

    Alden is really rockin’ the shorts-over-jeans thing.
    She’s got style!

  3. Angela

    Great post, great trip!

  4. barbara

    i am pretty sure that the guy who drew the $1 portrait is named Will, and does comics under the name THORNEATER COMICS. He is great!

    • Robbi

      Thanks for the intel, Barbara! I don’t know how I didn’t find your comment until now… everyone else, here’s a link to his site (with incredible work!):


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