Comic Arts Brooklyn 2016: A Nice Thing to Have

Comics Arts Brooklyn

Comic Arts Brooklyn is for one-day only–blink and you miss it. It’s set up in a basketball court in Williamsburg’s The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Without the heaps of people streaming in and out or sitting outside on the stairs, you might think it’s a school. It’s more boxy than it is spired and not what comes to mind when picturing a Catholic church. But this is appropriate, because churches are schools anyway and art’s not all that different from religion.

The show is two levels–the upstairs is the basketball court proper and the downstairs is a sort of basement. The downstairs was warmer than it should be, given how chilly it was outside, but that was just fine, as downstairs was where most of the good comics were. Eventually someone opened a window, to scattered applause.

A lot of shows set their exhibitors up in rows, but the vibe at CAB was much closer to semi-concentric circles with occasional rows where they could be fit. If you’re a systemic browser, all rows and all columns, it’ll throw you for a loop (pun vehemently unintended and rejected). Possibly the best way to get your bearings, if the absence of a system is overwhelming, is to ask for help. Darryl Ayo, exhibiting his own Little Garden comics, kindly pointed out a few of his faves, a good place to start.

He let me know that the show was smaller this year than in years past. This might be due to the competition; there were two other small press shows–Short Run in Seattle and Thought Bubble in Leeds–happening on the same weekend. You mightn’t know it from the occasional crush of people, though, both upstairs and down.

PEOW! Studio’s table was consistently crowded. They had copies of The World, Wrecked Hearts, Junky, and the new critical fave, Internal Affairs 3. The table was staffed by two friendly women who were selling their own comics, while publishers Patrick Crotty and Elliot Alfredius were holding down the fort over in Leeds.

Meanwhile, Breakdown Press–who just announced a distribution deal with Fantagraphics–also had a wide variety of wares available, from Seiichi Hayashi’s Flowering Harbour to Lando’s Gardens of Glass. They kept quite a busy table too.

Upstairs were more of the larger (but still small) presses–Nobrow, Avery Hill, and others. A little more structured, but still, in all, that mix of concentric circles with the occasional row thrown in. If you made your way to Avery Hill’s table, you might have done well to snatch up any of Tille Walden’s comics that you hadn’t already. There was a brand new oversized edition of The End of Summer that the publisher was eager to sell off.

And, of course, anytime’s a good time to talk to Nobrow’s Sale and Marketing Director, Tucker Stone. You get the sense, talking to him, that he’s always happy to see you, even if you’ve only met once. He’ll want to know if you’ve seen anything good at the show and he’ll tell you what he’s seen that he’s excited about. Anchors like Stone and Ayo should be appreciated when found, especially when at a show and scene that’s new to you.

With the boost of friends and acquaintances, as you can tell, CAB was good–but very dependent upon one’s goals. I was there for a little under two hours, came away with four comics, and felt I’d seen/bought everything I needed to (except for Kuš Comics, who I forgot to revisit and keep meaning to). It’s a one-day show, so perhaps this is the intent. There are other bits and pieces associated with it–afterparties, before parties, something called a night parade–but the main event is small and can be done as a nice afternoon out. And there is obvious value in an event like that–a con that doesn’t come with all the emotional upheaval of a con.

CAB is just comics, for less than a day, as a nice thing to have.

And on the spectrum of conventional conventions–that’s nice thing to have too.

J. A. Micheline

J. A. Micheline

JAM's been reading comics since she was 8. As a critic, she focuses on race and gender issues. She also writes prose fiction, comics, and the occasional angry tweet before bedtime. Find her on Twitter at @elevenafter.