MoCCA Fest Through the Years

MoCCA Fest Through the Years

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival (MoCCA Fest) has been an annual New York City event since 2002. I have been attending it on and off for well over a decade. My time at the MoCCA Fest this year was dripping with nostalgia. Since that weekend this Spring, I have looked back at

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival (MoCCA Fest) has been an annual New York City event since 2002. I have been attending it on and off for well over a decade. My time at the MoCCA Fest this year was dripping with nostalgia. Since that weekend this Spring, I have looked back at its history, and my own experiences with it and its many locations and iterations over the years.

MoCCA at the Puck Building

In fact, my earliest memories of attending MoCCA all blur together, since it took place at the Puck Building in the East Village for its first seven years, 2002 through 2008, and this was before I had the ready record of social media announcements of my haul, or even photos on my phone every day letting me recreate what had happened when.

Puck Building entrance in a photograph from Wikipedia

When the Fest was at the Puck Building, which now houses an REI, I would take the subway down to Houston and then go on in. I could basically be guaranteed to know some of the people volunteering at the door. Volunteering at MoCCA got you free admittance to the fest, an exclusive tee shirt, which was a hot commodity in those days, and volunteering at MoCCA would also get your creations a spot on the Volunteer Table: you could put your work there for fest-goers to browse and buy without worrying about table fees, or about staffing the table constantly. This year as we chatted about current prices for minis, my artist friend Val Friere reminisced about that volunteer table and pointed out that the prices of the items on it were wildly varying because nobody was pricing their items with the thought of earning back table fare.

One year when MoCCA was in the Puck Building, the floors had just been redone and the weather was sticky hot. I was wearing the cheapest flip flops possible, and they stuck to the floor. You could hear squelches all over the show floor as con-goers literally dragged their feet from table to table. My insufficient flip flops fell apart and I don’t remember with what packing tape or hobbling situation I got around for the rest of the day.

I am pretty sure that was my first memory of MoCCA. I have no idea now if it was the same year as the year I got to meet one of my comics heroes, Jeff Smith at MoCCA. He was excited about the color versions of Bone currently being released from Scholastic and signed the first volume for me with a sketch despite a serious brace on his wrist, and he showed me some pages of the second volume he had with him.

My signed copy of Bone by Jeff Smith.

If that was the same year, and if it was the first year I attended, that was 2005.

Then I went every year, until I didn’t. After a few years, I decided to go every other year since I noticed my favorite creators seemed to be on a biannual production schedule, with lots of new material every two years. I found it more rewarding to attend on that schedule as well, and attending every other year made shifts in focus very apparent. When webcomics got bigger, the con reflected it; when accessibility to professional printing changed, the con reflected it; and when trends in tee shirts, and in three-dimensional products like figurines and stuffed toys shifted, the con reflected those as well.

In those days, the con was small enough that the events happened a few floors up in a sunny room also in the Puck Building. After the con my friends and I would go directly across the street to Puck Fair for pints and Irish food, and attending comics conventions still makes me crave a well-made half and half.

MoCCA at the Armory

After the Puck Building, the next venue for the MoCCA Fest was the 69th Regiment Armory on the East Side, where it stayed through 2014. In the middle of this run, The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art closed its physical location and transferred to the Society of Illustrators building, on the Upper East Side [this sentence has been edited to correct locations]. MoCCA had outgrown the Puck Building (and perhaps the space was already being converted to become an REI?), and the Armory seemed like a good fit. It was cavernous, and I remember a huge line around the block, and aisles that were overwhelming, but felt to me, actually wide enough. Besides the space, my key memories from that year were all about webcomics creators: including both friends I was glad to see but hesitant to bother while they were working, and those I was excited to meet for the first time and have them sign my stuff.

MoCCA Beyond

In 2014, we enter the era of many personal photographs, since I had a kid. In 2015 I attended MoCCA in a too-small venue on the extreme West Side of Manhattan, with my excellent baby attached to the front of my excellent husband.

At MoCCA Fest on April 11, 2015

That year, the fest felt off to me. In a weirdly shaped warehouse in an inconvenient part of town, suddenly, it seemed far more of the tables were devoted to publishers rather than independent creators, and the extremely narrow space on a high floor was not accessible with a stroller. And there was nowhere to put a stroller. Luckily, welcoming con workers allowed us to stash the stroller in their own greenroom, but that was hardly a viable option should more than a few families with strollers arrive at once.

We bought a lot of books that year, but it didn’t feel like MoCCA to me.

Attending MoCCA in 2019 was nostalgic for me partly because I hadn’t been to MoCCA since 2015, perhaps the longest lapse I’d had without MoCCA attendance since I started going, and also because I was reminded of the old days by running into so many people I knew.

MoCCA certainly has shifted in exhibitors and attendance since the Puck Building days of the Fest, however. When I asked Anelle Miller of the Society of Illustrators about the current makeup of who tables at MoCCA, she told me that “We are proud of all of the schools that are represented. And we are extremely proud of the diversity that MoCCA represents.” She noted further that, “We have been going to Metropolitan West now for three years. It is one of the few large exhibition spaces in NYC that can house the size of our event—and programming at INK 48 is close by in walking distance” which certainly drives home the point of just how much MoCCA has grown in reputation and prestige as well as in size.

My guess is that MoCCA Fest has now settled into its new identity. I predict that if I return to my practice of going every other year, I will be rewarded with the same evolving and refreshed experience I had in those early days.

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