Juan Fernandez @ CAB 2016

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Comic. Arts. Brooklyn. 2016: Comics, zines, prints.
A shmorgasbord of color. A dazzling display of print.

The 2016 Comic Arts Brooklyn (CAB) presented by Brooklyn’s Desert Island Comics was held on Saturday, November 5th. Organized by Desert Island proprietor Gabe Fowler, this marks the fourth year that the show has been called CAB and the eighth 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 featured satellite events the day before and the day after the Saturday exhibitors showcase at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.

Friday saw Altcomics 8, a night of music, live comics readings, and art hosted by 2dcloud, along with the opening of Buzz Saw, an exhibition of art from the Sequential Artists Workshop. Sunday saw Color Giants, the Brooklyn Animation Expo, which was held in conjunction with Art Brooklyn Fireproof. Screenings were programmed by Kenneth Filmer. There were no panels or artist spotlights this year. A bummer in some ways, but given the last minute green lighting of this year’s CAB, it makes sense to not have wanted to rush programming only to wind up with subpar panels.

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Downstairs at CAB 2016

I exhibited as Comics Workbook and tabled next to the great Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins, alongside Patrick Kyle(and Lala Albert who set up shop at Patrick’s table towards the end of the day). The Comics Workbook table consisted of myself, Jenn Lisa, Ronald Wimberly and Simon Reinhardt. I thought it was a wonderful show. Rumors had been going around earlier this year that it wasn’t going to happen. Well, IT HAPPENED!

A huge thank you to Mr. Fowler for the last minute opportunity to exhibit at this year’s CAB. Comics Workbook got word late in the week that there was a need for another exhibitor. Of course, we agreed to go. You don’t miss CAB. We hunkered down prepared a wide array of comics to bring to the good folks of New York.

Unfortunately Frank’s car had been giving him trouble all week and was in the shop.  We planned everything carefully. I would leave with Jenn Lisa and haul what I could. He would get it out of the garage Saturday morning and he would book it to make it in the afternooon Saturday to catch the second half of the buzzing show. Unlike Frank though, I can’t haul short box after short box of comics in my VW Bug… We had to decide what would go first and then did some intense tetris outside the Rowhouse Residency to fit in as much as we could.  We slammed the trunk and hauled ass to NYC! Frank would bring the rest in the morning.

Jenn Lisa and I hit the road, spirits high.

img_5185We arrived early Saturday morning, got some shut eye and then booked it for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the morning. I was worried about parking, so Jenn and I took off to set up as early as we could. Frank’s taught me how critical these kind of considerations are for making these exhausting days fall into place. We lucked out out and found a spot right in front of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Unloading and setting up was a breeze.

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We were tabling next to Patrick Kyle, Lala Albert, Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins. Good folks. I told Jenn to get ready, because CAB’s prime time is 11-1:30. A choc-a-bloc that builds to a fever pitch. Everyone’s oogling and oggling round that time. Most attendees hope to make a full tour of the show before breaking out their wallets, but within that first hour I heard that attendees just couldn’t wait on buying so-an-so’s latest book or zine. They knew that things were going to fast.
We sold a Truth Zone within the first 20 minutes of the show. That set the tone for the show.

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It was wonderful to meet so many people. Lots of people were familiar with what we’d been doing over the past year in Pittsburgh with the house and with the residencies. It emboldens the spirit to know that what we’re doing is rippling out. A HUGE shout out to all former students that came by and traded your books with us! You know who you are <3

Jenn and I brought a lot of our own books and were excited to share them with New Yorkers. I sold out of my zine I Can See the Birds, which was awesome. What else sold well? Connor. Willumsen. This is his show! Everyone was asking for his stuff. We sold out of all the copies of Swinespritzen that we brought which was a real thrill. That Connor…

The great Ronald Wimberly stepped up to the plate at 2PM to do a signing and the fans start piling up. He brought the goods. While his fans waited, to chat with the shinobi himself, they dug through our shortboxes. We riffed on the primo comics Frank had curated. It was a good time. They found some 80s gold. No one curates a small selection of comics like Frank… Ron had brought the Artist edition of Prince of Cats, the Attack on Titan anthology he was in and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ron is one of the most exciting comics makers I can think of right now. His blade cuts across a thousand forms. He gives his fans, new and old, the attention they deserve while he signs. It was a real honor to work by his side on Saturday!

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Image did right by this edition of Prince of Cats. It’s glorious.

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Lots of people asked for Frank. In the end his mechanics in Pittsburgh let him down. This CAB was lacking in it’s requisite levels of Santoro. Alas! For all of those who left messages, rest assured, we passed along all the memos to Frank.
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There were so many amazing books of all shapes and sizes. Here are some of my favorites: 

Lale Westvind’s Breakdown Press book, Hax

Anya Davidson’s Gloom Planet

Alabaster Pizzo’s Mimi and the Wolves Act 3: The Howl

Conor Stechschulte’s new self published print masterpiece, Christmas In Prison. 

Richard Short’s Klaus Magazine 2

On a personal level, I was especially startled by how many people were familiar with my own zines and comics. Comics Workbook has been sharing some of them through our social media network over the past year, but I never expected people to be hep to my work just yet! The reach that the blog and the social media network has is really inspiring. There’s still some viral mystery to it all…

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Ron Wimberly, Jenn Lisa, Julia Gfrörer and lil Frank

CAB is such a whirlwind of a show. It’s definitely the New York City atmosphere. It all just goes by so fast. It was busy. Sales were solid. There are so many comics festivals these days (curated and non-curated) that I know for a fact that I can’t handle more than regional shows around Pittsburgh and the heavy hitters around the East Coast. It’s a delight to end the season with CAB, you leave inspired with work that invites you to pore over it all winter long.

I firmly believe that the most interesting, and arguably pioneering comics makers are all in a room at CAB(some come every other year). Wish that I could have gone around and interviewed people about their work! That’ll be for next year. I wound up holding down the fort at the Comics Workbook table. The comics weren’t going to sell themselves 😉

Towards the end of the show Simon M. Reinhardt arrived to hold it down and I was able to make the rounds. Thanks Simon! Here are some photos of only a few of the many amazing people I bumped into.

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Richie Pope, Chris Kindred, Shannon Wright

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Rebecca Roher

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Lale Westvind

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Jon Allen, Darryl Ayo, Aaron Cockle

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THE QUEEN – Anya Davidson

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Conor Stechshulte

Gabe’s got the market place down to a science. So, naturally, I’m interested to see the ways in which CAB continues to evolve.  Will it stabilize into being an amped up zine fest and wild style art book fair that focuses exclusively on the marketplace? Will someone step in to lend a hand to the team to develop some track of programming during the weekend or the week before? To return to it’s BCGF format. Does that matter? Who’s ready to step up to the plate?

On the floor I heard some people discuss this being the last CAB. And damn, that’s a little pessimistic. For what it’s worth, CAB can’t be beat for a lot of reasons. Easy access via transportation. Trains, plains, buses, cars all make their way easily to NYC. For the most part either you know someone in the City or there’s an affordable place to stay for a night or two. The crowds are great. People are squeezing CAB into their busy Saturday. It’s just one of many things they’re doing so they bring an incredible energy into the space. Most people likely just heard that there was something cool with comics going on in that one church in Brooklyn. That’s a good place to be. Gabe’s curation can’t be beat. You wan’t to find the coolest books published in a year? You can’t do any better in the US than coming to CAB. Oh and people come ready to spend money. Real money.

I think it’s been year of a lot of change for comics shows. A new regime of shows is definitely falling into place. CAB showed that it is definitely a part of that new regime. As a show, it does what so few comics can do. It’s got the verve of Montreal’s legendary Expozine. When it comes to art comics and accessible art from the outer limits – It can’t be beat. Mr. Fowler’s extensive knowledge of “what’s happening” in comics comes directly out of his experience as a retailer and it’s clear he curates the show like he curates his store. Desert Island is a great store which serves its community. In my eyes, it’s a must stop for an any all comics pilgrims that travel along the East Coast.

I urge everyone to go to CAB next year. It’s a different show than TCAF and a very different show then SPX and CXC. Whether you are a maker or a reader, it’s good to go to them all if you can. It bears repeating – to soak up all these shows and to be at the epicenter of new work and current conversations –  YOU DON’T NEED TO BE EXHIBITING. Just pack your bags, grab a bunch of your zines and hop on a bus. While you’re there, give away some books, maybe trade some, take some photos and notes! You’ll come home with lots of ideas and inspiration. There’ll be a lot of new encounters with other makers known and unknown.

These shows are where it all happens. 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.

-can’t wait for next year,
Juan
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Juan Fernández

Juan José Fernández is a Pittsburgh comics community organizer, most recently named as one of “Pittsburgh’s Creative Forces: 12 People to Meet in 2017” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and one of seven 2016 Fuerza awardees by Café Con Leche for providing Pittsburgh Latinx leadership. He co-organizes the annual Pittsburgh Zine Fair, leads the Pittsburgh Comics Salon, and provides educational outreach for the Comics Workbook and the ToonSeum. He currently works at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

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