Kurt Ankeny on MICE Boston 2016

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Attendees on Saturday at MICE Boston 2016

Well, last night we wrapped up yet another lovely MICE Boston! MICE is my local indie comics expo, and it is the equal of any American event, as far as I am concerned. The staff, led by Shelli Paroline, Dan Mazur, Rebecca Viola (I couldn’t find a website!), Zach Clemente, and volunteers by the dozens, is the nicest and most attentive of any in the country, hands down. As cartoonists, we aren’t used to being spoiled by people coming around, asking us if we need snacks, food, or someone to watch our table while we take a short break. While other indie expos are starting to follow suit (CXC had a set of volunteers that were just as lovely as the MICE staff providing most of the same perqs, and Autoptic and CAKE provide lots of free snacks) I believe MICE was the first to provide this level of courtesy to the exhibitors, and it is the favorite show for lots of cartoonists for that reason.

MICE consistently packs in a widely varied crowd, full of people from every age group and background. Part of this is the fact that it is held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has one of the most highly educated and diverse citizenries in the nation (it’s home to both Harvard and MIT.) But MICE just has some magic about it. The show has been steadily growing over the past few years. Last year, they broke the 3,000 attendee mark for the first time, and preliminary figures for this past Saturday’s attendance were over 1600, so they seem on par to keep that streak going. People are there to immerse themselves in the comics culture, and to buy, which is always helpful.

There was a great representation of different cartoonists at the show. Featured guests included Faith Erin Hicks, the ubiquitous-in-2016 golden-boy-of-the-year Nate Powell, the French husband-wife team known as Kerascoët, local art-and-comics phenom Raúl the Third, Wren McDonald, Sara Varon, Jeremy Sorese, and Drew Weing. Kevin Czap was in attendance, fresh off their amazing weekend at CXC where they took home the Most Promising Talent grant award. Tony Davis of Million Year Picnic was there with his wife and son, selling comics and generally being the hub of the local scene. Nobrow had a table, Neil of Radiator Comics was there, the Boston Comics Roundtable was out in force, alums and current students from the Center for Cartoon Studies were down from Vermont, and several Comics Workbook folks were either tabling or wandering around the show. Comics on parade at the end of a long con season!

Tony Davis of Million Year Picnic (seated right) and Marie Pommepuy of Kerascoët (seated left)

Tony Davis of Million Year Picnic (seated right) and Marie Pommepuy of Kerascoët (seated left)

Saturday was a blast. My new book In Pieces, debuting at the show, was a big hit, and I sold copies to lots of people coming up and telling me how much they had enjoyed the book on Comics Workbook’s Tumblr, and how they had been waiting to buy it! That was a great feeling. I had a great time tabling next to David Marshall, a local comics guy and someone I know from the monthly comics hangouts in Salem. David makes retro-homage superhero comics that are full of nerdy puns, references to UNIX coding, and Doctor Who in-jokes. He knows tons of people from the immediate neighborhood, and spent his time talking them up and accosting the attendees he didn’t know in the most jovial and pleasant way possible. David’s one of those guys who’s the life of the con. Someone truly at home among the comickers. To my other side was the lovely and talented Molly Dean, who makes webcomics and had several printed issues to sell. I waited too late to ask her if she’d like to trade, and she’d already sold out of all of her books! I will see her around though, and I’m looking forward to reading her webcomics at meedean.com.

Right of my table, including Kevin Czap in red shirt and matching wig, and Brendan Tobin and family.

Right of my table, including Kevin Czap in red shirt and matching wig, and Brendan Tobin and family.

Saturday night, MICE puts on a free dinner for all attendees at Lesley University’s neighboring art gallery, the Lunder Arts Center. (They also provide bagels, cream cheese, donut holes and coffee each morning… I’ll stop talking about the free food.) While I would have LOVED to hang out with everyone, I’d been fighting a sore throat for the last week, and after talking all day, I knew my voice couldn’t handle small talk in a loud and echoing cement room, so I met my wife for dinner in Harvard Square and we had a quiet night. Meanwhile, the party there continued until 9pm, and then the various groups decamped for other venues and watering holes. Much to my chagrin, I missed what Mimi Chrzanowski described as a “magical” night of karaoke at Limelight, near Boston’s Chinatown. I know for sure that Kevin Czap and Cathy G. Johnson were there singing their hearts out. I assume that Dustin Harbin also made it.

Sunday at MICE is Kid’s Day, and so the little ones made up a slightly larger percentage of the attendees than on Saturday. Kerascoët frequently had a line as they tag-teamed signing books with full-color sketches as the European cartoonists are accustomed to. I finally got to meet K.L. Ricks, whose illustration work and comics I deeply admire. I got to chat over breakfast with Maria Hoey, who is half of the brother-sister team behind Coin-Op books, and who I’d met for the first time at Autoptic in 2015. Maria’s looking forward to Comic Arts Brooklyn next weekend, and made me regret not taking up Whit Taylor‘s offer of sharing her table there this year.

At noon, I was a guest at MICE’s new feature, the Cartoonarium, which is a little table set up to project your drawing to a screen, where people can watch cartoonists work and ask questions about their process. Zach Clemente came around to record a brief Twitter interview.

Sundays crowds had more ebb and flow to them that Saturday, but the sales were steady and people were engaged and fun to talk to, which is always the best part of a con. Since MICE was on the weekend before Halloween, costumes were in effect more than usual. I counted four girls and women dressed as Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, there was a very well done Daphne and Velma from Scooby Doo, Saga seemed to be popular as I saw at least three separate groups dressed as various characters from that comic, and there were several low-key Steven Universes and even a person dressed as Neil Gaiman’s version of Death, complete with parade of people with rainclouds and a concertina.

MICE 2016 swag and trades.

MICE 2016 swag and trades.

Thanks again to all involved in making MICE such a smooth and friendly and successful show for everyone! Until next year!

Kurt

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