Last Saturday afternoon I went to the Grand Comics Festival at Bird River Studios, located at 343 Grand Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was a mini comic book convention for independent and small press creators. This is the third year that the Festival has been held.
The guest I was most looking forward to meeting was James Romberger, whose work I‘ve enjoyed for a number of years. Romberger has been a frequent contributor to the political comics anthology World War 3 Illustrated. He his work also appeared in various volumes of the DC Comics / Paradox Press Big Book of series, including The Big Book of Death, The Big Book of Losers and The Big Book of Urban Legends. He drew several stories for the Papercutz revival of Tales of the Crypt.
Romberger has also written numerous articles about the comic book medium. Among these, he has penned some very insightful analyses of the works of Jack Kirby.
As I was aware that Romberger was a fan of Kirby, I wanted to ask him to contribute a drawing to my Beautiful Dreamer sketchbook. Romberger looked through it and claimed that he was a bit intimidated by the quality of the pieces done by previous artists. Nevertheless he agreed to do a sketch. His sketch was definitely very lovely. I really appreciate the effort that he put into this piece.
There were so many talented creators with really interesting books for sale at the Festival. I really wish that I’d had more money to spend, but I’d just paid the rent less than a week earlier. Even so, I was able to make a few purchases.
I picked up The Late Child and Other Animals, a collaboration between Romberger and his wife Marguerite Van Cook, herself a writer and artist (as well as a member of the late 1970s punk band The Innocents). The book recounts the story of Van Cook’s mother, and of her own early life in England. I’m looking forward to reading this one very soon, and hopefully I will have an opportunity to discuss it in an upcoming post here.
It was good to see Josh Neufeld again. I bought a copy of The Vagabonds #4, the latest issue of his autobiographical series that is now being published through Hang Dai Editions. Over on his own blog, Neufeld describes The Vagabonds #4 as “a spicy blend of journalism, social commentary, memoir, and literary fiction.” I’ve often found his works to be very thoughtful and moving, so I expect that this will also be a quality read.
At the show with Neufeld was his wife Sari Wilson. This is my first time meeting her, although I felt like I already knew her. Neufeld’s previous issues of The Vagabonds chronicled the couple’s eventful life together, including their experiences backpacking through Southeast Asia. It was nice to finally meet Wilson, who wrote three of the stories in The Vagabonds #4.
Neufeld was selling several books by his Hang Dai studio mate Seth Kushner. Sadly, Kushner passed away only a few short weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. I don’t believe that I ever had the opportunity to meet him. Judging from the reminiscences that have been written by his friends and colleagues, Kushner was both a talented creator and a nice guy.
Secret Sauce Comix #1 is an anthology that contains Kushner’s collaborations with several artists, published by Hang Dai Editions. I haven’t read it yet, but I glanced through it and it appears offbeat and interesting.
I also purchased Mr. Incompleto, the latest project by independent creator Josh Bayer, whose work I enjoy. Bayer has this insane, hyper-detailed yet cartoony style to his work. A fan of the Marvel comic books from the 1960s and 70s, and filters that through the prism of underground comix, resulting in appealingly bizarre stories.
Finally, I bought a couple of issues of Tales of the Night Watchman, a mystery / horror series written by Dave Kelly published by So What? Press. What attracted my attention was the pulpy-yet-cartoony cover for one of these, with the eye-catching title “It Came from the Gowanus Canal.”
There were quite a few other books that I was contemplating purchasing. As I said, if I’d had more money to spend I definitely would have gotten more of them. But I needed to save some funds to do the laundry the next day, and the need for clean socks & underwear sadly outweighed my interest in comic books.
The Grand Comics Festival was a fun, relaxed show. I hope that it returns again next year, and that I’ll have the opportunity to get some of the comics that I had to pass on this time.