Monday, June 11, 2012

Maine's Main Attraction

The Maine Comics Arts Festival, held annually on the shores of Casco Bay in Portland, Maine, is a great place to meet comic creators and see their latest work. These events, sponsored by Rick Lowell and Laura O'Meara's Casablanca Comics, feature dozens of self-publishers and creators of small press titles.

While it's impossible to sample all the comics on display, we picked up some great reads at this year's festival in May, and recommend checking them out.

One of the featured guests was author and artist Kate Beaton, creator of the immensely popular webcomic Hark! A Vagrant. Drawn & Quarterly has published a collection of Kate's irreverent takes on historical and literary figures, and it's hilarious! Time magazine called it "the wittiest book of the year." Kate was on hand to sign copies and she couldn't have been nicer, taking time with each fan to create a personalized drawing in their books. Thanks for the Tesla sketch, Kate!

Cody Pickrodt had special preview editions of his latest series Reptile Museum on display. Cody's done autobiographical comics, but this is his first foray into fiction. In the story, an unmentioned cataclysmic event has reshaped civilization. Anarchy is rampant, and territorial gangs have formed as a means of survival. The preview sets the stage for the series and raises lots of interesting questions. Cody plans on serializing the story in bimonthly print installments beginning this summer/fall and he says this will be his magnum opus. He's got an extensive archive of comics  on his website.

Heather Bryant was back after skipping last year's festival. We always look forward to seeing her new work.  Mixtape is a wonderfully illustrated mini-comic about a high school crush gone wrong. Heather also brought along the latest in her Sho Ga Nai: Stories from Japan  series. Her lifelong love of Japan culminated in a two-week trip there in 2006. The stories reveal how that experience changed her perception of the country and her relationship with her traveling companion, her mother.

Sophie Goldsmith's Mother Ship Blues is a beautifully produced book, with engaging characters whose personalities are established immediately through her dead-on art and dialogue. For an eight-page preview, go to her website and scroll to the May 8, 2012, blog entry.

Donna Almendrala and Adam Whittier man the Center for Cartoon Studies table.
The students and graduates of Vermont's Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) always have some of the most exciting comics on display at the show. We really enjoyed talking with 2012 grad Donna Almendrala and picked up the first installment of her Chimps in Space. The three-part series follows the adventures of four chimps exploring the galaxy. Donna knows how to tell a mystery - and draw cool chimps.

CCS student Adam Whittier shared with us some of the techniques he uses to produce The Barny Vaq Chronicles, an interesting story with a great father-daughter relationship at its core. Looking forward to future installments of this intriguing tale.

Amelia Onorato's Master's thesis, Rockall, is "a Selkie story" - a tale of the mythological creatures from Irish and Scottish folklore said to live as seals in the sea, but shed their skin on land and become human. Great characters and art, and you really feel a part of the island community the story is set in. You can read the first two of three chapters at Amelia's website.

Our stellar Photoshop wizards Dominique and Sianna made the trip and were thrilled to meet the illustrious Kate Beaton.

The Maine Comics Arts Festival allows us to peruse so many great new comics. We're already looking forward to next year.