Comics and other arresting works draw 1,700 to University Hall celebration of independent artists.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Internet has revolutionized the way art is shared, and comic art takes on a life of its own on the Web, gathering followers who may have never even held the panels between their fingers. This new realm of art’s survival in the Internet generation has made independent conventions like MICE even more important to have around. Form is pushed, content is tangible, and the human element very much keeps the independent comics world pulsing.
“It used to be that to break into mainstream comics, you had to live in or be willing to move to New York,” College of Art and Design animation professor and MICE exhibitor Tim Finn said. “Now you can create from anywhere, but a lot of the groundwork should be laid before exhibitors show up to conventions — social networking and building up an audience.”
The owner of Hub Comics, Finn pointed out other benefits of shows like MICE.
“Ultimately, a bigger advantage to MICE itself might be the access it offers. It's on the subway and admission is free,” he said. “Even a broke student who doesn't buy anything at MICE is going to learn or be inspired by something.”
The atmosphere at University Hall reflected his words. Sparked by an unusually diverse board of prominent comics creators and the discussion panels they led, the weekend itself was a conversation electric with possibility for independent artists eager to continue introducing and establishing themselves as part of this creative community.
“That we have more small-press comics conventions is only a good thing,” Finn added. “With the right care and attention, I foresee MICE growing into a more prominent show in the next five years, maybe where Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts Fest was five years ago, or where Small Press Expo was 10 years ago.”
MICE already has the type of loyalty Finn alluded to. Its exhibitors make it clear that behind the tables proved to be just as colorful an experience as the comics displayed on them. Lesley art school alumnus Michael Rapa has exhibited at MICE for three of its four. Rapa, a Cambridge-based illustrator and graphic designer, described the camaraderie at MICE as part of its charm.
“There’s something special to be said about the bond you develop with the people tabling next to you,” he said. By the end of the weekend, Rapa was referring his visitors to his neighbor’s mailing list.
Nick Offerman , a New Jersey-based cartoonist behind Sweatshirt Weather comics, is a two-time MICE exhibitor. He pointed out the three-dimensional aspect that expos add to the comics experience.
“They’re the best way to meet other cartoonists beyond just their work,” Offerman said. “My favorite part, though, is meeting people who read the comics, and have read mine and enjoyed them ... and MICE is definitely the friendliest convention I’ve ever been to.
“Everyone really seems to go out of their way to be as civil as possible,” he added. At one point, a designated “Happiness Officer” walked by holding out a bag of clementines and mini Babybel cheeses for passers-by.
Accessibility and openness is what Evolutionist comic Manvir Singh cited when asked about the Sept. 28 and 29 exposition. Singh, a new-to-Cambridge artist, is a first-time exhibitor at MICE but not to expositions themselves. He likened MICE to older conventions like The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, The Museum Of Comic and Cartoon Arts Fest, and Copenhagen Comics, saying, “It feels just as robust and happening.”
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