I will now sing the praise of independent and small-press comics conventions.
Let others partake of the dubious pleasures of mainstream comics conventions, with their Hollywood stars and their booth babes, their cosplayers in Stormtrooper armor. Give me instead a big, semi-air-conditioned room full of sweaty cartoonists wearing clever T-shirts and chunky eyeglasses.
Instead of movie tie-in merch, give me comics: handmade comics, silkscreened comics, comics printed at Kinko’s. Comics stapled with Swingline long-reach staplers. Comics drawn by people who may never see a buck from their art, either rightly or wrongly.
Comics about ghosts and robots and wrestlers and high school and cancer and Iraq and sex and video games and obscure jazz musicians.
Comics you might never see anywhere else on Earth.
On September 25, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (or MICE) will open at the Art Institute of Boston, with over 50 local cartoonists exhibiting their work. Organized by the Boston Comics Roundtable, it will be Boston’s first indie show — and markedly different from Boston’s other comics show, Boston Comic Con.
“There probably won’t be anyone running around in a Wonder Woman costume,” says Dan Mazur, one of MICE’s organizers. “Which is maybe too bad, but that’s life.”
The idea for the show was born when the Roundtable started exhibiting as a group at other indie shows around the country, in places like New York, Maryland, Oregon, and California
“We were traveling all over the country to go to these cool shows,” Mazur says. “It just seemed like we should put on our own show, since we make our own comics.”
According to Mazur, Boston supports a burgeoning community of indie cartoonists. “People are realizing that comics are a very cool art form,” he says. “You can do a lot of self-expression and do beautiful weird stuff and tell a lot more stories than are told by [mainstream publishers] DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse. And Boston is a very creative city.”
Exhibitors will include Ignatz Award winner Liz Prince, upcoming First Second press author Zack Giallongo, and some guy named Karl Stevens. It’s not a Bostonian-only show, though. MICE will also feature cartoonists from outside the Route 128 loop, including a delegation from the Center for Cartoon Studies, the world’s only comics graduate school, in Vermont.
“There are definitely going to be some comics creators who, I’ve seen their stuff on line, but I’ve never seen them at a show before,” says Mazur.
MICE will offer panels on subjects such as landing a book contract in the small-press world, posting and promoting comics on the Web, and teaching comics in the classroom. But the main focus will be on the cartoonists — and the fruits of their labors.
“There will be a lot of cartoonists and a lot of cool comics that you cannot find, physically, around Boston or anywhere else,” says Mazur. “Probably because they just printed them up the night before, to bring them to the show.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the organizers as the "Boston Cartoonists Roundtable."