The Hassle got a chance to electronically sit down with DAN MAZUR, co-director of Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (M.I.C.E.). While he’s not helping organize this annual storyboard schmorgisboard he is busy being a cartoonist, comic historian, co-authoring books like Comics: a Global History and running his own micro-press, Ninth Art Press. He’s buckling up for the 5th year of M.I.C.E. taking place @University Hall at Lesley University in Porter Square this Saturday and Sunday, October 4th and 5th. This is turning into zine fest season in Boston, so get out there and see what’s up!
1. What is M.I.C.E. and how did it begin?
DAN MAZUR: MICE is the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo. It’s a show that focuses on self-published, independent and alternative comics, especially those made by Boston & New England cartoonists, but also featuring a good number of artists from around the country. It was started by the Boston Comics Roundtable, which is a group for local comics writers and artists. In 2008 we helped put on the last of the old Boston Zine Fairs, along with Papercut Zine Library, which was great — it was about 50-50 zines and comics (or minicomics, which really are a type of zine as well). But the following year the library had lost its home and was having some organizational problems, and the zine fair didn’t happen. So in 2010, BCR decided to do a similar show, but with more emphasis on comics. We’ve been holding it at various buildings belonging to Lesley University, putting it on with the help of the Lesley College of Art and Design (formerly AIB). It’s gotten bigger, but we still try to keep some of the spirit of the zine fair. Free admission, table costs as low as we can make them, and all individual artists, small collectives or very very small presses..
2. There will be more than a few special guests…What artist(s) are you most excited to have involved this year?
DM: Don’t ask me to choose! They’re all special! Raina Telgemeier is a wonderful cartoonist and storyteller. Now she’s sort of a rock star for YA readers. James Kochalka is like the patron saint of indy cartoonists at this point; he pretty much invented the diary comic, and he was the first Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont, which I’m pretty sure makes him the first Cartoonist Laureate anywhere. Box Brown‘s graphic novel “Andre the Giant,” was a great cross-over from alternative comics to mainstream graphic novels. He’s also started a very important micro-press, Retrofit comics, which specializes in mini-comics on a subscription basis. Dave Roman‘s comics are really fun and goofy, beautifully drawn; he does the series “Astronaut Academy,” and the immortal “Teen Boat.” Paul Hornschemeier has been writing and drawing great graphic novels — character-based and imaginative — for over a decade, as well as working in the mainstream, coloring one of Marvel’s cooler books, Omega the Unknown. And Emily Carroll is really a thrill for us to have. She comes from farthest away — Canada — and her work is amazing: beautiful, creepy and poetic.
3. Special guests will be participating in panel discussions throughout MICE. What can we expect to hear and learn about from them?
DM: As far as programs, some of them are doing hands-on workshops: Raina and James are, those are on Sunday, which has a lot of kid activities. Raina, Paul and Emily are on a panel talking about their process in developing a graphic novel or story collection. Box is on a panel about self and micro-publishing.
Of course I should say there are lots of really great artists exhibiting at the show as well, many on panels too. Someday some of them will reach the exalted level of “special guest.”
4. Exposing people, especially children to the sort of visual and narrative thinking involved in creating comics and graphic novels is so important to their development and simply, inspiring. Can you talk about the thought behind Sunday being “Kids Comics Day” and what that entails?
DM: Educators will explain how great comics can be for developing reading skills, and creativity. We’re also having a Sunday event that’s aimed at teachers — a symposium called “Comics and the Classroom.”
On the other hand, I think a lot of cartoonists just like making stuff that kids will like, and working with kids on their own comics sometimes, because most of us fell in love with comics at an early age, and we want to recapture some of that feeling, which is best done by sharing it.
5. How has the event evolved sine it’s inception in 2010 and what do you hope to see it become?
DM: It’s gotten bigger in every way, more tablers, more attendees, more special guests, more comics! We’re better organized, more people working on the show. No less stress in putting it on. We started the show at a time when indpendent comics were really growing, and there are a lot more cartoonists in the area now, a lot more independent cartoonists starting to make it into the big time — if independent comics has a big time. But hopefully the show hasn’t changed too much, either.