Two years ago, four New Orleans-based comic and zine artists got together and shared their frustration with the city’s art world.
Erin K. Wilson, Alisha Rae Feldman, Matthew Chandelier and Ben Passmore felt their chosen field was not represented in New Orleans.
“I had been going to comic fests, and I had just self-published my first book,” Wilson said. “We all mentioned how weird it is that New Orleans is regarded as a cultural center of this nation — New Orleans is so sought after in terms of art — and yet we drive to Chicago to go to the Chicago Zine Fest. We drive so far, I buy plane tickets, I put all my money out there to go to these comic festivals, and can’t we have one?”
That’s when Feldman proposed a festival for New Orleans. Wilson said her eyes went anime-wide.
“We talked about it for a really long time,” she said.
That very night, the planning began.
The first NOCAZ fest will be Nov. 13-15, but the main event will start Saturday at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the main branch of the New Orleans public library.
More than 70 artists will be in attendance, offering up their art to those who decide to attend the free event.
“There will be a labyrinth of tables, each one covered in people’s souls on paper,” Wilson said.
The event will have a reading room for adults that will feature some of the zines for perusal and a kids zone, which will have materials for comic creation and a puppet show.
Workshops and panels will run concurrently on the third floor of the public library, which will host discussions on South American comics, queer zines, how to make your own zine, a Photoshop tutorial, a viewing of “Howl’s Moving Castle” and much more.
Community Kitchen, an organization that gives food to those in need, will provide food to attendees, and a DJ will be on hand for those in the mood for a dance.
Zines are small, self-published booklets, manually reproduced on a copy machine.
Wilson has been doing comic and zine tutorials for local children at library branches around the city, and one of the deals she made with the kids is that if they finished a zine and brought it to the library by Nov. 1, they would receive 10 free copies.
“A kid just needs a little bit of a push,” she said, “or to know that someone wants to hear what they have to say.”
The hope is the kids will trade zines and comics with each other.
“We’re trying to establish this kid zine economy,” Wilson said. “There’s this empowering feeling that a thing that you made gets you something. You made this cool thing — it was your time and effort — and you can trade it and get someone else’s proof of their time and effort. It’s the beginning of the infinite joy that happens when you create something.”
Caesar Meadows, a comic artist since age 5, will be at the fest creating his tiny micro-comics and talking to young artists. Meadows, 46, was commissioned by the Krewe of Muses last year to create 31,000 of the micro-comics, which were tucked into of 2-inch vending machine capsules and tossed to crowds along the parade route.
“Anytime there’s something comics related, and it’s here in town, it opens up the opportunity for people who aren’t familiar with comics work to be exposed to it,” he said. “You have to have people making comics in order to inspire more people to make comics. I’m hoping it creates inspiration to kids and brings in artists and people from other cities.”
Above all, it’s about having your own healthy form of self-expression. “This is a very cheap way to express yourself,” Meadows said. “All you need is a pen and paper and your ideas.”
The fest will sponsor a reading at the Mid-City branch of the public library, 1800 Orleans Ave., on Thursday at 7 p.m., another reading Friday at 7 p.m. at 614 Gravier St., and displays on Saturday at the main library, 219 Loyola Ave.