LCCAF 2019 – May 17-19, Cernobbio, Italy
I have been postponing this for a while, but now that they have started making announcements about the artist line-up, I guess it's as good a time as any to write about my experience at this year's Lake Como Comic Art Festival … and it's a perfect name that they chose because this convention is not as much about comics as it's about comic art. With the exception of the organization's official stand and a Panini stand, all the rest of the retailers were selling only comic art. That's not the reason you should attend, though, you attend for the artists and this year's guest list was breathtaking … But I am getting ahead of myself, let's do this in chronological order!
I arrived in Cernobbio on Thursday afternoon. Cernobbio is one of the villages located around lake Como, and the trip is worth it just to enjoy the scenery (easy for you to say, you might be thinking, you live an hour away by plane and you're absolutely right, but how many times can you combine a place your family will love and an awesome comic con in the same spacetime?). The village is not too big, so by the time I arrived at the lake (5 minute walk from the hotel) I had already said hello to Sanjulian (I have met him a couple of times before) and suspected that the guy sitting at the square was Jose Luis Munuera (he was). So a day before the convention you could already feel the comic energy all over Cernobbio, the whole place was taken over by comic creators and collectors.
Collectors, yes, fans originally, but one of the great things about LCCAF is its exclusivity. It's one of their strongest selling points. With dozens of artists attending, just 1,000 (that's one thousand) tickets on sale and a beautiful location, this convention is not for everyone, I am afraid. The tickets are not cheap, but the experience was, at least in my case, absolutely worth it.
The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, but there's an opening reception on Friday where only people with a VIP ticket of sorts can get and is attended by all the artists. So I woke up on Friday and decided to take a ferry to Como (the village). Who else did I meet by the ferry but Humberto Ramos? Having already met him before, we chatted a bit but he was taking the ferry in the opposite direction.
Como felt a bit more like a city than Cernobbio, so as I had a few hours before the reception, I took a walk around. To remind me I was not there on holidays I kept seeing known faces all over the place: Frank Cho, Miguelanxo Prado, Jose Luis Munuera, … My Jack Kirby Black Panther t-shirt warning them I could well be plotting to jump at them without warning.
As if to hypercharge my already pumped up system, when I got back I was walking a few meters away from Prado and Munuera and I saw them stop to chat with someone by the square. Much to my surprise, it was Mike Mignola. It felt like being trapped in a Skrull village where they were training to take over the comic industry. The foreplay was going on for hours now, driving me insane.
The convention takes place in Villa Erba, a private park with a villa and a convention center (as you can see in the picture above). The villa is where the reception was taking place and even though I was not sure it would be my kind of thing, I really enjoyed it. It was a buffet of all sorts of delicious Italian foods and alcohol. Met a lot of interesting people (both artists and collectors), said hello to old friends and drank all the beer they had. If anything, witnessing (and kind of taking part in) a conversation between (Euro-legend) Regis Loisel, Josep Homs and Munuera (yes, him again, I have to admit that he was a revelation, I love this guy and if you are out there, Munu, I still owe you a beer!) about the creative process and the intricacies of a collaboration between writer and artist was positively illuminating. As the level of alcohol in my blood raised, everything got sillier, I was suddenly being introduced as “the selfie guy from instagram” and all sorts of nonsense. But that's the kind of place it is, a place where you meet the people behind the artists, people who feel comfortable and don't need to armor themselves up. A truly unique experience.
Anyway, about time we started talking about the convention itself, right?
The convention center is ample enough to allow the organizers to divide the artists into different groups in smaller areas, each one of them with their fair share of table space and plenty of space for hypothetical queues. And I say hypothetical, because it's an exclusive convention so queues are almost non-existant. The longest I had as waiting time was ten minutes to try to get on the sketch list for Travis Charest on Saturday morning. After that, yes, there were people around the artists' tables, but it was relatively easy to talk to artists.
What about retailers? Well, as I mentioned at the top, there were only two stands: the LCCAF shop and a Panini stand. The LCCAF stand sat right at the entrance and had enough comics by all of the guests to make sure you could go home with a comic you love signed by your favorite artist. I got the official LCCAF exclusive and the portfolio (which would take a full article to go through) and moved on. I was on a tight budget and had a very short list of priorities.
This being an art festival, though, instead of comic retailers there were many stands of the world's most prestigious original art retailers. The kind where you can blow your whole year's salary in seconds. It was kind of fun to check out some Kirby or Miller pages between artist and artist, but as previously stated … budget … priorities.
The fact that there were no retailers doesn't mean there were no shortage of comics to buy. Most of the artists had brought their own material to sell, on top of prints and originals. I got a couple of variants from Mirka Andolfo (Vampirella and Red Sonja) and a few comics from Steve Mannion (what a genuinely nice guy, everybody go out and check his stuff, he's well worth it), but most of the artists had something to sell if you couldn't afford original art, and in the worst case scenario, you had the portfolio to get signed by the artists.
My top priority for the con was a certain Travis Charest, whose work I have adored since his WildCATs run with James Robinson first and Alan Moore afterwards. He's one of my favorite artists and possibly the one whose art is the most difficult to find. The moment the gates opened I joined the queue on his table. He had brought a few pieces to sell and was going to open a few spots on his sketch list. By the time it was my turn, all the pieces he had brought were gone, but I was lucky enough to get the last spot of the day on his sketch list. The sketch should be finished by closing time, he said, so I took off to take a walk around the floor. I had limited time and wanted to make the most of it.
The second in my list was Mirka Andolfo, been enjoying her artwork a lot for a while and wanted to see if she was selling her sketchbooks (which you can buy from her website, but the shipping is really expensive within Europe). Fortunately, she did have all her sketchbooks and for double the price, you could get a pencil sketch with the sketchbooks, so I bought three standard sketchbooks and two with a sketch:
With those two out of the way and most of my budget gone (I did say I was on a tight budget, right?), I just decided to enjoy the time I had left and picked up tiny things left and right, like Guillem March's second A-Go-Go sketchbook (beautiful) or Simone DiMeo's sketchbook, which had a blank cover where I got this beautiful drawing complete with zipatone:
Then, a really friendly Australian collector (forgot your name, sir, but that Ashley Wood Rocketeer original you showed me a picture of will live in my mind forever), told me that Serpieri was doing free sketched if you bought one of his books. Now, if you don't know who Serpieri is I wouldn't recommend you to search for his name or Druuna at the workplace, but he's a weird mix between erotiporn and early Metal Hurlant / Heavy Metal. A legend, so there I went to get my sketch and I was not disappointed:
By the end of Saturday, it had become painfully clear that Travis wouldn't be able to finish the sketch in time and I was taking my plane back on Sunday morning, would he be able to finish it by early Sunday? After quite a bit of suspense complete with him arriving a bit later on Sunday morning and with the sketch still not finished, while the clock kept ticking … I talked to the organizers, some of who live in France … Would they be able to get it from him and bring it back? Maybe, we would need to see, … Hard to compress all those hours in a paragraph, especially when I just want to add the image and let you feast your eyes on the beauty that's my Charest sketch … He was able to finish it and it's awesome (and I am sorry for the people who might have been on the sketch list on Sunday and didn't get theirs).
I know, I know, why not get something by Adam Hughes (don't know, I like his stuff, it just doesn't drive me insane) or Mike Mignola (I spoke with him for a bit, he was way nicer that I was expecting), Dave McKean or Bill Sienkiewicz I didn't even say hello to, but that's the thing about setting up a short list of priorities and, to be honest, I didn't have that much time and I was really tired.
In any case, with the new artists being just announced it seems I will need to start preparing my strike plan for my next year. Of course, the budget will be a bit bigger and the priorities a bit more ambitious, but you can count on one thing, I will definitely be going back. Possibly the best convention I have been to, but I understand that this is exactly what I am looking for at this stage of my relationship with comics. A couple of sketches, some artbooks, a few prints and a lot of beer and laughs … That sounds just about right, doesn't it?
Check it out if you can, this gets a straight 11 out of 10 in my book!!!