New South Festival of Literary Arts & Cartooning on Saturday!

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In the fall of 2014, Danithan Mejia had an idea.

The Austin editor’s tw-year old literary magazine Foxing Quarterly was on hiatus but Mejia —  wanted to stay active in the small press and art comics scene.

“I wanted to do something smaller than Texas Book Festival,” Mejia says. “which is just epic” and wanted to do something a little different from Staple!, Austin’s long-running, early March comics/craft fest.

To that end, he set up a Kickstarter for the New South Festival of Literary Arts & Cartooning 2015, a two-day “large-scale books and comics festival for June 2015” at the French Legation.  For that, Mejia set a goal of $20,000.

Danithan Mejia as drawn by Alex Schubert

Danithan Mejia as drawn by Alex Schubert

He did not make it. The fundraiser ended Oct. 18 with only $3,923 raised from 101 backers.

But Mejia is not the sort of fellow to let a Kickstarter crash-and-burn end the project. Saturday, the French Legation hosts a one-day New South Festival of Literary Arts & Cartooning 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“The original plan was to raise a lot of money for a two-day thing,” Mejia says, “a whole week of panels and some outreach programs throughout the year, a thing that was a lot more involved.”

Mejia admits freely that this may have been a tad ambitious for year one. “Having it be one-day, a little smaller and more intimate, lets me pay for costs with sponsorships and table fees so I can keep it free and open to the public.”

For a one-day fest, Mejia has packed in a lot of talent. Headlining is cartoonist and designer Jim Rugg, an exceptionally well-regarded cartoonist in the alternative comics community who Mejia worked at “Foxing.”

Rugg is known for his canny riffs on 70s and 80 culture in books such as the skate-oriented “Street Angel” and blaxploitation pastiche “Afrodisiac.”

Other guests include the dark and brilliant Josh Simmons (see also his deeply creepy graphic novels “House” and “Black River”), the formerly Mexico City based Spanish-language cartoonist Inés Estrada, the enigmatic Jonny Negron and Austin literary magazines such as the Austin Review and Fields.

Austin actor, improviser, voice-artist and comic fanatic Shannon McCormick is heading up panels with artists Derek Ballard and Hellen Jo about being indie comics artists who also work in the animation industry, an interview with Rugg and more.
It’s a densely packed day of DIY comic making, a deep dive into a scene that deserves wider exposure in Austin, which tends more towards genre-oriented geek culture than art comics.

And next year, who knows?

“Maybe we can build out into that stuff,” Mejia says. “if it’s doable.”

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