This was our first TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival)! And after years of people assuring us that it’s the best comic con in North America, I can now see what they meant. The space is gorgeous, the festival is fantastically well-run (they made an app!), it feels like all the publishers are there, and the mood is very excited and inviting. Which is good, because the natural high overrode all the sleeplessness from the preceding week and road trip. 6 cartoonists piled into Nick Bertozzi’s van and headed over the border, stopping briefly at Niagara Falls. Intrepid Molly Brooks flew.
(Above) An American hockey fan (Molly) in Canada. There’s hockey everywhere!
My expectations were high, but I was not expecting that library:
Never underestimate “book smell” as a calming agent.
Saturday was packed. The crowd seemed fairly diverse, energetic, and wanting to engage. We were in the 2nd floor salon, which seemed full but steadily so (which we later found out was due to the monitoring efforts of the TCAF staff). It wasn’t until we ventured onto the 1st floor that we realized how large the crowd was. More thanks for the TCAF staff and for the library’s layout, because even though it was crowded, it never felt claustrophobic. There were lots of debuts: Nobrow 9, Andre the Giant by Box Brown, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Ink Brick’s first issue of comics poetics, Molly Brooks & Sam Page’s hockey thriller Hockey Ops, Over Easy by Mimi Pond, Hilda & the Black Hound by Luke Pearson, and lots more. It was just not possible to see everything and get everything you’d wanted in time. Unfortunately, some of Sam Alden’s books didn’t make it to the festival, but he was signing Wicked Chicken Queen and The Man That Dances in the Meadow.
Above: Paul Tunis & Alexander Rothman, Vincent Giard & Keren Katz, Some Square trouble, so Molly created a paper analog for record-keeping. Below: Carey Pietsch's table, L. Nichols, Estrella Vega & Alexandra Beguez. Across the aisle, Locust Moon sold Quarter Moon (erotic edition!) and Once Upon a Time Machine, and Andrew Carl and Josh O’Neill dropped hints about the upcoming kickstarter for their Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream anthology (which is going to be huge and beautiful). It was nice to see how much programming there was for kids. Box Brown had a lot to talk about pro-wrestling, performance, gladiatorial combat, and childhood, which led people into telling fun stories.
AdHouse was busy all weekend (Chris Pitzer kindly showed me where to find Ethan Rilly in Wowee Zonk). We met Jimmy Beaulieu, who was lovely, and saw Bob Sikoryak and Kriota Willberg at their signing (Kriota’s guide to not-breaking-your-body-as-a-cartoonist is going to ensure some Canadian artists stay heathy). Nick Bertozzi was selling and signing on the first floor. As said before, there were lots of publishers present, including some whose work I hadn’t seen before: Peow Studio was mobbed, Conundrum Press too, and Youth in Decline.
One thing that stood out about how people dressed, especially women, would be the amount of attention paid to details (like small cultural high-signs). We saw a few younger folks in costume and loads of nerdy t-shirts, but overall, the geekery got expressed through highly-specific details in people’s clothing: a hand-beaded Zelda bracelet, a dress with pug-printed fabric, lots of octopi jewelry, a breastplate necklace map of the continents (the wearer works on travel guides), and a shirt patterned with tiny, gaping Great White shark heads.
Below: Keren, Molly & I doodled:
Lots of programming (Nick was on one panel about history and comics, Molly went to the sports and comics one, Lior saw Christophe Blain drawing in person). There were several afterparties that night, including a packed one at the Pilot, people talking at The Spotted Dick, and whatever was going on in that 4th floor hotel room. We napped like tired children/small dogs, then got dinner and wandered around, which always ends up being one of my favorite things about cons. Downtime to hang out with people and talk is precious and SPX and TCAF both provide opportunities for this.
It didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful, either. Sunday was less packed than Saturday, but still busy (also the day of a Marathon?) A number of books had already sold out. By end of day (and end of money), I was taking cards for books I wanted but had run out of money to buy.
Below middle: Lior Zaltzman. Below bottom: “I don’t want to be in the photo, but my shirt can be.”
Below (clockwise): Paul Tunis, Alexander Rothman, Molly Brooks, Li-or Zaltzman, me, Nick Bertozzi. Sunset and about to drive all night back to New York.
10 hours later, somewhere in New Jersey after sunrise, fate sent a coffee truck to taunt us:
And now, lots and lots of reading!
A huge thank you to the TCAF organizers for making an awesome show!