The Toronto Comic Art Festival, held annually at the Reference Library on every May (this year the 5th and 6th) is without a doubt one of the coolest events of the year. It’s not a convention like Hobby Star is known for hosting, and not the kind of event where cosplayers roam freely. TCAF is where independent artists and small-press entrepreneurs keep it real with books that tell life stories or surrealist sensations. A mecca for the post-Superheroic hipster. Most amazingly, TCAF is free. You can just wander in and come and go as you please.
Exhibiting at TCAF is not a matter of first come first served like other events. Artist are evaluated and compared, and discretion is used in the allotment of table space. The judges clearly have sound sensibilities since nowhere in the convention did I see any tables where the artist was clearly in his or her first year after art school.
Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward is as huge a draw as you would expect, Brian Lee O’Malley’s herd is huge, and Jeph Jacque had a line of post-rock fans all eager to meet him and get a sketch of their favourite characters kissing. And of course Adam Warren’s attendance was a considerable surprise. To save on the space, many of the panels that draw larger crowds are hosted off-site. There were also surprises there like Konami Kanata and other artists from around the world, it’s easy to sense the influence this event has had from the European comic festival Angoulême.
In the Beeton Auditorium, Ryan Dunlavey had an advance copy of Comic Book History Of Comics he couldn’t sell, but look out for it at your local store soon since it’s a great concept by a proven creative team.
Sharing the area was the Hand-Eye Society, a Toronto-based group of talented independent video-game developers that integrate a solid gaming experience with creative artwork to bring the gaming experience outside of the typical Halo-gamer crowd. One of the involved individuals, Christine Love, has recently launched Analogue: A Hate Story which you should look into. It is also available for purchase on Steam.
On the second floor, there were more Toronto regulars and exciting imports. A huge draw to TCAF are webcomic artists like Kate Beaton and Meredith Gran (who introduced me to the event years ago) and the rest of the Topatoco conglomerate. David McGuire wasn’t getting nearly enough attention selling more Gastrophobia. New to the neighbourhood is Andrew Hussie, who brought with him the fanbase of his popular webcomic, Homestuck. It’s annoying that Christopher Hastings didn’t have anything I could purchase from him since I make certain to buy everything he puts out the day it’s released through Diamond.
Also on the second floor of the library were Top Shelf Publishing, with Kagan McLoed. I picked up his “Infinite Kung-fu” at Wizard World Toronto a few weeks ago and figured it would be something good to read on the flight to Botcon. Despite the distance from Toronto to Dallas, I still had a chapter left by the time I disembarked.
Many of the exhibitors used the festival as a chance to debut new products, collections of comics which allow readers to take years of somebody’s hard work and passion and life experiences and absorb them in a few hours. My attention was drawn to Teen Boat, a comic for kids that says “Hey kids, any idea, no mater how surreal or absurd, can be worked into fully developed storytelling.” Near his table was a small section for kids to colour, draw, socialize, and basically have their own TCAF for the grade school crowd. Sometimes Hipsters need a place to drop their kids off.
TCAF is one of the events that went from being the cool local thing held in cramped quarters, and then it skipped a stage and is now suddenly an international highlight. While I love the comic book conventions like Wizard provides, TCAF is a different monster; It’s a festival and the kind of event Toronto should be proud to host. I use the concept of “street credibility” a lot when writing up events. TCAF is the font from which all Street Cred emerges. The only drawback to TCAF is that by going on Saturday, I miss out on the Free Comic Book Day events at my local comic shop.
|Next up in the city is Sketches for Pledges, pretty neat event where Arnold Trinidad & a bunch of Toronto artists sketch with proceeds going to SickKids Foundation. e-mail us about your nerdy upcoming event – firstname.lastname@example.org|