TCAF! TCAF! It’s time for the 2010 Toronto Comic Arts Festival and I am SO EXCITED!
As I mentioned last year, TCAF is one of those events Toronto should be most proud of. It is one of the very best events of its kind on the planet: a free, vital, bustling celebration of the most important (in my opinion) literary revolution since Allen Lane branded a bird in 1935 – the graphic novel. There will be launches, parties, signings, debates, lectures, seminars, workshops and shenanigans starting now and running until May 9th. TCAF’s focus on the independent, the literary, and the revolutionary makes it totally unlike a conventional “comic book convention” and much more like the very best of what a book fair should be. Nowhere else, I will bet, will you find people travelling great distances and lining up for so much self-published product .
And me? Well, here are 5 things I am completely excited about.
1) Charles Vess!
Vess is hardly an indy darling: he has been a long-time collaborator of Neil Gaiman’s (they shared a World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story in 1991 for Sandman #19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; collaborated on the original graphic novel Stardust, and more recently the wonderful children’s book Blueberry Girl, among other things), and has produced covers and art for Jeff Smith, Charles de Lint and George R. R. Martin. My favourite Vess work? The Book of Ballads (seen at left), a collection written by the crème de la crème of fantasy writers and illustrated by Vess. Most of these ballads are taken from Child (The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, 1898; reissued by Dover in 2003) and are lovingly treated by both author and artist.
At TCAF he will be debuting his latest Gaiman collaboration, Instructions, as well as hosting a retrospective of his career Saturday morning (10am-11am) at The Pilot.
This has got to be the most Torontonian thing produced, possibly, ever. I don’t know a single person who bicycles in Toronto who has not had his or her bike stolen, and all indications are that most bike thefts in Toronto trace back to Igor Kenk. Between bike thefts, drugs, a musical phenom wife and a bizzarely charismatic anti-hero we have the makings of the best kind of “I couldn’t make this shit up” story, told here as a “documentary film, journalistic profile and comic book”. There’s something about the bike-courier/counter culture/eco-punk/altruistic criminal/scrap-art/anti-gentrification feel to this project that is just so Queen Street West, and so Toronto. I doubt there’s a single literary project on the go right now which is quite as local as this one.
3) The Novella Room
I tried to find one or two of these seminars to feature (and attend) and just couldn’t pick. The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library becomes, on Saturday, an un-school offering the most comprehensive curriculum on the history, present and future of graphic novel production that I’ve ever seen. From “Comics as Art Objects: Form vs Function” to “Tracers, Photoshoppers, Cut & Pasters: Cheaters or Revolutionaries”, a slew of TCAF guests will discuss the format from about every angle you can want. This is the sort of thing that will underpin future study and understanding of the genre.
4) Kagan Mcleod Drawing Live at Paupers
By all accounts, the Saturday night TCAF party at Paupers Pub is amazing, but what I look forwards to is the phenomenal Kagan Mcleod‘s archiving it all in pen-and-ink as it goes. Kagan’s style is totally his own, even if his own comic titles sometimes seem a bit derivative (my favourite, Infinite Kung Fu, was blacksploitation kung fu cinema – with zombies!), and he has the rare talent amongst illustrators to give every character he draws a unique, recognizable face. See his now-famous ‘History of Rap‘ print for proof. I bet you whatever is produced in the wee beer-soaked hours of this party will be epic.
5) FREE THINGS.
I have to make a list of what I’m “allowed” to buy at TCAF and set a strict budget – because seriously, things can get out of control in a hurry. But lucky for compulsive hoarders like me, there’s also plenty of FREE SWAG to be had. Okay, there’s sketches. Comic artists traditionally charge for sketches but the sort of fellow who exhibits at TCAF is less uptight about that kind of thing. If you buy something, you can GUARANTEE personalization. And a lot of the time, you don’t even have to buy something – artists are happy to do autographs or sketches just ’cause. Then there’s the usual promotional freebies – postcards, stickers, temporary tattoos, bookmarks, samplers. And then you get actual, creative attempts by the artists and presses to spread their word (and pictures). Last year I got CDs, fridge magnets, pens and buttons; I’ve seen paper dolls, matchbooks, and condoms. I’m not prepared to guess what these crazy people will think of next: but I will partake.
Oh, and need I mention? TCAF IS FREE. All of it. Even the award ceremony for the Doug Wright Awards offers free tickets. This is also unprecedented in convention & book fair history. Enjoy it!
Could I be more excited? No, I really couldn’t. Friday can’t come quickly enough for me – but until then, I invite you to join me in reading obsessively The Afterwords‘ almost overwhelming pre-TCAF coverage. They seem to be out to interview every one of the 200+ creators attending, and good on them. TCAF! Squee!
 Not all of TCAF’s exhibitors are self-published, but a large number of them are and they are not in any way the marginalized members of the club.