I love the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) and I’ve gone every year since 2013. The 2016 festival was fantastic and I’m still recovering from the exciting things that went down. TCAF is a free event that focuses on independent comics and creators with guests from not only Canada but all over the world. Its primary location is in the Toronto Reference Library for exhibitors, St. Paul’s Church for kids programming, and the Marriott hotel, where most of the panels are held. This year, the festival extended its exhibitor space to the third floor of the library as well as the nearby Masonic Temple where some live drawings took place. The main festival was on Saturday and Sunday but there were some pre-game events on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday like the TCAF 2016 Drink n’ Draw and The Canadian Society for the Study of Comics’ academic conference.

TCAF 2016 Poster by Kazu Kibuishi. Comics.

Before I get into my experience, here’s a quick blurb from Wendy on her time at TCAF with her  daughter.

For my second TCAF experience, I headed to the TCAF Kids set up at St. Paul’s Church. I was disappointed to find an almost empty room but was directed to a nearby room where Alex A, the creator of Jon le Bon, was
engaging his audience with the story of how he created his James Bond-based character and creating hilarious characters based on the kids’ suggestions. My daughter got her first ever autograph and sketch from him before heading to the library to partake of the rest of the event where she maintained a singular focus on climbing as high as she could in the building, and hunting down Sailor Moon and black cat items to feed her obsession.
— Wendy

Friday

My TCAF started a day earlier in the evening with the TCAF Kick-Off 2016: The Graphic Novel Revolution panel. It had Mark Siegel from First Second, Andy Brown from Conundrum Press, Annie Koyama from Koyama Press, Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Y: The Last Man, Panel Syndicate) and it was moderated by Heidi MacDonald from The Beat.

Festival Director, Chris Butcher, welcomed everyone to this year’s festival and thanked sponsors like the Toronto Public Library for their support. Before introducing the panel, Butcher took the time to acknowledge comics legend, Darwyn Cooke, who passed away Saturday morning from cancer, for the great comics he created and for being a huge supporter of TCAF (at the time of the panel, it was announced that Cooke was undergoing palliative treatment).

During the panel, everyone explained how they got into comics and their positions as publishers. They discussed the role of the graphic novel in comics publishing inside and outside of the direct market. Brian K. Vaughan talked about its role in making Y: The Last Man so popular and how digital is becoming an important avenue for him too, since it helped Saga. All of the publishers acknowledged the cross pollination happening with comics beyond international borders allowing for diverse styles. This mixing is because of festivals like TCAF and the internet. There was also talk of libraries and how they’re great for teens to access comics, but its still hard to reach kids since their parents are the last remaining obstacle (adults have yet to accept comics completely in the mainstream). Conundrum is also celebrating a 20th anniversary this year while First Second is celebrating 10 years in the business. It was a great panel packed with a ton of great information.

Saturday

As a TCAF vet, I knew the best course of action was to show up right when the festival opened at 9AM. Screw sleep! I didn’t need it and without it, I got two hours of calm browsing where I spent my cash within the first hour. I grabbed

I stopped by a table that had translated comics from an Indonesian publisher, which was really cool, and I got a free catalogue of all the comics publishers in the country. I love getting to see what other countries are producing so it was a great find. I also got a copy of Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! that everyone was suggesting I pick up and within minutes of opening, there was a huge line for it that didn’t end until it sold out. I had to rush off to the Black Comics/Race and Comics panel so my friend and fellow WWAC writer, Angel, was kind enough to grab me a copy.

The Black Comics/Race and Comics panel was so good. The panelists were Spike Trotman (Iron Circus Comics), Marguerite Abouet (Aya), Taneka Stotts (Elements Anthology), Richie Pope (Newdini), and Bill Campbell (Rosarium Publishing) and it was moderated by David Brothers. It was a great panel because of the variety of black creators and publishers represented, while Brothers made the discussion of blackness in comics a byproduct of the discussion vs the focus. It was an hour of people talking comics who happened to be black. A highlight was when the panel ended and I helped Spike Trotman figure out where her next panel was. Woot!

I grabbed lunch and did some more browsing before calling it a day.

Sunday

I started Sunday a bit late because delicious brunch needed to be had. The first stop was The Masonic Temple where I did some quick browsing and would later return to say hi to the lovely Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl, Gotham Academy). I went back to the library to browse and buy more comics!

I accompanied my fellow Panels writer, Jon, to the Gene Luen Yang (Superman Vol 1: Before Truth, The Shadow Hero) signing where I was so awestruck that I couldn’t speak while he got his book, American Born Chinese, signed. That wouldn’t be the last time I’d see Yang since he was on the Diversity along with Bill Campbell (Rosarium Publishing), Ant Sang (The Dharma Punks), Anne Ishii (Massive Goods), Cathy G. Johnson (Gorgeous), and Karla Pacheco (Inspector Pancakes). David Brothers was also moderating this one and the panel talked about the different ways they engage with “diversity.” It was a funny group and they talked about their projects as well as where they’re coming from in terms of the stuff that they create. Yang also gushed over Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye which I bought after the panel! It ended with Brothers sounding off that hopefully one day these diversity panels will just be called reality panels.

A great note to end on, I think. TCAF was awesome as usual and if you haven’t been, I suggest to go at least once if you can. Until next year…