Some Quick Thoughts on TCAF 2016

I’m back from the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I got into Toronto on Friday and left early morning on Sunday.

This is becoming something close to an annual pilgrimage. I’m pretty enamored with TCAF as an idea, and Toronto, as gigantic metropolitan areas go, could be a lot lot worse. I ate and drank very well over the course of the 3 days.

It’s not a perfect show, by any means, but it certainly is one of the most important North American shows and well within the top 5 of all comics shows of the year.

This is the first time I stayed off site – if you can stomach the sharing economy, it’s running at full speed in Toronto. As a single traveller, the AirBnB/Uber/Public Transit system was convenient and saved me a lot of money. Being away from the Marriott was a challenge and made travel decisions much more intentional, which wasn’t something I considered when I was booking rooms.

The Space:

The show as a whole was bigger this year, in terms of actual physical space. Exhibitors expanded upwards more fully into the third floor. There was a D&Q space on that floor in 2015, but this year it was a lot more intentionally built out. In comparison to previous years, the ground floor felt a little less cramped, the second floor had more used floor space, and the wowee zonk area wasn’t crammed into a hotbox.  

There were some off-site tables at another space?? I don’t know how that panned out, I never went over there. TCAF is getting to a size now where a 2 hour circuit isn’t going to show you everything you can see. I had to intentionally search for projects I knew I wanted to get in on, and in one instance wandered in the Appel Salon for 15 minutes looking for @screentonetv to get a copy of Shed & Frontlawn Zine (Style & Fashion #4).

The ground floor felt much busier despite having wider aisles. This is the first time I remember having to wait in line to use the spiral stairs.

The People:

Friday night was a great time. I had drinks with the Yeti Press crew and spent time with a great group of creators, editors, and publishers hashing out the problems with and needs of effective comics criticism. It was nice to hear creators talk shop about current projects and their hopes for the coming year.

I got to meet Shawn Starr and @goodcomicsbykim, two art comics critics whose work I admire. It was nice to talk shop about critical practice, if only for a few minutes.

The big thing? was the Black Pus show Saturday night, which I didn’t go to because of a headache. My loss, I’m sure.

I’m constantly overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people I meet at independent comics shows. TCAF is not an exception. There’s a collected pointing, a communal shifted heart, as everyone comes together to celebrate creation, comics, art, and artists. That emotional tone is a part of the comfort of TCAF, and why I keep coming back.

Gushing aside, I missed people I wanted to see. I saw a few people only once when I had hoped to spend some more significant time with them this weekend. That’s on me, mostly, for not going out Saturday night and for leaving early Sunday. The bigness of this whole thing surpassed my ability to coordinate and meet up.

The Panels:

I also felt like the show’s programming was very similar to 2015′s programming. Some standout panels, including the Rokudenashiko spotlight, were amazing. Most seemed vaguely interesting at best.

I think there’s something to be said for having a larger total pool of panel members to draw from. I’m interested in seeing a larger array of voices, and maybe that means only having people participate in one panel unless they’re doing a professional service (i.e. translating). 

The Comics:

I told multiple people that TCAF is like a battery recharge for me, and it’s still true. I found and bought some great art this weekend. I feel good about comics right now. I’m excited to get back to writing more frequently.

The spotlight of the show is certainly on @koyamapress; Annie’s publishing house may be having its best year yet, and it looks like things are going to get better into the Fall. I’m excited to read every book in the Koyama Spring line, which hasn’t been the case for me with any publisher… ever. 

The first book I read from the show is Alabaster Pizzo & Kaeleigh Forsyth’s Hellbound, which is a @retrofitcomics book. I’m happy that their Kickstarter went through, especially with this as the outcome.

Rotopol Press had a table and were selling copies of some of their books. Sadly they didn’t have translation sheets for the book I wanted to buy, Sandro by Alice Socal. This book is really lovely looking. At the time, I couldn’t justify the expense, but now I’m regretting not getting a copy.

I also pushed off getting a physical copy of @tilliewalden newest book so that I could have her sign it, and then ended up missing her an additional 3 times and never actually bought the book. *sigh*

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Overall I had a good time, and wish I could have stayed longer. I likely would have gotten a few more minis and not as many “books” had I given myself the time. I had a better time last year, but narrowly and well within the margin of error caused by nostalgia. This year was weird because of my own personal schedule which demanded I be back home Sunday afternoon. Hopefully next year I can devote 4 days to the show.

If you went to TCAF 2016 I’d love to hear about your trip – what books surprised you? What do you wish you could have gotten but missed? 


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