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Toronto has become Comics Town this week, as the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (aka TCAF) presents an entire week of events capped by a two-day MoCCA-style show this weekend at the Toronto Reference Library.
As it has in previous years, the event has drawn a stellar list of comics creators, including Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton (who will be doing a kick-off panel tonight, moderated by Raina Telgemeier), Jeff Smith, Trina Robbins, Ed Brubaker, Kazu Kibuishi, Michael DeForge, Darwyn Cooke, Luke Pearson and Moyoco Anno. The list of debut books includes Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer, Michael DeForge’s A Body Beneath, Anno’s Insufficient Direction, Gabrielle Bell’s Truth Is Fragmentary and Box Brown’s Andre the Giant. You can just save this list now and use it as a cheat sheet for next year’s Eisner nominations.
And, recognizing the most important demographic in comics, there will be a full slate of children’s programming on Saturday.
TCAF has an indie vibe, more in the vein of MoCCA and SPX than Wizard World, but with a strong manga component. There are no cast members from The Walking Dead, no Marvel and DC panels, and no booths selling T-shirts or plushies. Cosplay is politely, but firmly, discouraged:
You probably wouldn’t wear your Captain America or Karakat Vantas costume to the library on the weekend before TCAF, so you probably shouldn’t wear your costume to the library on the weekend of TCAF. All of us that run the show support personal creative expression through costuming and performance, but TCAF just isn’t an appropriate venue for that.
So what’s left? Comics! On Saturday and Sunday, the library will be filled with table after table of creators showing you their work, talking to you about it, and yes, selling it. It’s comics in its purest form, thanks in large part to the fact that the founders, Christopher Butcher and Peter Birkemoe (the manager and co-owner, respectively, of the Toronto comics shop The Beguiling), are all about the comics.
And it really is a good representation of the comics universe outside the Big Two. It’s impossible to look at the list of exhibitors and not feel good about the state of comics today, as well as its future.
For exhibitors, TCAF is an opportunity to show their work and do some serious networking, and for the rest of us, it’s a chance to see the cream of this year’s crop all in the same place at the same time. Although it may not have the reputation of, say, Portland or Seattle, Toronto is home to a number of comics creators, and the organizers of TCAF have made a strong effort to bring in a variety of Canadian creators as well as U.S. and Japanese guests (besides Anno, the manga-ka in attendance include Akira Himekawa, the two-woman team that creates the Legend of Zelda manga, and est em).
The other great thing about TCAF is that it’s hassle-free. Admission is free, and while some of the evening talks and events require tickets, you can just walk in to Saturday and Sunday’s exhibit, which is held in the massive Toronto Reference Library.
Check out this year’s other TCAF posters, by Isabelle Arsenault and Michael DeForge, below.