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Toronto Comic Arts Festival organizer Christopher Butcher opened the 2014 show by announcing the “unspoken theme” of that year’s show was spotlighting work by women creators. “Then,” I noted at the time, “Butcher did something truly amazing: He introduced a panel of three women that was not titled ‘Women in Comics.'” This year’s festival continued that theme, showcasing a diverse group of artists and spreading that diversity across the breadth and depth of the show.
In fact, the first thing I noticed when I looked over the schedule was there was no “Women in Comics” or “LGBTQ Comics” panel. There were a couple of more specialized panels — one on gay comics art in Japan, another on older women and comics — but for the most part, the diversity was just sort of there, no further comment needed. The “Art of the Travelogue” panel moderated by my con roommate Johanna Draper Carlson, for instance, featured four women and two men, and it didn’t seem like a particularly big deal until I started to write this article. This may be a watershed in the history of comics events.
The Toronto Reference Library has been the host venue for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) since 2009, and now visitors can sample some of what TCAF has to offer year-round with at the library’s own festival-affiliated comic shop.
With the record-breaking attendance at New York Comic Con 2014 and the hit parade of Comic-Con International, it’s no doubt that comic conventions are big business. But as some who attend these events can attest, it can sometimes be difficult to find the comics amid the multimedia blitz. Not so with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The event is celebrating its 10th consecutive year May 8-10, with ambitious plans for the fiture.
About 22,000 people attended this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, according to Chris Butcher, the event’s co-founder and director. That’s up from 18,000 in 2012 and 2013.
In a thorough post-event report, Butcher said Sunday in particular saw more attendees than in 2013 at the Toronto Reference Library, the hub for the event. “In addition to the Toronto Reference Library, our space at The Marriott Bloor Yorkville for panels and programming saw vast increases, and our TCAF Kids Day event at St. Paul’s on Bloor hit capacity at several times. Many programs at The Pilot were standing room only, and our Friday professional programming also had respectable attendance, though we recognize there’s room to grow there too!”
This year’s show featured a stellar guest list that included Lynn Johnston, Kate Beaton, Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Smith, Trina Robbins, Ed Brubaker, Kazu Kibuishi, Michael DeForge, Darwyn Cooke, Luke Pearson and Moyoco Anno.
Conventions | Preliminary estimates place attendance at Dallas Comic Con at 45,000, easily a record for the event, which not only moved this year to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center from the smaller Irving Convention Center but is also under new ownership. [The Dallas Morning News]
Conventions | Joe Rodriguez does some shoe-leather reporting at the Big Wow ComicFest in San Jose, talking to creators and attendees about cosplay, digital comics and the perils of self-publishing. [San Jose Mercury News]
On the opening night of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, organizer Christopher Butcher articulated a simple and very important vision for the event:
I looked at the people we were already approaching for 2014 last year, and we had an incredibly strong lineup already of people who wanted to participate who were women who were working in the industry with a history or who were fresh faces doing exciting, wonderful material, and we decided that was going to be an unspoken theme, we were going to really try to spotlight, highlight, the work of women in the industry … This isn’t a one-year thing for us. This isn’t just a theme this year, we aren’t going to be going back to anything, I think we have done a good job of showing the diverse faces of the comics industry but we can always be better… I want us to continue to be as inclusive as possible and to include all different kinds of work. I want comics to be the theme of TCAF and that means including everyone who makes comics, and particularly people who are doing a good job.
Then Butcher did something truly amazing: He introduced a panel of three women that was not titled “Women in Comics.” At TCAF, women were simply treated as equals and judged on their merits. And trust me, I walked the halls at the Toronto Reference Library and came back with two bags of comics and graphic novels, so I know: There were no charity cases at TCAF. Every exhibitor, male and female, was top-notch. This is a show that a huge number of people want to be a part of, so organizers can pick and choose. What they did this year was simply choose more women, which makes sense in a field where women have been well represented for many years. (There were plenty of men as well, they just weren’t in the majority as they are at every other show.)
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:
Publishing | Sales of IDW Publishing’s My Little Pony comics, in single-issue and graphic novel format but not counting digital, have topped 1 million copies. (It does really well in the iBookstore — there are multiple issues in the Top 10 every week — although it seldom registers on the other digital comics platforms.) IDW’s Ted Adams says this is because it’s such a great comic, but shrewd marketing such as offering a special Scholastic Book Fair edition with a bonus pony figure probably helped a lot. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The motion-comics platform Madefire has secured $5.2 million in funding. In July it announced agreements with four comics publishers — IDW, BOOM! Studios, Top Cow and iTV — and the first IDW comics came out in August. Madefire also has a partnership with DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]
People have been saying for years that TCAF is the best comics event of the year, and although this was my first TCAF, I have to say that they weren’t exaggerating.
The reason is simple: TCAF focuses on the comics, nothing else. It is unmarred by superhero-themed cars, screeching videogame sound effects, or giant banners promoting this summer’s movies. What’s more, it’s not at all corporate. The big publishers are entirely absent, because this show is about creator-owned indie comics. Everyone is doing their own thing, not working for The Man (or The Licensor, as the case may be). It’s a show for enthusiasts.
That’s not to say there aren’t big names. In fact, the guest list reads like a Who’s Who of independent comics creators. A quick sample: Art Spiegelman, Seth, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Taiyo Matsumoto, Ruto Modan, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, Faith Erin Hicks, and Michel Rabagliati, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for a panel and who won the Doug Wright Award on Saturday evening for his Song of Roland.
Publishing | Calvin Reid looks at Archie Comics’ growing book-market presence, which has exploded since the publisher signed Random House as its distributor in 2010. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Matt Kindt, author of Red-Handed, writes about how becoming a comics creator has made it impossible for him to enjoy reading comics for their own sake. [The Huffington Post]
Awards | Animal Land, by Zatch Bell creator Makoto Raiku, took the Best Children’s Manga honors in Kodansha’s 37th annual manga awards. The sports manga Gurazeni won the overall award for best manga. [Anime News Network]
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival celebrates its 10th birthday this weekend with a truly stellar lineup of guests and an amazing array of events. The list of creators who will be there is impressive in both its quality and its breadth: Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, David B., Taiyo Matsumoto, Rutu Modan, Frederik Peeters, Paul Pope, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, Faith Erin Hicks, Derf Backderf, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, a roll call that goes from living legends to plucky creators making their own comics zines by hand.
Publishing | In advance of Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada discuss who’s reading their comics, and the creative challenges of writing about characters who have been around for generations. Asked if he was the custodian of contemporary myths, DiDio answered, “You know, I feel like a renter, to be honest. I’m in charge at this moment, and the goal is to keep these myths healthy enough so that, eventually, you can pass them down to the next person who rents them.” [Chicago Tribune]
Conventions | Christopher Butcher, the organizer of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, talks about how the show has grown and what to expect this year, including an interesting slate of international creators, from David B. to Taiyo Matsumoto. [The Comics Reporter]
Retailing | Although the 16th volume of The Walking Dead wasn’t released until June 19, 11 days’ worth of sales was enough to propel the latest collection of the horror series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard to the top of BookScan’s chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores June. Four volumes of the popular series, including the first one, appear in the Top 20. [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Hermes Press, which has been publishing the vintage Buck Rogers collections, has announced a new Buck Rogers project: An original comic series written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, one that Publisher Dan Herman promises will be strongly reminiscent of the original. [ICv2]
Publishing| The animation studio Klasky Csupo, which gave us The Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats, is branching out in a number of different directions, including print and digital comics. Its first comic is Ollie Mongo, which stars a blue zombie skateboarder. [USA Today]
Legal | The Swedish Supreme Court has overturned the 2010 conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on charges of possessing 39 drawings that violated the country’s child-pornography laws. The court found that while the images are pornographic and do depict minors, they are obviously drawings and cannot be mistake for real children. “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information,” the court ruled. [The Local]
Though the full-color print version of Tony Cliff’s popular webcomic, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is still a ways off, Cliff has announced an all-new, black-and-white Delilah Dirk comic for the Toronto Comics and Arts Festival in May. Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune will be 36 pages and will feature a slightly different art style to take advantage of the detail allowed by the black-and-white format. In it, “Delilah seeks to extract a signature from a tyrannical property owner while coping with an obnoxious merchant and a handful of Turkey’s sourest apples.”
For those anxiously waiting for The Turkish Lieutenant, Cliff promises that it’s coming, but is “still a little further off. I know you are probably tired of hearing that. If it takes the sting out, know that I am much more frustrated to know that people are so eager to have this book and yet am unable to provide a satisfactory answer to the question. However, I am hoping to have some good, solid information to give you very shortly.” In the meantime, The Seeds of Good Fortune seems like a gorgeous way to wait. Cliff will make it available online and at other conventions shortly after TCAF.