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It’s a Good Toronto Comic Arts Festival, If You Don’t Weaken

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TCAF 2007, held at Old Vic at the University of Toronto. Photo by the doodlers from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


The Watchmen movie has been released to moderate success and every other person on the street has a copy of the graphic novel in their low-slung messenger bag. Michael Cera, the quirky playboy of lady hipster hearts, is in town filming the Scott Pilgrim movie. Now is a better time than ever to come out and let your comic flag fly. Side-by-side with a documentary festival, book festival, and photography festival, the fourth Toronto Comic Arts Festival (or TCAF) animates the city this week.
After the jump, a full breakdown of the events to feed your comic craving.


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Seth at TCAF 2007. Photo by the doodlers from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Parties

To kick off the long weekend of comics, Kid Koala will DJ an indoor block party on Thursday at Lee’s Palace by spinning on four turn-tables for a night of dancing, scratching, pillow fights, and raffles. The Montreal-based DJ is touring North America with his dual Loud Party and Quiet Work shows, the latter of which will take place at the Central on Sunday night to wind down the weekend. The quiet “Music to Draw to…” event encourages people to bring their notebooks, sketchpads, yarn, books, or any creative silent material. For a cheap admission of $5, you also get a mug of hot chocolate and a pencil. The idea came about because of Koala’s baby daughter’s adverse reaction to their nomadic one-night, one-city life. Koala thought it would be best to set up shop in cities for a few days instead. So the whole family, including his mother-in-law, packed up their things for this bi-coastal tour. To add to the mind-blowing adorableness, Koala’s wife Corrinne will be hosting a bake sale at the quiet event.

Special Events

But before you start looking to wind down to Kid Koala on Sunday, there are tons of events to fill up your time until then. Authors at Harbourfront Centre helps start the fest on Friday by playing host to some famous cartoonists and graphic novelists. Adrian Tomine and Canadian artist Seth (who will show up almost everywhere this weekend) will debut their latest graphic novels. This will be followed by a discussion between Tomine and Japan’s Yoshihiro Tatsumi about Tatsumi’s latest work, A Drifting Life. This event is at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $8.
This event will run along side a corresponding visual art show called Graphic Novels: The Creation of Art and Narrative, at the Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Centre. The gallery will exhibit work by artists from five different countries. It illustrates the history and creation of what they call “The Ninth Art,” and will include original artworks, as well as tools, sculptures, and photography to create a portrait of the creators working in graphic novels. The free opening reception is from 6–10 p.m., but if you are booked for a Hot Doc or CONTACT show, don’t fret. The exhibit runs until June 21.
Later Saturday night at 7 p.m., the Art Gallery of Ontario will host the 2009 Doug Wright Awards, honouring the best in English-language Canadian comics and graphic novels. The awards were founded in 2004 to honour the legacy of Canadian cartoonist (you guessed it) Doug Wright. The event will be hosted by filmmaker Don McKellar, most recently the screenplay writer of TIFF pick Blindness and will feature a guest appearance by Vinyl Café’s Stuart McLean.
Originally tickets could be purchased by forking over a few bucks from your comic fund, but the event is now free after being sponsored by the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. Yeah…that Harvard. This year’s panel of judges for the Best Emerging Artist and Best Book awards included Toronto Centre MP Bob Rae and Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne. The show will feature the debut of the compilation, The Collected Doug Wright: Canada’s Master Cartoonist and an on-stage discussion of the book’s coming-to-be with Seth (Seth count=2), writer Brad Mackay and publisher Chris Oliveros. A see-and-be-seen comic event if there ever were one.

Comic Releases and Signings

Whether you are a newbie comic artist or an illustrating vet, the festival is a great time to launch your books and showcase your art. You have a willing audience and the best of your peers are in town. Here are some opportunities to exploit the weekend’s cartoonist boom:
Tonight, eight up-and-coming artists, many of them recent OCAD students, launch their collaborative comic book Wowee Zonk 2 at Keep 6 Contemporary on Bathurst from 6–10 p.m. The party will feature a gallery show with new work from three of the contributors: Chris Kuzma, Ginette Lapalme, and Patrick Kyle.
On Friday, artist, illustrator, and toy designer Tara McPherson will exhibit a selection of her limited-edition prints and her new series of toys at the Magic Pony from 6–8 p.m. Her work includes concert posters for bands like Green Day, Modest Mouse, and Death Cab for Cutie. McPherson will also be at the Toronto Reference Library for the main festival event.
Immediately following the Doug Wright Awards, Chip Zdarsky hosts a party to release his Prison Funnies Issue Three at The Pilot across from the Toronto Reference Library. He describes the party as one of “snacks, dancing, and mystery,” the party trifecta. It’s the biggest no-brainer of the festival.

The Big Show

And, of course, the festival’s main event will be held at the Toronto Reference Library on Saturday (10 a.m.–5 p.m.) and Sunday (12–5 p.m.). Over two hundred cartoonists will be there to meet, greet, and exhibit their work including hometown boy and Scott Pilgrim buzz writer, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Seth (Seth Count=3). Other events include readings, lectures, creative workshops, and art installations. The library will also set up a graphic-novel lounge filled with hundreds of books from the library’s collections. Although both days feature events for adults, Sunday is officially “Owl Kids Day” sponsored by Owl Magazine (aren’t all those elementary library memories flooding back, little chickadees?). Take your little ones to meet the cartoonists from Chirp, Chickadee, and Owl magazines.

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