One of the joys—and the point—of festivals like TCAF is discovering artists you've never encountered. Here are five of our favourites from this weekend.
You have to be good to get a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF): applications are juried. Creators come from all over the world to sell their work, mingle with contemporaries, and spend a weekend in Toronto.
While some big names (Pendleton Ward, Kate Beaton, Ryan North) drew fans in droves, there were also a lot of smaller, less established creators. Some were looking to expand their fan base and network, while others just hoped to sell enough to make the trip worth it.
We had a chance to talk with a few of them about Toronto, the festival, and comics as a whole.
Faith Erin Hicks
Hails from: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Faith Erin Hicks’ profile has been picking up steam over the last little while; her most recent work, Friends With Boys, is serialized online as well as in print. Hicks’ drawing style and ability to write genuine characters adds to her approachability, which was evident when we caught up with her at TCAF: “I always get the sense that people who don’t normally read comics are here. There are people who are perhaps intrigued by them, there’s this feeling that there are new people here, potential new readers,” she told us. “I’m someone who did not grow up reading comics—I read Tintin, because, of course, I’m Canadian; every Canadian child reads TinTin. I feel it’s events like these that introduce me to new work,” she said. “I feel like sometimes comics can be hard to get into unless you have a friend who can recommend stuff.
“It’s insane, because there’s so many people [at TCAF], but the environment is non-threatening, in a sense.”
Hails from: Toronto, Ontario
Josh works at a BMV in the Annex while producing small-press comics in his spare time. Looking through his photocopied sketchbooks, you can see his style pinball around from cartoony fiction and autobiography to work with a more serious tone.
For him, TCAF served as early inspiration in order to take comics from a hobby to a profession. “I’ve been to a good chunk of them from the start. I remember when it was in a church basement at one point—I remember the year it was in the Honest Ed’s back lot,” he said. “But going around, seeing creators, and getting books signed—I remember leaving it and being like, ‘Oh my god, I want to be a part of this scene.’ I want to hang out with these people and make books just like these people.”
Hails from: Toronto, Ontario
This was Katherine’s first TCAF—she was selling prints, zines, and comics from the same small-press enclave as Rosen. Her work focuses on stylized depictions of everyday objects, especially—we were particular fans of the way she renders food. Rather than coming across as straight portraits, these images tend to capture the mood of a meal, which is easier said than done.
“The small-press section is really, really neat; there are a lot of people doing varied work here. There’s comic stuff, there’s more zine stuff, and a lot of prints and T-shirts. It’s more varied, and we get a weird sort of run-off,” Verhoeven said. “It’s been good for sales and exposure and really nice people to talk to. The big thing—my goal for TCAF, I guess—because I just started a webcomic, my goal is to get more readers for that, so I’ve printed all these postcards and been kind of throwing them at people. Like, hiding them in the bathroom so people have to see them.”
Hails from: Troy, New York
Eric made the trek to TCAF in order to sell print editions of many of the webcomics he hosts on his website. Rutabaga: Adventure Chef caught our eye because of the unique spin on a fantasy setting: why kill monsters and search for treasure when hunting for ingredients is all the more rewarding?
“I do [Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Fest] in New York, [Small Press Expo] in Maryland, and TCAF. It feels like at TCAF that it’s a lot less of a hard sell. The reason we think so is that it’s free to get in; if my book is 10 dollars and they’ve already spent seven [to get in], they could’ve maybe bought my book…. [Also,] it’s advertised so well. [At MoCCA] there are no signs: it’s in the middle of New York City and there are no signs or anything like that. TCAF just seems like it’s really well put together.”
Hails from: Portland, Oregon
Nourigat travelled from the West Coast with two suitcases full of her autobiographical comic, Between Gears. While TCAF has a lot of self-published and small-press books for sale, Nourigat’s have the distinction of being picked up by Image Comics—the third-largest publisher in the USA, behind DC and Marvel.
Nourigat’s one of the many Americans bringing things to sell across the border, and ran into a little bit of a problem when it came to her wares. “I’m really glad that I declared what I had, because the TSA did open my bags. Not only that, but all of my books are shrink-wrapped—they unwrapped all of them. As if one of them was different, or smuggling drugs, or something.”
“I wish I lived closer, because I would say, ‘Yes, I’m coming back every year, now.’ But since I live so far away, I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to will be.”
Photos by Matt Demers.