This weekend’s TCAF was a lesson in facial hair and anxious hovering (refer to Karen Whaley’s photo recap). Most comic artists are known for their self-loathing and surrealism (what artists aren’t?), but never have so many accomplished beards gathered in one place. Knowing that comics have traditionally been a boy’s club, it was especially great to see so many women artists come out and make it a more gender-even atmosphere. However, the female presence did make the nervous, skinny boys floating about the tables even more so. The tension! Oh yes, the tension!
The TCAF successfully undertook the daunting and admirable task of explaining comic books as an increasingly-important academic matter through the numerous panels and workshops carried out along the weekend (you can click here for a look back at the preview article of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival for further description of the panels). The atmosphere was relaxed though interested, and the audiences responded with enthusiasm. But the real show was out on the floor, where scores of people scoured and lovingly searched through the stacks and tables of comics. The works ranged from photocopied zines, to black and white sketch books, to colour covers and interiors, carrying right along to full-on graphic novels (like a collected edition of the hilarious Dinosaur Comics) offered by such presses as Conundrum and Drawn & Quarterly. After the break is a more specific look at some of the books we found.
The TCAF overlapped a touch with the Small Press Book Fair as Toronto’s bird and moon (of 55 words fame) and Kiss Machine (an always enjoyable literary magazine geared towards visual works) were present. But for the most part the works were brand new to us. Sorry to those we missed here; it wasn’t for lack of effort or interest. If nothing else, the festival only whet our appetite for the fast approaching Halloween-themed Canzine.
window, Dave Lapp: Billed as a comic about the “windowed views of Toronto,” this short work gives a peek into the life of an aging father and his increasingly interweaving memories. The stark, heavy-lined drawings create a striking counterpoint to the dense narratives being told.
Town Cryer, Evan Munday: This Toronto-based tale is a sardonic exploration of the interrelation between “death and Scarborough and Dr. Phil.” Munday is also the mind behind The Amazing Challengers of Unknown Mystery, in which the first adventure revolves around Avril Lavigne being kidnapped by man-sized seahorses. Despite the zaniness, the comic is surprisingly sweet.
Vague Cities, Tomasz Kacynski: The arresting cover for this tiny comic draws comparisons to the silver and dark backdrop downtown Toronto office buildings. The inside is a striking meditation of the bleakness of being surrounded in a city. The work gets particularly interesting when it discusses cities as romantic creations generated by media, which then leads to characters struggling with their own expectations of their cityscape surroundings.
The Stiff: Chapter 1, Jason B. Thompson: This is a full-sized work in which the vaguely anime art style works pleasantly with the tale of it’s maturing protagonist, Alistair. Thompson mixes Alistair’s horror movie fantasies with his efforts to capture the attention of a cute classmate. The cluttered drawings and panel arrangements create a general claustrophobia that nicely mirrors Alistair’s stifling high school experience.