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This Saturday and Sunday is the third Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the city’s only comics convention where you’re unlikely to find cosplayers. Instead, fans call comic books “graphic novels” and story protagonists are often neurotic everymen rather than superheroes. This free event is organized to showcase the talent of Canada’s cartoonists, both up-and-coming and well-established, while also welcoming international comics creators to the Great White North.
The festival, called “TCAF” to be concise, will be held at the Old Vic building (93 Charles Street West) at the University of Toronto campus on August 18 and 19. For your convenience, Torontoist has organized a guide to TCAF so you can recognize the big names and hit the big events. We’ll also be reporting from the festival throughout the weekend.

The Doug Wright Awards/An Evening With Joe Matt

Torontoist was in the crowd last year
when Michel Rabagliati and Lorenz Peter won the top prizes, and we’ll be there again on Friday, August 17 when the 2007 Doug Wright Awards honour the best of Canadian cartooning.
Nominees are selected in two categories; Best Book and Best Emerging Talent. The 2007 nominees are as follows:
Best Book
Shenzen: A Travelogue From China, Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly)
This Will All End in Tears, Joe Ollman (Insomniac Press)
Scott Pilgrim and The Infinite Sadness, Bryan Lee O’Malley (ONI Press)
Gilded Lilies, Jillian Tamaki (Conundrum Press)
Nog-a-dod: Prehistoric Canadian Psychedooolia, Marc Bell ed. (Conundrum Press)
Best Emerging Talent
Gray Horses, Hope Larson (ONI Press)
House of Sugar, Rebecca Kraatz (Tulip Tree Press)
Was She Pretty?, Leanne Shapton (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)
Bacter-area, Keith Jones (Drawn and Quarterly)
Mendacity, Tamara Faith Berger & Sophie Cossette (Kiss Machine Presents…)
Additionally, notable cartoonists, living or dead, are inducted into the “Giants of the North” Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. This year’s inductee is Rand Holmes (1942-2002), best known for his Harold Hedd comics. There will be a tribute to Holmes’ work in the second-floor chapel of Old Vic at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday with his son Ron Holmes and The Globe and Mail’s Jeet Heer.
But Friday night isn’t all about trophies and tearful speeches. There will also be a presentation by superstar cartoonists and longtime friends Joe Matt, Chester Brown and Seth.
2007_08_13TCAF-joematt.jpgAll three lived in Toronto back in the 90’s, making autobiographical comics that were inspired by the work of creators like R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar. Their books are deeply confessional and often uncomfortable to read. For instance, Joe Matt is a porn-addict who edits men out of his spank videos. Seth’s obsession with the past has made him openly hostile towards modern society. And Chester Brown? We hear he laughs like a hyena.
Five years ago, Joe went to Hollywood to turn his series Peepshow into a tv series, but…it didn’t work out. On Friday night, Joe returns to Toronto to promote his book Spent and to be grilled on stage by his two compadres “about Hollywood, his ‘habits,’ and accuracy in autobiography.” It will be a must-see for any Toronto comics fan.
The event will be held at the Innis College Town Hall (2 Sussex, at St. George Street) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5.00 and will be available at the door.

Drawn and Quarterly

Image courtesy of Seth.
While Joe Matt (Peepshow, Fair Weather, Spent), Chester Brown (Louis Riel, I Never Liked You, Yummy Fur, Ed the Happy Clown) and Seth (Palooka-ville, It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, Wimbledon Green) may be Drawn and Quarterly’s big three at the festival, D&Q has a impressive roster of other cartoonists.
Prolific Toronto-based illustrator Maurice Vellekoop is well-known for his homoerotic work which is collected in Men’s Room and The ABC Book. Kevin Huizenga (Curses, Ganges) was named “Minimalism Cartoonist of the Year” in 2001 by the Comics Journal. Zach Worton (Corpse) is soon to publish a graphic novel about the Canadian gold rush in the 1800’s, and Peter Thompson‘s artwork is gaining attention with the publication of The Chronicles of Lucky Ello.
The Drawn and Quarterly signing schedule:
Saturday, August 18
12:30–1:30 p.m. Seth (at the D+Q table)
1:30–2:30 p.m. Chester (at the D+Q table)
3:00–4:00 p.m. Joe Matt, Chester Brown, & Seth (at the Beguiling-sponsored Signing Room)
2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Kevin Huizenga (at the D+Q table)
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Joe Matt (at the D+Q table)
Sunday, August 19
11:30-12:30 p.m. Chester Brown (at the D+Q table)
1:00-2:00 p.m. Joe Matt, Chester Brown, & Seth (at the Beguiling-sponsored Signing Room)
12:30-2:30 p.m. Kevin Huizenga (at the D+Q table)
2:30-3:30 p.m. Joe Matt (at the D+Q table)
3:30-4:30 p.m. Seth (at the D+Q table)

Oni Press

Image courtesy of Brian Lee O’Malley.
It’s obvious that the current golden boy cartoonist of Oni Press is Brian Lee O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim. The series focuses on a slacker twentysomething who must battle the seven evil ex-boyfriends of Ramona Flowers, the delivery girl of his dreams. Since most of the series is set in Toronto, local readers will recognize landmarks like Honest Ed’s, Lee’s Palace, the Toronto Reference Library and even New Generation Sushi. With Volume 4 and a movie deal with Universal on the horizon, we’re looking forward to getting our Scott Pilgrim merchandise signed before everyone and their mom are reading it.
Oni’s prize writer is Toronto-based J. Torres, who has been nominated for Eisners (Alison Dare, 2003), Harveys (Sidekicks, 2001) and Schusters (Love As A Foreign Language won in 2005). He’s also the lead writer for the Degrassi: Extra Credit series of graphic novels, plus Teen Titans Go and Wonder Girl for DC Comics.
J. Bone was co-creator of Alison Dare with J. Torres, and is artist on Mutant, Texas and Mr. Gum with Oni. He’s also working on The Spirit for DC Comics with Darwyn Cooke.
We told you about Scott Chantler a month ago when he was signing copies of Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen in Alpha Squad 7 at The Beguiling. But Scott is also the creator of Northwest Passage, and is the artist on the J. Torres-penned graphic novels Days Like This and Scandalous.
Other Oni artists attending are Cameron Stewart (Seaguy, The Other Side, Apocalypstix), Arthur de la Cruz (Kissing Chaos), Eric Kim (Battle Academy), Brian McLachlan (No Dead Time, The Princess Planet), Vera Brosgol (FLIGHT), and Mike Huddleston (The Coffin).

Conundrum Press

Image courtesy of Jillian Tamaki.
Conundrum Press is also moseying on down from Montreal, bringing with them an entourage of authors and their books—two of which are nominated for the Doug Wright Awards in the Best Books category.
The first is Gilded Lilies by Jillian Tamaki, which is a collection of many of her illustrations done for high profile magazines like Entertainment Weekly and The New Yorker. Jillian Tamaki won a Wright Award last year with her cousin Mariko Tamaki for their work on Skim, but Gilded Lilies is her first solo book. The second is Nog A Dod: Prehistoric Canadian Psychedooolia, a book that documents nearly a decade of work and collaborations, primarily by Vancouver based artists, and is edited by Marc Bell. Joe Ollmann, author of The Big Book of Wag, is also nominated in the Best Books category for his book This Will All End in Tears (Insomniac Press).
You can find these conundrums and more at the Conundrum table. Saturday August 18 will hold launches and signings from 12–4 p.m. Launches include Hello, Me Pretty by Line Gamache and Monster Island Three featuring editor Billy Mavreas. Signings will be given by Jillian Tamaki and Emily Holton (for Little Lessons in Safety). Sunday August 19 looks to be the same, having launches and book signings from 12–3 p.m., sans Emily Holton.

FLIGHT Contributors

Image courtesy of Kazu Kibuishi.
If you’ve never seen a volume of FLIGHT, you should remedy that immediately. They’re compilations of short stories written and illustrated by innovative young artists in glorious full colour. Being featured in FLIGHT can be a major stepping stone into the industry—so much so that editor Kazu Kibuishi has had to put the kibosh on people begging to have their stuff published. Posted in the FLIGHT website’s FAQ is the plea: “Please do not send me e-mail asking to be on the book. Please. This puts me in an awkward position.”
Co-editor Kean Soo of Jellaby is soon to publish his series about the titular cute purple monster in deluxe graphic novel format. If you can’t wait till 2008, he also publishes online at The Secret Friends Society.
Raina Telgemeier is converting The Babysitters Club books into graphic novels, starting with Kristy’s Great Idea and The Truth About Stacey. A third book is due out soon, but in the meantime you can check out her minicomic SMILE (A Dental Drama) every Wednesday.
Becky Cloonan is a three-time Eisner award nominee and has achieved critical success with indie hits like Demo and East Coast Rising. Now she’s the artist on American Virgin with Vertigo, giving mainstream comics a raw edge.
Other Flight kids in attendance are: Azad Injejikian (Sammy), Johanne Matte (Horus), Dave Roman (Astronaut Elementary), Joey Weiser (The Ride Home) and Matthew Forsythe (Ojingogo).


Image courtesy of R. Stevens.
TCAF has a strong presence from web-based creators this year. In fact, almost every webcomics fan has a t-shirt by attendee R. Stevens from his delightful “pixelated robot romance” Diesel Sweeties. Count how many you can spot at the festival.
Toronto’s own Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics is a fan favourite—we interviewed him last year for a Tall Poppy. Jeffrey Rowland (Wigu, Overcompensating) and Chris Hastings (Dr. McNinja) will also be in attendance.
TCAF has organized two panels on webcomics in the second floor chapel of Old Vic on Saturday afternoon:
At 2:00 p.m., Jon Ellis and Ed Matthews from PopImage will be moderating “Webcomics: The Hows And Whys Of Comics On The Net” with the aforementioned Stevens, Rowland, North and Hastings plus Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots), Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie), Rob Coughler (Butternutsquash), and Matt Forsythe (Ojingogo) of Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog.
At 3:00 p.m. DC Comics dynamo Darwyn Cooke is discussing the launch of Transmission-X and how creators are bringing professional comics to the web. The panel features Cameron Stewart (The Other Side), Karl Kerschl (The Flash), Ramon Perez (Butternut Squash), Andy Belanger (Dead End 56), Scott Hepburn (Sentinel), Brendan Fletcher (Ragni), Michael Cho (Max Finder), and Brian MacLachlan (No Dead Time).

Songs & Pictures Party at Sneaky Dees

2007_08_13TCAF-sneakydees.jpgWhen the festival is done for the day on Saturday, head over to Sneaky Dees (431 College Street) and find out when happens when cartoonists get their rock on.
Opening the show is Kupek, Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley’s one-man-band. According to O’Malley, “Scott Pilgrim 4 is set inside Sneaky Dees. Meta!”
Then, Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate creator Willow Dawson will take the stage as saw-player and vocalist with atmospheric alt/folk band Little Brown Bat.
On last is Jakub Zapotoczny and Brenden Fletcher of the band Ragni. Instead of creating a standard CD sleeve for their debut album, they worked with Karl Kerschl to create a 72-page graphic novel that suits the themes of their songs, fusing music and art.
Doors open at 9:00 p.m. and cover is $5 at the door.
Stay tuned for more Torontoist coverage on Saturday and Sunday.