Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of people who were way cooler than Torontoist came out to the Gladstone Hotel to see the 175 independent publishers, artists, and writers at Canzine, Canada’s largest zine fair and festival of alternative culture. The day-long event was organized by Broken Pencil, the quarterly magazine dedicated to all things underground culture and the independent arts.
Participants—which ranged from the established and critically acclaimed fashion magazine Worn to the start-up zine Deep Madder, a publication that “articulates all feelings of inadequacy”—appreciated Canzine’s relaxed and creative vibe, acknowledging that it’s one of the few remaining festivals that’s cheap enough for independent writers and artists to showcase their goods. Cartoonist Dan Barclay of Brown Paper Bag Comics has been coming to Canzine for eight years. “Shows like this are a great way to get your stuff out there,” he said. “It attracts a broad group of people and it’s great to see what others out there are doing.” Graphic artist Jesse Rayburn agreed. “I’ve been coming for the past three or four years. It’s a good show with a good vibe,” he said.
ECW Press participated for the first time this year, having published Broken Pencil’s new fiction anthology, Can’tLit. ECW Press’s publicist, Sarah Dunn, was surprised by the diverse crowd and vendors the festival brought out. “It’s been a busy day so far,” she said. “Being here gives our books exposure to a different audience.” The organizational structure was a bit of a free-for-all—booths were served up on a first-come first-served basis and better signage would have simplified navigating the haphazard layout—but participants seemed pleased with the large turnout and enthusiastic response.
Events included the One-Two Punch Book Pitch, where participants had two minutes to pitch their best-selling book idea to Coach House Press’s Alana Wilcox, Broken Pencil’s Hal Niedzviecki, and The Rights Factory’s Sam Hiyate. The pitches ranged in topics from a darkly comic novel “A High-Rise Condo at the End of the World” which promised philosophical reflection and spies (!), to “Search History,” a collection of poetry based on the search history of people’s computers, and “Waterlogged,” a graphic novel that sounded a lot like a scifi reinterpretation of Splash. Alana and Sam had fun playing good cop/bad cop, as Sam unapologetically shut down any project where he didn’t see potential, and Alana tried to be more constructive, offering participants advice on how to improve their concepts or on finding an appropriate audience for their work.
Artists Kim Sokol (left) and Karen Brown (middle).
Perhaps the highlight of the day was the Canzine Olympics, an event staged in honour of Broken Pencil’s latest Olympic-themed issue. Evan Munday, King Frankenstein, and Lindsay Tipping competed in such creative events as Word Relay Race, the Zine Lift, Speed Zining, and Competitive Speaking. Chaos reigned as the three competitors rolled around on stage trying to score coveted words (“penis” was a popular choice) to compile inane sentences, tested their strength and endurance by repeatedly lifting zines, and showed off their cut-and-paste skills by putting together a zine at breakneck speed.
The day ended with readings from Can’tLit by Joey Comeau, Greg Kearney, Zoe Whittall, and Jessica Faulds.
All-day art installations filled the Gladstone’s hotel rooms, including the Toronto Comic Jam project, a continuous comic where each sequential panel is created by a different artist; The Lost Window, a collection of photographs of Toronto mannequin window displays from 1930–1950; and Artcade 2009, a showcase for Toronto’s indie videogame scene, which featured an awesome arcade cabinet created by the Hand Eye Society and stations to create your own videogame character.
Photos by Erin Balser/Torontoist.