Nerds, Rejoice: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is Here
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Nerds, Rejoice: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is Here

If you've always wondered but never been, here's your introduction to the annual indie comics fest.

Toronto Comic Arts Festival
Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street)
Saturday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

This weekend, happy nerds will descend on the Toronto Reference Library for the fourth annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The free convention takes up residence at the Toronto Reference Library and hopes to give the public a different experience from FanExpo on Labour Day weekend, or Wizard World Toronto, which just passed in mid-April.

What makes this any different from other comic conventions held in Toronto?

If you’re looking for conventional cape comics, this might not be the best place. TCAF specializes in both smaller companies and the types of books not often seen at large companies.

“Our tastes generally tend to run towards independent comic cartoonists because ‘comics mainstream,’ to those who are already comics fans, means superheroes,” said Chris Butcher, TCAF organizer. (He also owns the Annex shop The Beguiling, which deals in comics, anime, manga, and art.) “We’ve always felt that what we were doing for the festival was not for the initiated already. Comics fans will come to comics events—it’s not hard to do. [What TCAF] was really about was finding people that had maybe one cartoonist that was their favourite—that wasn’t necessarily an every Wednesday superhero cartoonist—and then introducing them to 300–350 other cartoonists that we think they’d enjoy as well.”

Any Canadian flavour? What about webcomic artists?
Canadian webcomic darling Kate Beaton will be signing comics on multiple days, and will be at a panel at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Other creators like the Scott Pilgrim series’ Brian Lee O’Malley, Jeff Lemire (who writes for DC Comics, as well as composing larger tomes like Essex County), and numerous other Canadians will be on-hand as well. TCAF usually also serves as a staging ground for many young Toronto artists’ budding careers.

I get all my comics from the internet. Are web artists included?
Webcomic artists are plentiful at TCAF: many Americans look to be crossing the border for the event, including Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots) and Andrew Hussie (MS Paint Adventures). For many fans, TCAF is one of the few times that they will be able to meet these creators in person, buy merchandise, or get things signed.

I have a fully functional Iron Man costume with LEDs, sound effects, and a detachable bottle of bourbon. What does the convention have for me?
Festival organizers have affirmed their stance that because the convention is taking place in a public space, some common convention activities aren’t recommended. While Butcher has no problems with costuming, he has concerns about the public’s reactions.

“We’re in a public building that is still being accessed by the people who are going to use the Reference Library the weekend before we’re there and the weekend after we’re there,” Butcher said. “We can’t guarantee it’s going to be that safe space for people who want to dress up and act out these cool comics that they love.”

I have some kids that might be interested in coming along. Anything happening for them?
TCAF’s OwlKids day is being held Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., a short walk from the library at St. Paul’s (227 Bloor Street East), offering a full day of children’s programming—including signings, presentations, and workshops for the budding comic creator.

Photos of TCAF 2011 by Matthew Braga.

CORRECTION: May 4, 2012, 2:22 P.M. This post originally stated that Jeph Jacques would be attending TCAF, but he is unable to make it to the event.