TCAF 2014 Wrap Up!

This past weekend was the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)! Held for free at the Toronto Reference Library (with some off-site events), it’s a veritable cornucopia of incredible talent. In addition to artists and publishers having stalls in the Reference Library, there’s also a buttload of workshops, panels & events to attend if you feel so inclined. I always try to get to some of the events each year just to hear people talk about the awesome stuff they create.

Lynn Johnston's TCAF poster 2014

Lynn Johnston’s TCAF poster 2014

Opening night was “Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton, In Conversation”, a discussion moderated by Raina Telgemeier. Lynn Johnson created For Better or For Worse - I don’t know if this was ever syndicated in Australia, because I don’t recall reading it growing up. It was interesting to hear Lynn speak about her work, being in newspapers, and of her place in the industry when it was far more male-dominated than now, and the way she just kinda trucked through it dealing with it in a kind of “give as good as you get” mentality. This was in contrast to Kate Beaton’s career now, which is very internet-centric, instant gratification, and not without issues surrounding sexism being a female creator. I really enjoyed hearing the both of them talk about their creative process, their influences, and in particular what from their own lives influences their comics (be it in a roundabout way for Johnson, or a direct autobio way for Beaton). A fantastic and entertaining way to spend an evening listening to two fantastic Canadian creators!

Saturday morning I decided to hit up some panels, as most of the rest of the day’s lineup didn’t interest me so much. First thing was a ‘draw-off’ between comic artists Jeremy Sorese (Little Heart), Liz Prince (Alone Forever), Britt Wilson (The Greatest Book On Earth), Joey Weiser (Mermin), plus two audience volunteers. Pictionary-style, one member of a team drew from a prompt (some kind of movie genre) and their team had to guess what it was. There was a lot of awesome creativity on show considering the 3-minute sketching limit! It’s really fun to watch people sketch on the fly like this. Here’s Britt Wilson & Liz Prince during their rounds (road trip and tearjerker were their prompts):

Next panel (in the same room which became inexplicably hot) was “What Do Women Want? Writing Comics for a Female Audience” – moderated by Chromatic Press’ Editor Lianne Sentar, and with creators Laura Lee Gulledge (Page by Paige), Kate Leth (Adventure Time), Joan Reilly (The Big Feminist BUT), and Noelle Stevenson (LumberJanes) in the spotlight. This panel was full to bursting with amazing ladies from the industry with excellent perspectives. I liked a lot of the input the moderator Lianne had to the conversation, but unfortunately her moderation wasn’t too structured – the discussion flowed naturally, but much of what could have been discussed was covered only briefly or not at all. That’s not to say that the discussion wasn’t interesting, however! Lots of talk about male versus female gaze, females as consumers and a demographic, the portrayal of women characters in comics, and the like. Kate Leth is so smart, and dang articulate and knowledgeable, about this stuff!

There was a bit of discussion towards the end about what drove the people on the panel to create the titles they have, and it was great to hear the varied perspectives, because that means that there’s an enriched diversity of comics out there for female-identified audiences (especially younger ones!). I liked what Noelle Stevenson had to say about content – basically, not to shy away from things that have been typically portrayed as masculine (violence, for instance), but include those as well as more emotive stuff; this came up in a discussion of characters as well, that we need more female characters of all persuasions to balance out the inequity currently in comics. I’m really glad I sat in on this panel – while I haven’t done a great job at recapping it, there was a lot of inspiring stuff being discussed. It made me go in search of The Big Feminist BUT, too! I already read the Adventure Time and Lumberjanes titles & love them to bits. The panelists:

After the panels, I went into the Reference Library to browse. It was overwhelmingly crowded. And, I know how busy it gets, but it was a big mass of people to walk through, gosh… Downstairs it was really tough to get close to a lot of tables (like, three people deep). Luckily in the upstairs section there was a capacity limit, so once you lined up to get into that room it was much more manageable to browse.

Despite the hard work of browsing, I ended up picking up some totally rad stuff, primarily from female creators. I can’t wait to dig into the books! I had a quick flip through the Pugs Guide to Etiquette already and have read Cat People and I LOVE THEM. PS. I also flipped out when I realized the creator of Perry Bible Fellowship was there and had this strip (Unicorn Power) for sale, which is Adam’s most favourite. He even has the shirt.

In the evening was a screening of the Killing, prefaced by a discussion between Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Fatale) and Darwyn Cooke (Parker, Selina’s Big Score), hosted by guest interviewer Cameron Ashley (Crime Factor). They (mostly) discussed the noir genre & their interest in it, especially from a professional standpoint. They went off on tangents an awful lot, but at least it was entertaining. And the movie was really good! A little dated, but an excellent heist movie, and tense. I’d have never guessed it was a Kubrick.

I had to get on with weekend-y stuff on Sunday mostly, but I did meet up with my sweetie to sit in on the Adventure Time panel at the end of the day. Michael DeForge, Becky Driesdadt, Kate Leth, Jesse Moynihan, and Ryan North were all on the panel, a mix of folks who work on the comics and on the show, moderated by Frank Gibson. First of all they had a Pictionary-style draw-off:

Then it was time for audience questions. The perspective between the comics and show folks was an interesting one, especially when talking about creative control, and how much stories are planned out / tie into the other formats. What a lovely bunch of folks, and a nice way to end the festival!

See you again next year, TCAF – may I have more savings to spend, and more energy to navigate crowds/go to all the panels!

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