Friday, May 8, 2009

Toronto Comic Arts Festival - It is sooo on!

Man, this whole computer changeover has thrown my blogging out of whack. As you may have guessed, I tend toward longer posts that muse on a subject for a while. They tend to take time to build so I had a bunch of them on my now-dead laptop in various stages of readiness.

Then, poof! All gone.

However, there's nothing like a fresh start, right? I have a new laptop and am slowly getting back up to speed. So I'll do my best to have some fresh posting for you, starting right now.

Here's the first of three posts regarding this weekend's Toronto Comic Arts Festival. And please remember, I'm writing this pretty late so for once I have an actual excuse for my rampant typos.

The big news is that we are officially into the Toronto Comic Arts Festival as I type this. And even after losing my files, I managed to reconstruct a short piece in time to be included in the first ever, print version of the essential Canadian comic book news blog, Sequential. Check out Salgood Sam's preview here and pick up a copy if you're in Toronto this weekend.

Damn! That cover is so sweet I want to take it out for dinner, feed it too much wine and spend the whole night tracing its sumptuous lines.

TCAF kicked off last Saturday with the world wide phenomenon, Free Comic Book Day (another event that has taken off in a short period of time) and really kicked into gear mid-week. A full rundown on this weekend's main event multitude of panels and events can be found at and it's TCAF page. The Comics Journal's journalista news site calls the guest line-up "an astonishing collection of cartoonists" and they're right. Festival Director Chris Butcher's incredibly diverse collection of cartoonists, panels and interactive events has been lovingly put together with an eye to spreading a love of the form itself.

Let's face it, at least as far as English Canada and North America goes, we're pretty used to events geared around superhero characters, the superstar creators who work on them, and big promotional events like tie-in models, movies and comic book event giveaways. It's a ton of fun but very much oriented toward commerce. That's the reason I spend most of my time at these events at Artist Alley, where its more about connecting with a creator and sharing a love of comics. A sketch or comic bought there makes a real difference to people.

The growth of TCAF is nothing short of colossal. Since its humble beginnings in Trinity-St. Paul’s Church in the Annex here in Toronto back in 2003, there have only been three Festivals, each one larger than the last. From a tent covering Honest Ed's rear parking lot and a full block of Markham Street filled with comic-y goodness, Butcher and Peter Birkemoe of the Beguiling have found a way to really connect with Toronto communities and various organizations to create a palpable sense of synergy around the event.

This year the main Festival takes place in the Toronto Reference Library (which has recently launched a re:vitalize campaign to raise 35 million to revitalize the space over the next five years and link to the neighbourhood and the community even more, including an event space for large-scale community events and conferences, a coffee shop and reading lounge).

Even with the renovations somewhere in the future, it's terrific space for the event. It has a large, airy atrium and each floor is open the light shining in through the bank of skylight reaching skyward from the front entrance to the ceiling. And you can't knock any building with a digital waterfall, unless maybe you have no heart. My wife recently had occasion to visit the library and thought it looked magnificent. And she's spent a great deal of time in the Smithsonian Libraries along Washington DC's Capitol Hill mall. There are several levels for the various sections and small conference rooms available for the panels.

And, I suspect, a lot of annoyed people cramming for exams or checking out their family genealogy "Shhing" the comic fans with annoyed, pinched faces.

There are also a number of satellite events, book launches, gallery showings, and of course, this year's Doug Wright Awards, hosted by Don McKellar and including special presenter Stuart McLean of CBC Radio's Vinyl Cafe. the event also coincides with the long-awaited release of The Collected Doug Wright, along-time pet project of cartoonist and comics historian, Seth.

There's a lovely, and appropriately enticing, preview of the Doug Wright book at publisher Chris Oliveros' Drawn & Quarterly blog. And remember to congratulate Chris and his staff on DQ's twenty year anniversary this year.

And don't forget, there's something for everybody on both days, but Sunday is exceptionally good for families since it's sponsored by Owl Magazine and includes a lot of kid-friendly activities.

Maybe we'll see each other there!

Beavers Up!

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