Friday, May 29, 2009

Master of Time!

Between the loss of my laptop's hard drive a few weeks ago, complete with a whack of partially constructed posts on more historical canuck comics stuff, and writing my tail off in an attempt to secure my next gig, posting remains a little... off-schedule.

To say the least.

However, I thought you might enjoy the small piece I wrote for the first ever print issue of Sequential, based on the Canadian Comics and Culture website of the same name. Max Douglas, aka Salgood Sam, printed it up to giveaway to the public attending last month's Toronto Comic Arts Festival. And a damn fine publication it was!

Max also did up crazy artwork for the piece of a warped cartoon mouse (No relation, Disney lawyers) being stretched through an hourglass.

But I don't have a copy of that.

So here's Max's sumptuous cover!


You are about to become a master of time.

I kid you not. A master. Of time.

Comics screw with time, man. And they give you the power to do it too.

That’s right. For a brief, shining moment that lasts as long as you choose, comics allow you to control and manipulate time to enjoy a story on your terms. As you process the comics’ special alchemy of words (or symbols) and art you find your subjective view of time changes from panel to panel and page to page.

Picture it. Comics are the only medium in which you can be subjectively in the past, present and future all at the same time. While borders may separate the actions found within panels, each drawing divided into an individual moment, you still see the whole page or the entire screen. You see the action you’re reading now, you see the action preceding it, and you see what’s coming. And you get to decide to how long it takes to get there, or whether to go there at all. You may stop or even reverse time, flipping ahead or back at will.

Even a single panel cartoon can accomplish this effect. Picture one of many brilliant Gary Larson Far Side panels. Two bears stand over a fallen birdwatcher and thumb through his wallet like a pair of gangbanging thugs. In one image Larson conveys the past (the bears mugging the tourist), captures the present (they look over their booty while gazing around warily for potential witnesses) and invites the viewer into possible futures (any number of ways the bears might use their stolen money and credit cards). These three concurrent facets of time combine to form one complete, hilarious narrative.

A comic artist can try to slow down or speed up time and guide you through a story, but in the end you are the decision-maker. A photograph captures a single moment in time, freezing it for endless study and enjoyment. A film may play tricks with time, but you are always propelled forward through it, following a course laid out for you without deviation. Even when the narrative plays with chronology you are still guided on a predetermined path. But you and a comic must work together.

When people argue about what comics are, more often than not they are actually defending their preferred medium for viewing comics: web comics, monthly magazine-style comics, graphic novels, newspaper strips, etc. Or they may praise their ideal subject matter: muscle-bound superheroes, animated carton animals, fantasy quests or even the twisted obsessions of a favoured, underground cartoonist.

Years ago, Pierre Fournier, a Quebec grandmaster of comics, expressed confusion to me over all the subcategories ascribed to comics in North America. “In Quebec, comics are comics. They are one thing. It doesn’t matter if they are in a book or on the Internet or in a graphic novel.”

Take the time to really look around TCAF today and you cannot help but learn that comics are, indeed, many things. Some are painted, some are drawn, some are hand-stapled and coloured with pencil crayons, others are slick, glossy pieces of high-entertainment, some are even therapy. They all combine elements of the visual and literary arts in an utterly unique form. A million different approaches united by one thing… They make you an all-powerful master of time!

Use your power wisely or frivolously.

But do use it.

Beavers Up!

See? Comics screw with time! From
Bryan Lee O'Malley's contribution to TCAF's
Free Comic Book Day publication this past year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Toronto Comic Arts Festival: National Post Creator Q&A Links, Pt. 3

More Paul work by Michel Rabagliati

Man, whoever said just putting up a bunch of links instead of writing a post is a good way to save time and stay current was soooo wrong.

Here at last are the final links to the National Post writer Mark Medley's cartoonist questionnaire sent out to participants of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival two weeks ago. Sorry for the delay.

As well, lots of post TCAF reports and comments have been popping up lately. Comic Book Resources Robot 6 pointed me to this Publisher's Weekly report, Now Magazine, a National Post roundup, the Post's coverage of the author roundtable at Harbourfront with Yoshiro Tatsumi, Adrian Tomine and Seth at Harbnourfront. The Toronto Star had a preview, a who to look for article and an interview with Tatsumi.

Robot 6 also pointed out artists who have blogging their experiences there, including Scott McLoud, who was kind enough to include more artist links. Deb Akoi and the Torontoist have photo blogs up. As well, the Same Hat manga blog has been posting about their trip to TCAF.

The absolutely essential Canadian website Sequential (which debuted it's first ever print edition at TCAF) has a typically thorough round-up of more Fest coverage here. There was so much they had to break post the links in four parts (so far). Check out Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Sequential also links to the fantastic Jamie Colville's MP3's of the panel discussions here and pointed readers to an Inkstuds recording of the post-Kirby panel. One stop shopping!

Back to regular blogging next time.

Michel Rabagliati. The Harvey Award winning artist behind the semi-autobiographical Paul graphic novels (Paul In The Country, Paul Has A Summer Job, Paul Moves Out,and his latest, Paul Goes Fishing) is one of the few Quebec artists to earn significant recognition in France, partially due to his European comic style, apparently inspired by Asterix, Tintin,and the comics of Spirou et Fantasio.

Paul Rivoche is a freelance designer, illustrator and co-creator of Mr. X. His latest comic work appeared in a recent issue of DC Comics' The Spirit. He and Ty Templeton have also teamed up to create the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop, to provide instruction in the comic arts. Details are still up in the air since they only announced the initiative at TCAF but the first classes should be running by Fall.

The Crusaders commission by Paul Rivoche.

Last month at the last Toronto Fan Appreciation Con, Paul also did a terrific commission for me of The Crusaders, a sci-fi comic series from Anglo American Comics way back in the forties. The Canadian Whites never looked so good. I promised to scan it for Paul and send him a copy but my scanner is too small for it. However, he did a lovely job of colouring the digital pic he took at the Con. I found it posted on his website, Check it out. It's a thing of beauty!

Steve Rolston. The writer and artist of One Bad Day has also collaborated with some of the hippest comic writers around. He's produced MEK with Warren Ellis, Escapists with Brian K. Vaughn, Degrassi: Extra Credit with J. Torres and Emiko Superstar with Mariko Tamaki. His next project will be Ghost Projekt from Oni Press.

Florrent Ruppert, the French co-author of Panier de Singe, Safari Monseigneur, La Poubelle de la Place Vendôme and GoGo Club with his partner Jérôme Mulot.

Dash Shaw got double coverage from Post. The Richmond, Va, artist of the Eisner Award nominated Mother's Mouth and the serialized online Bodyworld, answered Medley's questionnaire and the Books section published a review of his massive, 720-page graphic opus, The Bottomless Belly-Button.

Sparkplug Comic Books has been carving a niche publishing up and coming cartoonists since 2002. In addition to the Marketing and Publicity Coordinator Shannon O'Leary's answers to the questionnaire, you can find more info at the Sparkplug website.

Valerie Sury. This French illustrator, painter and sculptor's virtual gallery can be found at her website. Her sister, comic artist Caroline Sury of Stripburger and Bebe 2000, runs the underground publishing house "Le Dernier Cri" together with her partner Pakito Bolino in Marseille.

Jillian and Mariko Tamaki were featured in the print edition of the Post, discussing their work Skim (a comic, then a play, then the graphic novel. Mariko also responded to Medley's questions.
More about her at

Diana Tamblyn is another comic artist hailing from my hometown of London, Ontario.the Ignatz-nominated cartoonist has made a name for herself drawing lovely mini-comics like The Rosie Stories and There You Were. I'm looking forward to when she finishes her full-length graphic novel From Earth To Babylon: The Story of Gerald Bull and the Supergun. Now that's a title! Tamblyn is also quite active in fandom and has helped shepherd the Joe Shuster Awards through their many growing pains.

Jason Thompson. This journalist and manga critic recently authored Manga: The Complete Guide and the forthcoming graphic novel, King of RPGs with Victor Hao.

J. Torres is the King of all-ages and youth-oriented comics scribes and the Prince of creator-owned work, having co-created Alison Dare and Jason and the Argobots as well as writing for Teen Titan's Go! and the Degrassi: Extra Credit graphic novels. Other creator-owned work like the Copybook Tales, Days Like This, Scandalous, Love As A Foreign Language and the upcoming Dead Goombas and Lola: A Ghost Story from Oni Press. You can follow him on his blog.

From Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings.

Adrian Tomine is the much-beloved indie creator of Optic Nerve and graphic novels like Summer Blonde, Shortcomings, Scrapbook and Sleepwalk and Other Stories.

James Turner created the long running Rex Libris about a space-faring, immortal librarian (a description which doesn't even come close to doing its humour justice) and Nil: A Land Beyond Belief from Slave Labor Graphics.

Jason Turner's True Loves graphic novel is currently getting the sequel treatment. The collection is out soon but you can also see it online at True Loves 2. You can also check his blog for more deets.

Jose Villarrubia is a Maryland art professor whose secret identities include a photographer, illustrator and a colorist with extensive mainstream comic credits. He has collaborated with Alan Moore on three graphic novels/books: Voice of the Fire, The Mirror Of Love and the as yet unreleased The Book of Copulations, "an introduction to magic in everyday life". I found an old interview with him at the Comicbook Bin that shed some light on his career so far.

Eric Wight, the writer and illustrator of Frankie Pickle, from Simon and Schuster.

Chip Zdarsky (Steve Murray). The utterly unhinged brain behind Prison Funnies and Monster Cops made a splash with his first two issues then was snapped up by the National Post as an illustrator in residence (along with Kagan Mcleod). Some of his work includes Extremely Bad Advice and the still unfinished ComicsTrip. That put Chip and Kagan's comics waaaaaay off-schedule (Kagan's is the amazing Infinite Kung Fu).

The Post rewarded him with so much work he recently recently blew out his drawing arm. But I still noticed him wincing out out sketches for the ladies at TCAF. Get well soon Chipper. And if you're offended, do not check out his website's hilarious Marvel Comics Idea Journal in which he imagines the entire Marvelverse shtupping.

Zen Rankin. This Toronto illustrator's comic work includes Action Satisfaction Supreme and Ed and Red's Comic Strip. He's also a member of Sketchkrieg!

Jim Zubkavich. This Seneca College Professor of animation put his pen where his mouth is with Makeshift Miracle.

Beavers Up!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Toronto Comic Arts Festival: National Post Creator Q&A Links, Pt. 2


There was so much Toronto Comic Arts Festival coverage posted at The Afterword, the National Post's book blog, that I just didn't have time to post all the artist links before the dang event was over! So instead of this being pre-event homework, let's consider this a chance to find out more about the artists you met or missed this weekend.

Many of these quickie "interviews" are replies to Post writer Mark Medley's pre-show questionnaire sent to many of the participating artists. It's fun to see where the answers are similar and where they diverge. I think it's also safe to say that artists for whom English is a second language or those unfamiliar with North American pop culture are at a disadvantage. But every artist who replied shows they've got game.

Now where were we? I think we hit the "L"s.

Dave Lapp is the man at the drawing board for Drop-In, a new graphic novel from Toronto's Conundrum Press about Lapp's experiences as an art teacher at a Toronto, inner-city drop-in centre in Regent Park. Drop-In, is getting a lot of good press like this review over at the And I'll bet a true cartoonist like Lapp loved being reviewed right along with Albert Chartier's une piquante petite brunette.

Chartier is a grandmaster of the form and Lapp has been plying his trade since at least high school. A fact which I can attest to since he and I went to the same high school. He's also collected his Georgia Strait comic strip, Children of the Atom, online.

Jeff Lemire. Another Londoner making graphic waves after his Essex Country trilogy of graphic novels achieved fame. His new Vertigo graphic novel, The Nobody , hits shelves in a few months. Then his new, ongoing series, Sweet Tooth, debuts in September.

Troy Little, the creator of Chiaroscuro and Angora Napkin.

Jason Loo. Sketchkrieg and the AWOL'd graphic novels.

Steve MacIsaac. This transplanted Canadian cartoonist lifts his mighty brush and pens to produce Shirtlifter.

John Malloy, of the memorable graphic novel, Amnesia.

Brian McLachlan. Author of The Princess Planet.

Carla Speed McNeil. Self-Publisher of the long-running sci-fi comic series, Finder.

Tara McPherson was one of the more famous artists in attendance (in terms "art world" acceptance. Her personal website is at

Erika Moen is the female force behind DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary. You can also check out her online portfolio.

Evan Munday. Stripmalling and Quarterlife Crisis.

Tom Neely, the L.A. based creator of The Blot and the forthcoming The Wolf.

Ryan North is the deranged brain behind Dinosaur Comics, which has been making funny out of the same strip of dinosaur pictures for years! Truly, the zen of hilarity.

Bryan Lee O’Malley. Who isn't talking about the creator of Scott Pilgrim, Monica Battle and Lost At Sea?

Jim Ottaviani and his G.T. Labs publishing site have making terrific graphic novels about scientists and history for years. After books like Two Fisted Science, Dignifying Science and Levitation, his latest, T-Minus, just hit the shoelves.

Ramon Perez. This Toronto-born artist draws Butternut Squash, Kukuburi, the She's My Kind of Girl pin-up site and has worked for DC Comics most recently on a Wildcat three-parter.

Rina Piccolo, the hilarious cartoonist behind Tina's Groove, a long-running newspaper strip.

Dang... Still more to come.

Thank you National Post!!!

Beavers Up!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The coverage this year's Toronto Comic Arts Festival event has been getting would be almost obscene if it weren't so dang cool. Even event founder/organiizer Chris Butcher is torn between apologizing and screaming in excitement at his blog!

Check just about any comics-related blog and you'll see discussions about it. Inkstuds is a comic book radio show and podcast out of Vancouver. Their TCAF preview was particularly inspiring, especially according to British webcomic creator Mark Ellersby, who got so jazzed by it he booked a last minute flight to Canada to attend!

But special attention must be paid to the overwhelming coverage provided by the National Post. The Post has made itself TCAF central with coverage every day this week in both its print and online editions.

First of all, there was a lovely, short piece May 2 on Christopher Butcher and the history of TCAF itself. It's nice to see Chris and Beguiling owner Peter Birkemoe get some public due for thier tremendous efforts.

A background piece piece on Scott Pilgrim's journey from Bryan Lee O'Malley's head onto our movie screens (relating to my astounding behind the scenes experience on the Scott Pilgrim set related on can be found here.

I'd like to individually to every artist article the Post has put out lately, but there literally is a mountain of them! In addition to larger pieces on the big names, the newspaper also sent out a questionnaire to almost every participant. As a result, a large portion of TCAF's line-up gets a advance promotion.

For simplicity, I did a "browse by tags" search under TCAF and got pages of hits. Here's that search result for you.

And while you're surfing, you can get a peek at Toronto comic artist Steve Manale's apartment in this week's Eye Magazine "My Place" feature.

And finally, don't forget it's Ontario Graphic Novel Month! According to the Open Book Toronto website and thier partners, the Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario. It's all about the synergy!

WHAZAMO! Ontario Graphic Novel Month is an online comics celebration curated by Vepo Studios for Open Book: Toronto, created to showcase the talented graphic novelists and illustrators published by the Ontario publishers, as well as draw attention to the new stars of the Canadian graphic novel and comic book scene.
Best... Comic... Month... EVER!!!!!!!

Beavers Up!

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!