Saturday, May 9, 2009

Toronto Comic Arts Festival '09

I don't go to comics conventions. When I was a kid, I used to attend the semi-regular ones that were held at OCA (before they added the D), but they were for the large part sedate gatherings of fans and creators. Actually, I really liked those shows. Back in those days, I used to enjoy digging out favourite issues whose creators would be in attendance, so I could get them to sign them for me. I also used to carry around a little autograph book that artists would draw little head-sketches in for me.

I stopped going to these shows when they became insanely busy. For about fifteen years, I've not bothered at all, until two years ago, when I went to TCAF. It was a revelation - a comic show that I wasn't ashamed to be seen in. The exhibitors were clearly held to a high level of quality, and the customers were better dressed than what I remembered from the OCA days. These were cool people, buying and selling cool comics.

This year, TCAF is bigger and better than ever. Holding it at the Toronto Reference Library was an ingenious idea, because it allowed for a number of things to happen. First, there was plenty of space (although the crowd was huge). The layout was cramped in a few places, but the large atrium kept the event from feeling claustrophobic. Secondly, it allowed people to see how extensive the Toronto Public Library's graphic novel holdings are. I think I might have to go back from time to time to read a few books that are priced out of my budget.... Thirdly, having the event in such a public, and well-used, place gave a lot of 'non-comics' people some exposure to the art form at its very best. I'm sure that more than a few people ended up buying their first indie comic today, and hopefully they'll be back for more.

There was a very nice mix of creators and publishers. I bought eight books for myself, and enjoyed the chance to chat with James Turner, Jim Monroe, and Rick Spears (Pirates of Coney Island will finish, some day...). Two years ago, it was easy to get a chance to speak to Becky Cloonan, but now her star has risen so high that there was a permanent crowd around her table. It's all good though, because I was able to buy a copy of Pixu II while she was at a panel.

I didn't attend any of the panels or workshops - it's not my thing, but they did have an impressive array of choices available for people who like that kind of thing.

If I were to have any complaint, it would be that I would have liked to have seen more deals. I know I'm cheap, but if the artist is selling their own work, I think they would perhaps sell a few more copies by discounting the price just a bit. They are still making off with more cash than they would get from a store sale, and I know I would have bought a lot more. Two years ago, First Second was doing this, but they didn't this year (actually, I don't think they had a table this year, but I did see where Emmanuel Guibert was supposed to be).

All in all, this is a fantastic show. I'm excited to start working through my purchases (although my 'to read' pile is getting pretty big, so it might be a while before I get to some of them).

If you are in the Toronto area, and can make it to the Reference Library on Sunday, I say go. You won't be sorry.

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