Frequent readers of this blog are no doubt aware that we at The Spectatorial love comics. And while not all comics are speculative—just as not all comics are about super heroes—some of the finest spec fic out there does indeed exist in the panels of comic books and graphic novels. And many of the best comic books and graphic novels can be found at TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
TCAF is an annual public literary festival that takes place in the Toronto Reference Library. The atrium of the library, a massive space, is transformed into an exhibiting space for comics: big publishers, small presses, and comic book stores. There are also readings, presentations, gallery shows, and much, much more.
Many artists are launching their books at this year’s festival, including Dakota McFadzean, who is releasing a collection of his Dailies helpfully entitled Don’t Get Eaten by Anything. Chip Zdarszy, co-creator of the sci-fi comic Sex Criminals, will also be there, and if you haven’t picked up a copy of that comic yet, now’s an excellent time.
Then there is SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki who c0-created the graphic novel Skim with Mariko Tamaki. Personally, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! We all know that teenage angst is best portrayed in a school for the mutated and magical. And we all agree that high school would’ve been much more fun if we had had paranormal powers while we were there.
Both traditional print and webcomics are exhibited at TCAF, existing peacefully side-by-side. Webcomic artists bring glorious print editions of the stories that so many people read online. Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is a favourite of mine (super heroes combined with swords and sorcery charm me every time). I have had the pleasure to meet the creators of many webcomics that I adore—and I have been embarrassingly star-struck every time. Go say hello to Aaron Diaz, of Dresden Codak fame; I promise you will not be half as awkward as I am every year!
But you don’t have to dash off to join the signing lines of famous artists or only talk to the creators whose work you know. Browse around to discover something new! One of the greatest joys of TCAF is the chance to discover a new comic series or graphic novel by simply going over to a display that catches your eye. Artists are generally perfectly happy to tell you anything you want to know about their work, and there’s nothing quite like the spark that lights up in their eyes when you ask: “What’s your comic about?” This moment is unique. Even the most magical bookstore in town (and we have a few) can’t show you the author’s joy at your interest in their book.
Then there’s the people-watching. Comic book nerds tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves—and T-shirts and hats and letter bags and hoodies. You will see a beautiful variety of people: parents with toddlers on their back and comics in hand, art students, bookish types who look like librarians, actual librarians, folks giving a nod to cosplay with a pair of fake ears (usually cat ears), and older folks who probably read the first Sandman comic when it came out in 1989. Everybody you can imagine reads comics. Gaze around you, take in the crowd—and the next time somebody tries to tell you that comics are for kids, you tell them what you saw in that library atrium.
So now that your pulse is racing at the thought of attending TCAF, get thee to the Toronto Reference Library! TCAF is a free public event and only happens once a year. No matter if you can only make it out for one day or both (May 9 and 10), you will find that the wide world of comics will welcome you with open arms.
For more info about TCAF, and the events leading up to the festival weekend, check out their beautiful website.
-contributed by Miranda Whittaker