Gosh That’s a Lot of Comics … Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2017
Before we start, I have edited this story a bit as it seems like many folks are pumping up shows like the Toronto Comic Arts Festival by taking cheap shots at the larger, more commercial comic conventions. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t guilty of that as well. I personally love a huge variety of comic related shows from small local cons to epic mega-shows like Fan Expo Canada. That is why each year I look at the upcoming comic convention schedule to plan out where I would like to go. I can’t do them all so some years I hit as many of the smaller shows as possible, other years I like to tackle the aforementioned third largest comic convention in North America, Fan Expo Canada. While looking at my options I always stumble upon the Toronto Comic Arts Festival on the calendar but have never attended. What a massive mistake on my part as the Toronto Comic Arts Festival is a brilliant place to go if you are a comic reader like me.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (or TCAF) is like a massively expanded Artist Alley. Hundreds of artists, writers and creators bring their comics, graphic novels and original artwork to a two-day exhibition and vendor fair; not just from Canada but from around the world. While I love a Star Wars t-shirt and comic collectibles as much as the next guy, at TCAF that isn’t the focus. Missing are the celebrity guests and vendors with walls of merchandise, no comic dealers with long boxes of back issues. For that I’ll be heading to Fan Expo Canada later in the summer. What I did find were a multitude of comic creators enthusiastically willing to chat with you about their love and passion for their work. The festival also features events like readings, interviews, panels, workshops, gallery shows, and art installations. While a lot of the vendors feature comics with definite mature themes the festival caters to all ages with a dedicated children’s section with books and creators more suitable to the younger crowd.
The main event happens in the Toronto Reference Library with displays and tables arranged around the multi-level library. You navigate around book stacks and gorgeous seating areas. Many vendors have tables that overlook the large balconies. Events have spilled over to other buildings in the area as well, all within a few moments of walking while you take in the Toronto vibe.
As part of their 25th Anniversary, Image Comics took over the Masonic Temple and featured tables manned by Image creators like Charlie Adlard (Walking Dead), Ivan Brandon (Black Cloud), Valentine DeLandro (Bitch Planet), Babs Tarr (Motor Crush, Batgirl), Cameron Stewart (Motor Crush, Batgirl), Brendan Fletcher (Motor Crush, Batgirl), Karl Kerschl (Gotham Academy), Jeff Lemire (Royal City, Descender), Jason Latour (Southern Bastards), Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), Jim Zub (Wayward, Glitterbomb) and so many more. All available for signatures, chats and some of the artists were sketching; in addition, Image setup panel discussions, special signings and live drawing events.
Of course, Canadian publishers were also in attendance with Chapterhouse Publishing having a booth with comics, novels and collected editions. The table was staffed by all manner of Chapterhouse creators. I was fortunately enough to have some fun little conversations with Jason Loo (Pitiful Human-Lizard), Andrew Wheeler (Freelance) and Andrew Thomas (Freelance, Captain Canuck). AH Comics was present having just released volume two of Moonshot, an Indigenous comics collection. Members of the Canadian Comic Book Alliance were also in abundance, Expired Comics, Great North Comics, Novel Comics and Cuckoo’s Nest Press all with ample examples of their books for sale.
I will be coming to this event every year from here on in. I spoke with so many creators with such a huge diversity in product and I know I ran out of time to see everything. More than half the books I bought for my personal reading were new ones I had previously heard nothing about. If you are looking for some fantastic comics head to TCAF next year. If Toronto is too far away then track down a festival like TCAF in your area or spend some quality time in the Artist Alley section of a convention near you.
And did I mention admission to TCAF was free!
Yes, there is no charge to attend. So much comic fun and enthusiasm all bundled into one event and no admission cost so you can spend that money finding a new comic or graphic novel. Hope to see you there in 2018!
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2017
Main Exhibition: Saturday May 13 and Sunday May 14
Free to Attend – All Ages