by Kevin Czap
A worm’s eye view of the impressive architecture that houses the Toronto Comics Arts Festival, which I was very lucky to be able to go to the other weekend. It was especially nice since that weekend I turned 26, so the whole experience was a perfect birthday present for a comics lover such as myself. Since I’m about a week behind in writing this up, there are already many many excellent recaps of the show by folks more eloquent than I. One of the amazing things about this show is that so many of these folks all have the same things to say about it, so please take time to read some of these other blog posts, as they say most of what I would say anyway.
I got to meet a lot of the comics folks who consistently make my whole practice more meaningful. Of equal or greater importance were the people I was seeing again and who I’ve already established relationships with, namely my tablemates Niki Smith and Kiri Wolff (Niki’s scientist wife who is a much better huckster than the two of us comicers combined) and Jessi, Geneva and Eric from the Bowling Green Clique. I made new friends with some of the founding members of the Cloudscape Collective out of Vancouver, all very very nice (even when watching the Canucks lose). Hell, I got to hold a Doug Wright award. Some wild dreams came true that weekend, for sure.
Dullars and cents-wise, TCAF was very kind to me and Liz Suburbia, who I was representing at my table while she’s stuck in Virginia. The best performance in terms of sales out of any of the shows I’ve tabled at, by at least double. There was a constant influx of hip young Toronto kids that never really let up on either day. This meant that it was very difficult to find any time to get away from the table, and I imagine this was the case for most of the other artists working there. This means that most of the stuff I sold was to folks off the street, which is exciting. It was nice that so many Toronto-natives seemed so concerned that I have enough time to explore the city (which I didn’t…).
The organizers at the show were very efficient, nothing seemed to go wrong, at least from my point of view, and I felt like people actually cared about my well-being and comfort. This is not something I expect or feel entitled to, knowing how much work it takes to steer so big vessel so smoothly, but the fact that all the volunteers and Chris Butcher, specifically, were able to do all this and still make me feel like I belonged was very impressive. As I said before, if you’ve read any other TCAF reports, this will all sound very familiar. What can I add then? Well, as I was saying, it was my birthday and I had a generous birthday budget to enjoy the show with. I didn’t have much time to check out every table in-depth, let alone get everything that I may have wanted, but I couldn’t be happier with the things I did bring home with me. I’d like to share these with you:
(clockwise from top left)
Finnegan Strappe & the Dagger Gni’ehn – Jordyn Bochon: An excellent new book from Jordyn, whose work I’ve admired online for a while. I didn’t have any of her stuff previously, so I was more than happy to pick this up. Jordyn has a really distinctive style and her action panels are really interesting to stare at for long periods of time.
King City #7 – Brandon Graham: I didn’t think I would ever get this issue, a fate I had finally learned to accept. Praise due, now my set of King City is all but complete, except for the first issue. That one I’m not holding out any hope for. This one has the famous “feet-behind-the-curtain” trick.
Lose #3 – Michael DeForge: You know this is one of those comics you need to get immediately, right? DeForge continues to step up his game, bringing a beautiful mixture of the grotesque, abstracted and hilariously understated drawing and writing to this issue. The “Dog 2070” segment reads like an extension of Chris Ware’s recent “Lint,” but taken to a level of absurdity that transcends the comparison. I couldn’t stop laughing as soon as I started on this one page. Anyway, buy this before it’s sold out.
Rainbow & I – Jen Tong: I read this comic online and was blown away, knowing that I would pay any price to have a physical copy of it. Since there are only about 75 copies, I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen, so I’m really glad Jen Tong was at the show. One of my favorites of all time.
Tesseract Comic – Jessi Zabarsky: This comic was a gift from my good buddy Jessi. I’m always an enormous fan of anything she makes, but this… I am rendered speechless by this object… it’s a three dimensional comic that has interiors and exteriors that work simultaneously in space as well as as separate panels. Ever a giver, she’s made it so you can make one of your own by printing out the shape template.
Cyanide Milkshake #3 – Liz Suburbia: I’m so happy Liz was able to get this all together in time for TCAF. As wonderful as Sacred Heart has been, it’s also really great to see her have an excuse to stretch her legs now and then to get some silly beautiful comics out as well. Some really nice drawings in this one, and I was also surprised to see some of the stories from the second issue continue in this, including a story about her two dogs on their day out as a coupla punks. Hopefully both these issues will be available to order online soon. In the meantime, I’ll have them to sell at any show I’m at, so keep your eyes peeled.
Alien Invansion Vol. 1 – Lala Albert: Been a fan of Lala’s for over a year and a half by this point, and it’s exciting to have anything new that she does. This is a field guide take on her creepy alien chick drawings, with some bonus material in the back from other awesome ladies.
Open Country #1 – Michael DeForge: I went on a Michael DeForge binge, admittedly. I think I don’t want to miss anything, since I never got a copy of last year’s “SM.” Anyway, this comic is kind of unbelievable, and may have made a bigger impact personally than Lose #3 (maybe). The first in a series of a couple of art students experimenting with astral projection. The premise is striking to me, and I feel like this could be a really important series for comics (or at least in My Own Private Canon). I’m totally engrossed and can’t wait to follow the rest of the series.
Peter’s Muscle – Michael DeForge: With as much as I’ve heard about this comic, I’m surprised to learn it only came out a year ago. Great stuff, fits in pretty well with Lose #1.
The Girls’ Guide to Guys’ Stuff – various, Friend of Lulu: This was another gift, this time from Niki. It’s an older anthology she appeared in, along with a lot of the best female cartoonists working today. It was fun to go through and see how many of them were at the festival that weekend. I toyed with the idea of getting Katie Skelly to sign it for me, but decided against it.
Complex #1 – Chris Kuzma: Chris had some great stuff in Wowee Zonk #3 and so I was really excited to check out this comic. Not disappointed. Some really great cartooning in that John K vein, which means expressive nipples. I wish I had spent more time looking at the other stuff at his table.
Gaylord Phoenix – Edie Fake: Another book that I’ve waited a while in great anticipation for. Fake is really amazing, and this book is particularly interesting to see the progression from earlier, sparser work to his current gorgeously patterned and graphic imagery. Very recommended.
Garo Manga, The First Decade – curated by Ryan Holmberg: The designer in me loves Garo for the outstanding cover work. The history nerd in me is fascinated by the pivotal role the magazine played in the history of manga. This was a great find, especially since I was so enthralled by Holmberg’s take on the history of alternative manga on The Comics Journal.
The Turtle buys a pack of gum – Eric Kubli: The Turtle stars in a feature-length comic of his very own! Very silly.
Fortune comic – Geneva Hodgeson: We pressured Geneva to bring something to the show, and I’m glad that it actually worked. She was either selling these or giving them out, I’m not sure, but they are little fortunes that are tied shut. Extremely cute, and I believe were available in two flavors.
Raya and the Ghosts – Jessi Zabarsky: New beauty from Jessi that you can now purchase online to see for yourselves.
Root Rot – various, ed. by Anne Koyama and Michael Deforge: A wonderful new collection from the powerhouses at Koyama Press. Much has been hyped about this book, and I think it lives up to it. I love the colors on Joe Lambert‘s spread.
Remake Special – Lamar Abrams: Very cute and silly. I really dig Abrams‘ Mega Man style. Admittedly, I don’t have the first Remake, so this was my first quality interaction with Max Guy. For the squeamish out there, know that this comic is mostly about poop, but it’s also about believing in yourself and stuff.
Mitocondria – Ines Estrada: Love love love Ines‘ work, and I’m so excited to get this comic from her. It’s about a girl who’s boyfriend does a Freaky Friday with their dog. A++.
Kus! #7 – various, ed. by David Schilter and Sanita Muizniece: I did buy this for the Michael DeForge story, which is one of my favorites, but the rest of the book is really great as well. This along with Root Rot has introduced me to Derek M. Ballard‘s work, which is very nice.
Yoko Ono Survival Flux – Eric Kostiuk Williams: This was a new discovery, one of two comics I got from Eric about Yoko Ono. Ono is one of my favorite artists, so I felt a kinship with this dude who obviously also has strong feelings about her work.
Foie Gras #1 – Edie Fake (and The Joy of Cooking): A freebie that came with my purchase of Gaylord Phoenix. Porn set to the key of food.
Gang Bang Bong #2 – various, ed. by Ginette Lapalme and Ines Estrada: The second installment of this great multinational anthology. Gang Bang Bong served as a model/inspiration for our own PUPPYTEETH collection actually, believe it or not, and it’s exciting to see that they also went the bigger-better route for their second issue. It’s interesting to see Austin English‘s current style in black and white, considering how painterly it’s been… Really liked the submissions by Mickey Z, Lizz Hickey and the enigmatic “J.C. the 54th.” Anyone know who this is?
Secret Prison #4 – various, ed. by Ian Harker and Art Baxter: Filling out my Secret Prisoncollection. Nice work from these dudes.
Secret Prison #3 – various, ed. by Ian Harker: Ditto.
Orc Stain #3 – James Stokoe: The missing issue in my run of Orc Stain. Now it all makes sense! I’ve tried to keep my fan gushings at bay throughout this post, but James was such an amazingly sweet human being, I was really touched at how nice and soft spoken he was. I couldn’t believe he recognized me from the internet and seemed genuinely pleased to meet me. A really nice experience.
Parade of Humanity – Michael Comeau: Free porno broadsheet that Anne Koyama gave me. Filthy.
Garden – Yuichi Yokoyama: I didn’t get this at TCAF, I actually ordered it online before I left and so I got it pretty soon after I got home. I really loved Travel, and while I’m still in the process of reading this one, I’m really fascinated by it. Yokoyama is amazing.
Cut – Eric Kostiuk Williams: Yoko’s Cut Piece ranks high on my list of most mind-blowing artworks, and so I really had to get this comic. Here, Williams is relating the piece to a painful personal relationship. Poetic and dreamlike.
Things that I would have liked to get but did/could not:
Thickness – various, ed. by Ryan Sands and Michael DeForge: This was a book that was on my “must-buy” list (I make a lot of lists, man) for the show, but it was sold out before I could get the dullars out of my wallet. I did get to flip through a copy though, and the copy I ordered should have shipped, so this problem will cease to exist very soon. This collection is gonna make you sweat-a.
I Will Bite You – Joseph Lambert: Joseph Lambert is so amazing and I somehow must have missed this at the Secret Acres table. Dang.
That Night in June – Emily Carroll: Niki told me that Emily was selling mini comics, and somehow that didn’t compel me to launch out of my standing position (I didn’t sit the whole time!) to go buy it up. I never even got to her table, which she shared with long time favorites Vera Brosgol and Jen Wang (I’ve been following those guys for nearly a decade, back to the Pants Press days. Can’t believe I missed the opportunity). Anyway, Emily Carroll is special, I think. Not only does she make gorgeous images that make you weep from beauty, but she’s also keenly attuned to the comics language. She takes to the medium like a duck to water, but even that isn’t enough for her – she is an accomplished formal experimenter. This is a lethal combination, and all the praise the many corners of the comics internet heap on her is warranted. Anyway, not sure if this will ever be available online, or if our paths will cross again in the near future, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to read this. Fingers crossed.
etc, etc, etc.
One of the major reasons I enjoy going to shows is the ability to buy comics directly from the artist, especially those who don’t have a big distribution network set up. The internet has certainly helped folks get their minis out and around, but the benefit of festivals and cons is picking up the rare small item that you can’t really get elsewhere. So I usually skip the D&Q, Fantagraphics and Top Shelf tables since I know there’s a much higher chance I can get those from the comics shop. This other stuff? Might be impossible to get anywhere else.