Me and my brother drove about 12 hours from Boston to Toronto a few weeks back to attend the Toronto Comics Art Festival (or TCAF for short) and hang out with sometimes site writer Rick Vance. Here are some thoughts, observations, and reviews of what I purchased:
My brother does not respect the posted speed limits of any state or country. He also does not appreciate Canadian drivers and their general non-asshole driving style.
The border crossing was fairly painless, except for when we tried to explain what we were doing in Canada. When the guard seemed to confuse a “comic convention” with a convention of comedians i corrected him by saying “no, the funny books, not the funny people” because i am an idiot.
There are no tolls in Ontario. None.
Rick Vance has free beer at his house. Free. Beer.
TCAF DAY ONE
I went to TCAF with US currency (a.k.a. real money) and just had all the american dealers there (aka 90% of them) give me change in Canadian (a.k.a. fake money) so i did not have to pay to exchange currencies. This system worked well.
by Dash Shaw
'3 New Stories' is a comic which explores the juxtaposition and superimposition of images within the structure of text/drawing based comics (a.k.a. traditional comics) as a means of underlining the thematic nature of it's stories. Similar to Blaise Larmee’s recent work on Tumblr, where Larmee utilizes photo’s of teenage girls as both a coloring element for the art and as an image to haunt the background of his GIF art, Shaw codes the pages of '3 New Stories' with layers of visual subtext that work as an interesting color palette and also through their existence as “images”, create additional layers of meaning to each page and the narrative as a whole.
The first of Shaw’s stories,'Object Lesson', is about a recently out of work criminal investigator (closely resembling Sherlock Holmes) who finds out his High School degree is invalid because his class did not meet the required number of school days to graduate. His lack of a degree makes him unable to find work, forcing him to go back to school to finish out the remainder of his school year, where he finds several of his old classmates in a similar predicament.
In contrast to this failure to change, we have our protagonist attending his first day of school, where he is exposed to it’s new for profit nature, book rentals and meal plans. “Public schools have really improved since our time” he is informed by a cab driver dropping him off for his first day, a thought often repeated by his former/new classmates. After a few days of attending classes though he starts to wonder “This isn't how i remember High School at all...most of the school work is just filing and office work. It is as if we’re paying them to let us work for them. For no pay.” It is from these sentiments that our detective begins to investigate and unravel the new structure of work and school, the new form of beggars and bank robbers lampooned in the book’s opening pages are shown to be the interns of today. Graduates that upon completing their degree must go back to school to finish out their missing semester performing free office work for massive corporations.
Our hero, while discovering this system, is unwilling to overthrow it. Instead he finds a job in the school with gold plated lockers teaching World History to forty year olds and living comfortably, because he was able to, like Uncle Scrooge, monetize his education.
The final story, 'Bronx Children’s Prison', is about, as the title suggest, a prison for small children. These children are forced to work in the fields or risk harsh spankings, eventually these punishments reach the point that the prisons population stages an attempted break out, in which all but one is gunned down. Each page is colored by a unique set of dot matrices, from general polka dots to jelly beans to Jawbreakers, these images create an almost pop aesthetic to the the story which makes the harsh treatment of the children even more disturbing. The final page of the story though offers a sliver of hope. In a bit of self promotion, Shaw allows one child to get over the wall, finding freedom “ No friends left, but i’ll find more.” which is followed, on the book's final page, by a full page advertisement for his new book 'New School' which features an illustration of a boat, leaving the reader hoping the child is on board (I guess you’ll have to read 'New School' to find out though).
by Mickey Zacchilli
I have heard Mickey Z refer to it as a cyclical wandering story, stuff keeps happening but it’s all happened before. That idea really highlights the stories existence as a romance book, which have the tendency to repeat and fall back in on themselves because of the limits of the “will they or won’t they” trope. Anyways, some guy talks to a cat and then some lady rips a person limb from limb. Also, other shit. I like this book.
The Beguiling. The store actually inhabits two floors, the first is more of the “book” section, with a collection of just about everything in and out of print you could ever want. My brother commented that he could drop a $100 there without thinking, and he’s not a big comics guy to start with. The store is also littered with original art that makes you want to cry, i saw a Mazzucchelli Batman sketch just tucked away in a corner like it wasn't hot shit for example.
Honest Ed’s which i guess is a giant outlet store. The alleyway next to it had neon lights dubbing it Honest Ed’s Alley Way and this did not reduce my fears of walking down it.
After staring at the Hernandez brothers for five minutes i went up to the first floor and finally got the WiFi on my phone to work (The WiFi at the library was really patchy, but a room full of comic fans will do that to any server). I was greeted by 2-3 tweets asking about my whereabouts. My favorite was a concerned DM from Joey Aulisio “Shawn, you alright? people are looking for you” That dude sure does care about me. #Swoon
I saw Box Brown taking hits out of a flask at his booth, the Retrofit booth was across the aisle from Picture Box so i was expecting a Brown/Nadel throw down later that day, but sadly that never occurred. But I did get 'Snake Oil' #7 from Charles Forsman....
Snake Oil #7 (Retrofit)
by Charles Forsman
My brother said this book needed another page of the main character getting punched in the face, i’m not sure if it’s because he just hated the main character or didn't feel the events following the beating were in keeping with what we were shown. Besides that, he enjoyed it.
. Me insulting various comics people and him politely nodding his head.
TCJ, i pointed to this particular exchange:
“MCFARLANE: ...My only point was, that out of those 200 kids, eight of those guys are going to turn into Fantagraphics fans someday. But because you insulted them, one of them might not. That’s your audience.
GROTH: I’ll accept the odds, yeah.
MCFARLANE: Whether you want to accept it or not, they, and the guys that are buying 'Spawn' today are your future audience, and you’re going after guys who are actually going to be your allies some day.”
I found this really interesting in the case of Forsman and the current crop of alt-comic artists emerging right now whom Fantagraphics would possibly wish to publish at some point who have some early Image influence. This was followed up by talking about Stephen Platt and Tim Vigil.
DAY ONE - POST SHOW
The awards were fine, little long but i assume every awards show is. If the whole fire alarm thing didn't happen it probably would have been quite a briskly paced show. The highlight was, as everyone else said, the David Collier speech which went through about five stages of funny/not funny/ funny again.
TCAF DAY TWO
We showed up late for the second day of TCAF and left early, it was more of a “oh shit i forgot to get this” day. I got a Patrick Kyle book that I've wanted for a while but refused to pay the shipping to import to the US, and Tin Can Forest’s 'Wax Cross'. Those two guys were in this weird side room on the first floor i didn't know existed until i stumbled on it trying to get a WiFi signal on my phone.
by Tin Can Forest
Didn't understand it, but it looks pretty.
We went to the panel about the death of comics blogging which was mostly asinine. Someone gave a speech in the form of a question which made me want to drink, sadly the bar which the panel was housed in didn't seem to be serving at the time. Tom Spurgeon seemed to possess the correct level of disdain for the panel, although i learned he had woken up a few minutes before the panel later. But i’m a fan of contempt for any reason.
In contrast to that panel i really enjoyed the Dash Shaw talk. He has some interesting idea’s about art and his own work.
I think that was it for Sunday at TCAF...yep.
DAY TWO - POST SHOW