This weekend marked the 10th anniversary of TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Every year, an exclusive number of comic creators and exhibitors gather to showcase their wares to enthusiastic crowds eager to check out what’s available. The show is put on at the Toronto Reference Library, which is easily one of the coolest venues in the city. Multiple floors filled with conference rooms and books at Yonge and Bloor creates the perfect atmosphere to check out new things.
The free admission aspect of the show draws in a massive number of people who are either big fans of the show, the guests, or just want to check out what’s happening. Accessibility is easily one of TCAF’s biggest draws as an attendee. It gives people wanting to try comics the opportunity to explore the sometimes insular world without having to pay a steep fee like at bigger convention. Plus the lack of cosplayers and such (even though it can be a very cool and large part of “bigger” shows), gives an air of normalcy, so attendees won’t feel like they’re not a part of what’s going on. The line-ups were pretty minimal and even when there was a line, it was always a worthwhile wait.
TCAF can still be an overwhelming show though, despite wonderful volunteers and efforts to keep certain areas down to a certain number of people at any given time. The “free” part of the show is great but does tend to draw in a large number of people. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but aisles can get crowded and congested leaving some with a feeling of anxiety. But the free admission allows for veteran and new comic fans alike to spend their hard-earned monies on the creators, which again, is fantastic.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard one bad thing said about TCAF, but love it or hate it, it’s the show that other comic creators and industry professionals attend for fun. Captain Marvel-er Jamie McKelvie was stealthily at the show visiting with friends, attending panels, and enjoying the city. Vertigo assistant editor, Greg Lockard was wandering around and taking in everything that was going on. And lots of other creators showed their support for TCAF by being there.
I heard lots of wonderful news from creators and exhibitors that TCAF set all-new sales records for many of them. Some of the popular items included:
- Kate Leth’s “Girls Don’t Read Comics” totes and buttons were a big favourite among the guests.
- Becky Cloonan‘s new mini comic “Demeter.”
- Pretty well everything from Scott C‘s booth; there was rarely a time when I saw less than 5-6 people present.
- Caricatures from the redheaded cartoonist (and Vine phenomenon), Marlo Meekins.
And more… SO MUCH MORE. I know I’m forgetting a million and one things that I saw this weekend, but there was so much to take in and enjoy that it’s hard to spit it all back up on paper for retelling. Additional things of note that I PERSONALLY enjoyed the crap out of were:
- Meeting Lisa Hanawalt, whose illustrated review of War Horse has made it so that I never have to or want to see the film or play. Her review is all the War Horse I’ll ever need (and is included in her awesome book)!
- Getting to chat with the awesome dudes (Josh O’Neill, Andrew Carl and David Tahn) behind the Dark Horse published anthology, Once Upon A Time Machine – a classic fairytale with a sci-fi twist.
- Picking up V2 of Karl Kerschl‘s incredible web comic The Abominable Charles Christopher. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s all available online to read and V1 & V2 are for sale if you prefer physical copies.
- Discovering a cool comic from Archaia called Spera, which features some of the most beautiful art I have EVER seen in a comic.
It’s a bummer that TCAF is all done for the year, but if you haven’t been to the show before or are on the fence about it, you absolutely have to attend in 2014. It’s such a treat to be at and the guests in attendance are some of the nicest people in the industry.
If you want to be a part of the show as an exhibitor or creator, make sure you visit TCAF’s site. They start planning well in advance so check it out to be informed of when they start accepting applications.