In May this year, I headed to Canada for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival with my friend and fellow comics maker, Ian Williams (AKA Thom Ferrier). We did some teaching and exhibited and sold our comics. Here is part 2 (of 3) of my report on the trip.
Saturday morning I awoke, enthused and not besieged by my usual comic convention curse that is the hangover. This was a good thing. I’m sometimes not sensible when I’m excited and being in Toronto was exciting. I think I had a combination of jetlag and expensive beer to thank for my discretion.
We headed to the Toronto Reference Library to find our spot. The library has a large, atrium like feel to it, with mezzanine floors and a water feature. We located our table upstairs and acquainted ourselves with our table neighbours Ian Sampson and Mandy Dunn Sampson and Tom Scioli, who was also selling a bunch of Adhouse stuff. We were still setting up as the doors opened (this is normal for me) and the room filled quickly. Any fears I had about being upstairs and away from the action were unfounded: at one point it was even one-in, one-out to get in to the room, and queues were forming outside. So people came, people bought comics. This was good. Smoo #5, enjoying its official debut (and kindly promoted on the TCAF website) sold well and people seemed genuinely engaged with it, even those who chose to move on without making a purchase. I won’t lie: I even felt a bit proud. Ian accused me of accentuating my English accent to curry favour with the punters. I couldn’t possibly imagine why on Earth he might suggest that.
Managed to find some time to do the rounds, and met Zak Sally (Sammy the Mouse is incredible), Noah Van Sciver (we all know he’s great), Julie Delporte, Wormulus, Annie Koyama, Matt Moses of Hic and Hoc publications (who have recently published a great collection of comics from Lauren Barnett who had a strip in last year’s Sorry Entertainer) and a bunch of others. Hung out with the Brit contingent; Joe Decie, Joe List, Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice, Lizz Lunney, Sean Azzopardi, Clarke of Thought Bubble organising fame, and Nobrow. I also had the very friendly Jeremy Latta pop by the table in what was nothing if not a wonderful surprise. Jeremy is both a musician in his own right, and was in Touching Earth Made of Steel, a band who put out a great record a couple of years back called ‘The Carl Wilson Lake Mystery’, which is still a firm favourite of mine. We had exchanged letters and I sent some comics a while back, but I hadn’t heard from him for a while. And there he was. It was amazing. You should check out his music.
Photo by Ian Williams
On Saturday afternoon, Ian and I co-chaired a panel on Comics and Mental Health, with panellists Darryl Cunningham, Lizz Lunney and John Porcellino. The conversation got going pretty quickly, and flitted between narratives of personal experience, creative frustrations, drawing methods, and humour. Meeting John P, whose work has inspired me no end, was a particular highlight for me. The panel went by too quickly, and we sadly failed to record it. However, we hope to have some form of alternative documentation and a more in-depth engagement with the topic online soon.
Sunday was similarly busy; I met Sophie Yanow, Kevin Czap, Jason Bradshaw, Leon from Secret Acres, Tom Neely, Linda from Sparkplug… the list goes on. All the people I met produce work I really like, and to meet them in person was inspiring and I only wish there was more time.
Photo by Ian Williams
At the after party, I got a bit gushy. Had a nice chat with Box Brown, Leyland Myrick, Rob Ullman and tablemates Ian and Mandy. There were some touching speeches from the organisers. I even got to hug Christopher Butcher, the incredibly friendly director of the festival. I am embarrassed by how much I gushed, but heck, TCAF does that to a man.
On Monday we moved to the suburbs to stay with Tory Woollcott and her parents. Tory, beset with flu, did her utmost to make us feel welcome in her parents’ basement, and succeeded. We spent a couple of days wandering around downtown, eating good food, drinking coffee, tea, some beer, and generally lazing around before heading home weary but happy, on Wednesday. In all, TCAF was like nothing else.
Tomorrow: things learned from TCAF.