TCAF 2014

May 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm (Uncategorized)

The Toronto Comics Arts Festival takes places this weekend at the Toronto Reference Library. The event starts Friday night and runs through the weekend…and it’s free.

As opposed to Fan Expo and Comic-Con which deal with SF, superheroes and fantasy in general, TCAF focuses on graphic novels, their creators, and yes, comic books too.

Which really forces the question what is a graphic novel? There are several competing claims to be the first “graphic novel,” (maybe Will Eisner’s A Contract with God gets the prize), but one definition might be a graphic work of fiction or autobiography published as a single book. OK, but what about Watchmen? Though conceived as a single volume it was published as individual installments.  Or V for Vendetta?  Or Maus? Ah, it’s complicated.

Nowadays of course the term is used very broadly, and sometimes even extended to the trade paperback comic anthologies like whatever Batman book is on the shelves now. As Alan Moore put it:

It’s a marketing term… that I never had any sympathy with. The term ‘comic’ does just as well for me… The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book’ and so what you’d get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics—because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, they’d stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel….”

But I digress.

A harder pill for many to swallow is the notion of comics as…literature. It’s a form of snobbery. Yes, there are dreadful things published in comic format: Poor storytelling and shoddy artwork. However, there are complex stories with beautiful art which put many “genuine” novels to shame.

At this year’s event are many fantastic story-tellers, and I mean no disrespect to others. But, I’m pretty excited that Ed Brubaker will be there. Brubaker is the guy who wrote the stories which Captain America 2 is based on, but his Criminal, Fatale and Incognito are noir masterpieces. Likewise Darwyn Cooke, well-known for his work with DC but who has quietly been adapting Donald Westlake’s Parker stories. Raina Telgemeier (Smile) is also attending, but I’m interesting to meet Fanny Britt and Isobelle Arsenault who created the poignant story Jane, The Fox and Me.

Have  a look.

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