A Brief Report TCAF 2015

May 31, 2015 at 11:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Oops – Wrote this and forgot to post earlier.

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) has been around since 2003. Around the second week of May, TCAF takes over the main floor of the Toronto Reference library (just north of Yonge and Bloor) for a weekend of tables, workshops and signing featuring some of the best in the world, and more than a few Canadian creators. Best of all, the entire weekend is free. If you missed out this year, mark May 14 and 15, 2016 on your calendars now!

TCAF’s raison d’être is that comics are not a genre but a legitimate form which encompasses a number of genres. Comics are not something to interest young readers before they move not to serious “literature” or stop reading altogether, a type of storytelling which dates thousands of years (The Bayeux Tapestry anyone?).  While bigger superhero-themed conventions like Fan Expo have been around since the early 1990s, TCAS has consciously taken a different path. While super-heroes are not forbidden, TCAF has focused on alternative and independent comics rather than the space occupied by Marvel, DC and Dark Horse. For example, Montreal’s  Drawn and Quarterly, which has published works by Chester Brown, Seth, Lynda Barry, and Adrian Tomine to name a few, is celebrating its quarter century this year and was a special focus at the festival. 

For the last four years, TCAF has also sponsored a Librarians and Educators Day, the day before the festival presenting workshops and discussion on the use of the medium in our libraries and in our classrooms. This is the second time I’ve been, and it’s recommended for anyone who is interested in literary issues, story telling, education etc.

The day began with a keynote address by Scott McCleod author of Understanding Comics (a bit like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing but for comics and without the Marxism). McCleod’s talk dealt with the evolution of comics and our perceptions of them.  There’s also a fairly interesting TED Talk by McCleod which touches on some of the same issues – watch it here.

Workshops are always tricky. Usually at a conference, workshops fall into two categories – the one where you instantly know which one you want to attend. or the ones where you feel you’re making the lesser evil choice. TCAF isn’t like that- I wanted to attend every workshop. Here’s what I did attend:

1.     Comics: A Pathway to Learning.

U.S artist Jerzy Drozd led a workshop on how to use art in lessons to spark creativity. Each of us in the workshop created a mini-comic (mine is available upon request, but you’ll be disappointed!) I also received a package of instructional ideas and comments on art, but don’t worry. My ambitions don’t lie in that area.

 2.     D.I.Y. Comic-Con.

Or…how to have your own comic-con event: getting speakers, free stuff, activities etc. It seems the key to success is a button maker. We do have a button maker don’t we? The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has organized a list of creators who are willing to come to schools to give talks. Likewise Diamond Distribution will apparently send boxes of free comics for Free Comic Book Day. They just have to be asked! I should note here, I really wanted to go to the workshop on manga for girls, but those are the choices we make. 

 3.     Big Comics Q & A – Libraries

A workshop on what works and what doesn’t in public and school libraries: What to stock, what to weed, how to deal with patrons, parents and those who think people should be reading “real” books (when is it the right time to be getting your 7 year old to read Proust?).

4.     New releases

If you have young children, you will want to buy the soon-to-be-released book by Canadian artist Kate Beaton, “The Princess and the Pony.” I’m not a big manga fan, but I’m told Monster by  Naoki Urasawa, and Requiem of the Rose King (a rewrite of Richard III) by Aya Kanno are top-notch stuff.

I bought Jillian Tamaki’s Super Mutant Magic Academybut spent my time queuing up like a fan boy to get things signed by the likes of Chester Brown, Adrian Tomai, and Aya Kano.

The value of this sort of thing can be seen if you follow the link below


You might have to magnify the strip (I just clicked on it), but it’s worth it. BTW, the strip was created by a young woman from Norway when she was 17.

Next year, OK? Next year.


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