The boys here at Locust Moon are all still recovering from a wild weekend of comic-book glory in Toronto. Editor-in-Chief Andrew Carl, Director of Special Operations David B. Tanh and I, your humble scribe, Megabussed it up across the border in the dead of night, packed alongside a lot of other cartoonists including Annie Mok, Pat Aulisio, Matt Wiegle and Ramsey Beyer. I can’t say I really recommend the 12-hour overnight Megabus experience, but like all things, it was made better by being around other comic book people. We arrived at 9am with a day to kill, and so despite a lot of miserable and rainy weather, we went on a little walking tour of the local comic shops, led by Stephanie Cooke – assistant to Bill Willingham, tour guide to the stars, and generally awesome human. It was our first time in Toronto, and the city struck me as clean, laid-back & friendly…and it also seems to be where all the book stores went. There seems to be a massive 5-story Barnes & Noble, or a tiny little beautifully curated rare book shop, or an outstanding comic book store on every block. We were blown away, of course, by the absolutely insane cornucopia of The Beguiling. Overstuffed with incredible books obsessively jammed in every open space according to some detailed organizational system only the staff can understand, the place is just a swooning wealth of material. We were very pleased to find that they stocked 8 copies of ONCE UPON A TIME MACHINE. And then there’s all the original artwork… Other great shops were the Silver Snail, a beautifully arranged & designed comic/coffee shop where they had a 12-foot topographical map of Middle Earth and fashioned some Adventure Time art in my latte, and The Comic Book Lounge, which seemed to be half comic shop and half event space, with a laid-back clubhouse vibe. Badly drenched after hours of exploring the city on foot, we feasted on poutine, a first for all three of us, and tried to analyze why something made of fries, gravy and cheese is not popular in America. (We decided the word “poutine” is suspiciously French, has “poo” in it, and “cheese curds” sound gross. Just a branding issue.) Later on there were drinks at The Pilot, where a lot of cartoonists were unwinding. We had good chats & drinks with hometown heroes Box Brown, Pat Aulisio, and Daryl Seitchik, as well as Charles Brownstein and Frank Santoro. Late night Paul Pope showed up with a BATTLING BOY galley in tow and we got to look through it. I’m trying to find words to express how great it looked, but I can’t, so you’ll just have to wait until October and find out for yourself. We tipsily stumbled back to our hotel room, high on Molson and comics.
Which brings us to Saturday, and the show. TCAF was a thing to behold. Taking over two floors of the Toronto Reference Library and transforming them into a glorious megalopolis of books and prints and original artwork. It’s free to the public, and the place was thronged by more than 20,000 people eager to see everything there was to see and buy everything there was to buy. Books seemed to be flying off every table.
We were in a glass-walled room with the members of RAID (the Royal Academy of Illustration & Design), flanked by ‘Fearless’ Fred Kennedy & Adam Gorham, the righteous dudes from Big Sexy Comics, and local illustrator & printmaker Irma Kniivila, who was selling a whole bunch of gorgeous pieces with the help of her man Charlie. Andrew, reminded of his buddy back home, kept staring at this guy: Saturday was the best single day of sales we’ve ever had at a convention, getting almost 100 copies of Once Upon a Time Machine into the eager hands of readers. The action at our table was so intense that we barely had any time to explore the festival floor or check out any of the programming – but that’s an awfully good problem to have.
A celebratory dinner that night was spearheaded by my trusty companions, both world class Asian-foodies, so it was ramen, poutine du japon (yup, that’s a thing), and then drinks at an izakaya, which is a Japanese bar where they bang a drum when you enter and bring you delicious snacks every 10 minutes while you drink; as far as I can tell, this represents total mastery of the drinking experience. We closed out the night back at The Pilot, where a lot of very gifted cartoonists were busting out some gloriously ridiculous dance moves.
The next day, in true Sunday-at-the-con fashion, everybody seemed a little rough around the edges. It was sort of nice, though, that the energy level was lower, because it gave us more time to walk around and talk with people. I had nice conversations with Sam Hiti, Matt Kindt, Ross Campbell, Lilli Carré, Salgood Sam, Ed Piskor and many more, as well as old pals like Jim Rugg, Ben Marra, Brendan Leach & Paul Little. I picked up copies of Josh Tierney & co.’s gorgeous SPERA, Sam Hiti’s delightful children’s book WAGA’S BIG SCARE, and Frank & Becky’s TINY KITTEN TEETH, in which they drew this amazing Nemo sketch: Then dinner at this great tapas place in Kensington (Toronto has its own Kensington!), the TCAF afterparty at the legendary Lee’s Palace, and a soju-fueled karaoke blitz with Pope, Hiti, Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, Ivan Brandon, Frank Santoro, Steve Manale, Jimmy Aquino, and a few other awesome comics folks. Watching Dave & Paul duet on Let’s Dance was quite a way to end a pretty perfect comics weekend. One billion thanks to KILL SHAKESPEARE maestros Anthony Del Col & Conor McCreery for hooking us up with the great cartoonist Ramon Perez, who helped us get our table despite missing the application deadline. This was the best convention we’ve ever been to, and we owe you guys big time.
Goodbye, TCAF, you beautiful beast. We will see you next year.