TCAFfeinated

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. Honest Ed'sWe 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. The BeguilingWe 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… Beguiling artOther 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. Adventure LatteBadly 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.) PoutineLater 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. TCAF 2013 animated gif by Joanna W
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: Irma Kniivila cat printSaturday 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. ramenpoutine du japonWe 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: Little Nemo by Becky and FrankThen 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.

-Josh O’Neill

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from here to fabletown & back

last week we set out for minnesota and the FABLETOWN convention. i took a train instead of flying. long train rides are equally relaxing and a test of endurance. i was able to hole up in the cafe car once it closed and stretch out and read. Image pulling through the country and approaching minnesota i was struck by the emptiness and isolation of the countryside. vast open spaces dotted with a small house here and there. it seemed silent and lonely, and reminded me of an abandoned civilization. i arrived in FABLETOWN thursday night, after an amusing shuttle ride from the train station into rochester, host city of the convention, in which i learned that another word for a skunk is ‘wood’s pussy’.  i met up with andrew and josh, who had flown in earlier in the day, and we set off to explore downtown rochester after dark. you don’t see many people out on the streets, owing to the cold and the fact that all of the big buildings are connected by skywalks as well as an underground walkway. this was new to us, and added to the surreal, alien feeling of the place. we walked around and found NEWT’S, a bar&burger joint heartily recommended by andrew’s cab driver. apparently they had a burger named THE JUICY LUCY, and if you poked her with your finger she squirts. a somewhat odd endorsement for a burger, but we bit. none of us tried out the old girl, but josh had a mammoth burger that had to be 2000 calories: Image that’s a bacon cheeseburger with fried onions wrapped in two grilled cheeses. with some kind of mayo sauce slathered on it. the peanut butter bacon burger i tried seemed genteel & dainty by comparison. back at the hotel, andrew and i planned how to maximize the handsomeness at josh’s command.Image friday was the start of the con, and we were up early and ready to set up. a bellman from our hotel, caleb, helped us bring our boxes over to the civic center. little did we know that caleb would help turn us into a hot commodity when we gave him a copy of ONCE UPON A TIME MACHINE. Image Image Image this was the before. there’s no after. i got caught up and never got the pics. the con got rolling, and we had a good response to the book right off the bat. and it wasn’t long before we met our biggest fan, jacob. jacob, we adore you.jacobby the time the opening ceremonies kicked off at 5 we already knew this was going to be a great trip. bill willingham, creator of FABLES, was the host of FABLETOWN, and he took to the stage during the opening ceremonies to set the tone for the weekend and introduce some of the folks most responsible for putting this show together. Image stephanie cooke, seen here behind bill apparently updating her OK CUPID profile, is bill’s assistant and a delightful, thoughtful wonder. the empty chair belongs to brad thomte, bill’s partner in crime. brad’s a high-energy fount of enthusiasm. next to him is stacy sinner. it turns out stacy runs the prisons in rochester and the surrounding area. she also is a warm, accommodating, charming woman who made me smile when she told me i was one of her favorite characters from the whole weekend. she likes red wine. if you see her, buy her a glass. speaking of wine…

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