Charles Soule & Javier Pulido continue making us smile with their latest issue of She-Hulk, taking the jolly green she-giant over to San Francisco to see Daredevil — making for an obviously perfect crossover. The two super-lawyers wonder why they never went up against each other back in NYC, and so do we…
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival was, as expected, a beauteous beast, a many-headed hydra of pure comics wonder. It’s the greatest North American convention, bar none — the most efficiently run, thoughtfully curated, ambitiously imagined show that we’ve ever been to. Every second at TCAF is a teachable moment for us, an object lesson in how to create an event worth of the phrase “comics festival.”
Seated to our left was the cartoonist and illustrator Renee Nault, whose stunning prints and gorgeous comics we had somehow never seen or heard of before. This is the beauty of TCAF — you’re constantly tripping over geniuses, pushing your way through a horde of visionaries. Renee’s table was constantly thronged by eager comic fans, and sometimes when she would go to the bathroom Andrew & I would sell her stuff, pretending we were the authors of these exquisite watercolor mermaids and comics about witches. Over the course of crappy afterparties at The Pilot House (TCAF! You can do better!) and failed 2 a.m. quests for karaoke, we strong-armed her into doing a little something with us in the very near future.
Over the course of four days in Toronto we were treated to a mind-blowing lesson in comic shop entrepreneurialism from Alex Hoffman of The Beguiling and a terrifying demonstration of the purposes and iconography of the Australian aboriginal killing stick from Cody Pickrodt. We ate Korean barbeque and okonomiyaki, which is some kind of Japanese pancake that appears to have live fish swimming on top of it. We talked Liefeld with Ed Piskor and watched Tom Scioli scribble endlessly more insane layouts for his face-meltingly weird and original take on G.I. JOE VS TRANSFORMERS. (Tom seemed to be drawing at literally every moment of the weekend, over dinner, at bars, at his table, comics spilling from his mind faster that they could be sketched. Tom is the only person I know who can dominate a conversation with his face buried in a sketchpad. Electricity crackles off this dude like no one I’ve ever met — he seems less a cartoonist than a conduit for comic book revelation.) We caught up with our pals R. Sikoryak and Kriota Willberg, and Maria & Peter Hoey. (When I broke a pint glass in a bar called the Spotted Dick, Maria helped me hide the evidence.) Daryl Seitchik explained the difference between pink noise and brown noise and gave us a copy of her stunning new book 477 BRIGHT CIRCLE. We discovered that there is a place where the pizza is worse than West Philly, and it is called Toronto. We shared in the rare luxury of Porter Airlines with Maritsa Patrinos and Rebecca Mock one way and our hometown Dirty Diamonds crew on the other. We tipped drinks with cartoonists we’ve long admired but never met, like Luke Pearson, Gabrielle Bell and Jesse Jacobs. We shopped at The Beguiling and lusted after their DREAMS OF THE RAREBIT FIEND McCay original. We plotted world domination — pardon me, wider distribution — with Jared Smith of Big Planet Comics. We forgot to take photos. We ate between six and ten pounds of poutine. (Pic courtesy of Laura Lee.)
Meanwhile, back at the actual show, we copped books from Taddle Creek Press and Andrea Tsurumi‘s gorgeous new HOW TO POOL mini (to be featured in QUARTER MOON 4), rediscovered Zac Gorman‘s hilarious and heartrending piece of video game-inspired cartoon poetry MAGICAL GAME TIME in physical form, met Christina Ellis (whom I wish we had known when we were putting together our erotica mag), and cracked jokes with illustrator extraordinaire and QUARTER MOON 4 cover artist Steve Mardo. We got really mad at Ben Marra for selling out of TERROR ASSAULTER before we could grab any, then realized that Ben could kick our asses and quickly apologized. We sold QUARTER MOONS and 36 LESSONS IN SELF DESTRUCTION to Peter Birkemoe from The Beguiling, because a comic that’s not in stock at The Beguiling cannot really be said, in the truest sense, to exist at all. We discovered a weird little handmade hardcover book of woodcut porn, and we’re kicking ourselves for (a) not buying it and (b) forgetting the name of it. A little help anybody?
All in all, it was what you expect from this greatest of all conventions: a weekend full of cartoon glory, alternatingly passionate and hysterical conversations, and an ever-widening sense of the constantly expanding breadth and depth of this beautiful, broken industry we call home.
Still, it feels like we were just skimming the surface. TCAF is too big, too beautiful — you’re always in the process of missing out on hundreds of remarkable things. Do we really have to wait another year?
(& Andrew Carl)
P.S. Whoever’s spreading rumors of the LOCUST MOON COMICS FESTIVAL’s incredible ice cream (Little Baby’s!), please don’t stop. But also, don’t forget the puppy truck.
P.P.S. This is what Andrew & I look like when we talk about farts.
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.