(All photos by Erin Balser)
We have to say it: the Toronto Reference Library was the coolest place to be on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, as the requisite comic nerds and a myriad of intrigued newbies descended on a small army of comics artists from around the world at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Veterans of the festival scene, such as our own Dave Howard, say they’ve rarely witnessed such genuine enthusiasm at a comics event, enthusiasm matched online by raves on blogs, message boards, and comics sites across North America.
If no one else has said it, let us be the first: after just over five years, TCAF can proudly take its place alongside the MoCCA Fest, the Small Press Expo, and San Francisco’s Alternative Press Expo as one of North America’s preeminent comics salons.
Thankfully, the event organizers took a cue from last year’s crammed event and spread everything out a bit. The show floors were still busy, but the air was breathable and there was room to move. The WebComics Pavilion was moved upstairs to the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, a smart move now that online artists like Kate Beaton are practically superstars. Beaton’s autograph line-up snaked around the corner all day Saturday. Other hot spots included the Kenk booth, as Pop Sandbox was rapidly going through copies of the graphic novel about the infamous bike thief Igor Kenk. The OwlKids and Scholastic booths were also hopping, with young readers getting a head start on what’s sure to be a lifelong reading obsession.
The panels and on-stage interviews did not disappoint either, the stand-out event being the all-star line up of Daniel Clowes, James Sturm, Seth, Chester Brown, and Jim Woodring. Old friends got caught up at the festival’s many fan-friendly parties and mingled with such headliners as Jim Woodring. Booze was drunk, new projects planned, therories discussed, notebooks doodled in. And if all that weren’t enough, on Saturday night the annual Doug Wright Awards went off without a hitch, with the Seth-edited George Sprott: (1894-1975) taking Best Book honours, Michael DeForge dubbed Best Emerging Talent for Lose #1, and Marc Bell grabbing the Pigskin Peters Prize for non-narrative comics for his book Hot Potatoe.