The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is one of my favourite events in the city because it draws in people of all ages, groups and styles. If you want to see a real cross section of Toronto’s populace, TCAF is where it’s at. I love how this diverse city can have so many different, oft-hidden, interdependent ecosystems of social engagement and it is a rare opportunity to see so many of them coalesce into one building the way TCAF makes it happen. And while it’s not a con full of hard core geek enthusiasts, there are plenty of geeks in attendance.
Of course the other, more obvious reason I love TCAF is because it introduces me to new comic artists and publishers. Some of my favourite comics have been TCAF finds. And while the library tends to get packed to the gills, it’s not hard to chat up exhibitors and ask them to talk about their work. In this way, it actually reminds of being in a busy farmer’s market. Every year, I get to meet the most fascinating people and it’s always inspiring.
Now, onto the haul! I’ll skip over the more obvious releases and instead, feature works by smaller artists that I discovered that I present to you in no particular order:
Rabid Rabbit is a themed comics anthology based in Brooklyn and edited by C.M. Butzer. The anthology started off as a one-off project between friends, but when people kept asking for the next volume, they decided to stick with it. RR has a leisurely release schedule of roughly one volume per year. I picked up their issue on pornography, the best selling issue I was told, which features a series of comics about porn rather than pornographic comics. Fave strips included Mike Reddy‘s amusing Porno Barber and Ben Cee‘s surreal Porn-Elope.
Recommended to me by Ryan Sands (@remoteryan), Edie Fake is a Chicago based artist with a distinctive, superflat, graphic style paired with elusive, subversive narratives – just what I love. I bought Issue 6 of Gaylord Phoenix, which I can only describe as an arresting eye fuck of a comic. Its ambiguous characters and unexpectedly intense eroticism left me wanting more. I’m afraid my words make for a poor description, so I suggest visiting his website and checking out his comics for yourself. I’m very sorry I didn’t catch him at his table and a sincere thank you to Mr. Sands for his suggestion.
For those familiar with this blog, suffice it to say, I enjoy making public all manner of private things, including menstruation. Admittedly, one of my favourite wicked past times as a teenager was regaling my more conservative male friends with stories about bleeding and watching them squirm. But I digress. I discovered the comics of Jen Vaughn (@TheJenya), librarian and “Marketing Unicorn” at Fantagraphics, thanks to the bright red covers of Menstruation Station. In turns autobiographical, humourous and just plain absurd, it’s the perfect gift for all your squirmy male friends. She’s published more on the topic, and was kind enough to give me a copy of Don’t Hate Menstruate! a 24 hour comic which has more autobiographical tales of menstrual hilarity. Unfortunately, she had sold out of the rest of her menses series so I can’t comment on the rest.
Based in Toronto, Aaron Manczyk (@ezcream) is one third of the art collective, Family Contact. It doesn’t get any better with a title like Cum Lung: The Blowjob Time Traveller. Drawn with light and scratchy pen work, Cum Lung is a dirty, irreverent little porno/sci-fi comic complete with a ludicrous plot that could have been lifted straight out of a ’70s pink eiga, a talking cat lieutenant and an oral sex montage set to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. “Giving blow jobs doesn’t make you gay. It makes you a hero.” I’m a bit of a sucker for man on man action and this made for quite the amusing read on my morning commute.
Chicago based Monkey Rope Press is run by Marnie Galloway (@MarnieGalloway), a knowledgeable printmaker with a passion for book binding. I bought Medusa, a comic with a bold, graphic style that debuted at TCAF. Check out her other work on her website. There’s a nice range of styles and there is a lot of intricate, textural line work that is only hinted at in Medusa.
Based in Minneapolis, Talk Weird Press features works by Caitlin Skaalrud (@caitlin_rude). You can read full comics that she has authored online, including Tits! the Spiny Northern Maid. (I swear I didn’t buy this comic because of its name.) Tits! is a narrative comic that features an alternative reality where the St. Louis River is home to taciturn species of mermaid. I’d actually love to see a whole comic that features in more detail, all the different types of mermaids profiled in Tits! (hint!)
I bought some other awesome comics, but I’m afraid I gave them away as gifts so I can’t do any write ups. But I’d like to give some of the smaller comics a shout out:
– Love Love Hill: Bought an adorable little colour comic about the BBC Sherlock series by Wai Au, for a friend of mine who loves the show.
– Murilo Martins: Had a comic about German Shepherds drawn in a lovely clean typographic style and I picked up the accompanying postcards for a dog lover friend.
– Last but certainly not least, there’s the publisher, Youth In Decline, run by Ryan Sands who has also edited/translated a number of awesome projects. I’ve been saving up all the various comics I’ve bought through him for one mega recommendations post, although I’m not sure when it will see the light of day because it keeps growing…
Until next year…