It seems to me that TCAF doesn’t just get bigger every year; it gets better. I’d like to write a longer post about how I think TCAF supports the comics community in Canada and beyond (done) but for now, here’s a couple recaps of the panels I attended, a brief list of tips on how to get the most out of the fest as well as a handful of mini-reviews. I apologize in advance for my lousy shots; I’m posting in a hurry!
Contemporary Erotic Comics
Featuring Jess Fink (Chester 5000), Michael DeForge (A Body Beneath), C. Spike Trotman (Smut Peddler), HamletMachine (Starfighter), Graham Kolbeins (MASSIVE), Katie Skelly (Nurse Nurse), Ryan Sands (Thickness), and moderated by Chris Randle (Hazlit)
As you can imagine, this panel was rather delightful, full of humour and a bit raunchy. The questions were mainly focused on sharing personal stories and anecdotes. However, I feel it was perhaps a bit too large because I would have liked to hear quieter panelists like Kolbeins and DeForge speak more at length. I think a smaller panel would also have allowed for more in depth responses and perhaps give the panelists a chance to tackle more meatier questions. While it’s amusing to hear funny stories about panelists’ family members’ reactions to their porn, maybe a future panel could be more focused e.g., positioning today’s erotic work in a historical context, how the audience of erotic comics has changed, etc.
The New Small Press
Featuring Koyama Press, Secret Acres, Uncivilized Books, and Nobrow Press
This was a great panel offering insight from the publishers’ perspective. I think sometimes people can look at publishing as a non-creative pursuit, but I completely disagree. It’s a rare skill to be able to spot potential before anyone else does, to understand how the art that strikes you can be positioned in an ever changing market and competitive environment not only in the present but in the future. Just because you love comics to death doesn’t mean you have the visionary eye for this.
I attended this panel because I’m also interested in the influence commerce can have on creative movements and the culture of creative communities. It was heartening to hear that the panelists are all deeply invested not only in supporting comics and cartoonists but other publishers as well. I’ve worked in (and have friends who still work in) artistic industries with a highly competitive culture in which not one iota of information is freely shared. In contrast, the small press panelists were basically opening the door to any attendees to contact them later for advice!
It was clear from the panelists’ discussion that their work is a labour of love for comics and the artistic communities comics fosters so if there is one thing I took away from this session, it’s a renewed call to support small press for the same reasons that I would urge readers to support independent comic retailers. When we buy goods at Amazon or Indigo or what have you, our monetary savings do come at a more serious cost to us. We pay in other ways!
Given how these small presses foster cultural development, during the Q&A, I asked if any of the panelists were receiving any grants or government funding and was glad to hear that 3/4 panelists were. And after hearing about how small publishers will see their artists gain traction and publish with larger companies, I wish that I had also asked if they would consider teaming up with a larger publisher as an imprint like DC’s Vertigo (well, smaller than Vertigo). We can see this business model in other arts industries (e.g., Fox Searchlight, Random House’s Vintage, etc.). However, I suspect that the potential loss of autonomy would not make it worth it, especially considering the history of mainstream and indy comics in N. America.
- Go early or go late. Unless you enjoy navigating through masses of fans, you’re better off arriving near opening and closing. This will also give you more time to talk to artists and publishers.
- The past couple years, Sunday has fallen on Mother’s Day and tends to be more manageable.
- Review the exhibitors list and make note of which tables you want to visit and where they are located before entering the throng. Especially if you arrive in the afternoon, you need a game plan. Saturday afternoon’s volume in particular, makes it too insane to browse tables at leisure.
- Small runs can sell out fast at TCAF. Prioritize books that you think might not last.
- Be mindful that people tabling need to recoup costs and sell their wares so try not to block any potential customers.
- Bring lots of cash, especially small bills and change.
- I’d recommend showing up 15 minutes early to panels. If they reach capacity, you will be turned away.
- Go to the extra parties and events and support the businesses that host them!
LOVE & SEX COMICS HAUL
I didn’t focus as heavily on finding comics about sex/gender/porn as I did at last year’s TCAF, but here are the sexiest of the bunch:
Sasha Velour, Sasha Steinberg
This little comic is a candy coloured, polyglotinous, erotic confection compiling five short stories featuring Sasha Velour, a “glamour terrorist” drag queen and the performing identity of the artist, Sasha Steinberg. Highly recommended. Also, as a side note, TCAF needs to invite Sasha and his lovely bf to every party because those two know how to cut a mean rug.
Cum Lung: The Blowjob Time Traveller (2), Aaron Manczyk
I picked up a pre-TCAF copy from Aaron, but since this debuted at the fest, I’m going to count it. Cum Lung basically continues its campy, pun-ridden, pinku eiga-esque narrative chock full of full frontal and of course, bjs galore. Lucky us. You can read more about Cum Lung in last year’s TCAF haul recommendations.
kuš!#17, various artists
The latest issue of kuš! focuses on the theme of Sweet Romance, although it’s not always so sweet. At turns surreal, irreverant, whismical, confessional and meditative, š!#17 offers up another collection of short comics with the striking visuals the magazine is known for. Favourites included Yvang’s piece (featured above) which takes familiar American pop imagery and then perverts them into a pseudo kalidescopic vision until even the words themselves are rendered abstract and intelligible.
Also, another side note: if you didn’t catch The Last Match show in Kensington, you missed out! In addition to rows of tiny little canvases that begged you to look up close, there was a mural by Patrick Kyle, who drew the cover of š!#17. It was also a treat to meet editors David and Sanita in person, so thanks to the TCAF team for bringing them across the Atlantic!
AX, various artists
I usually don’t pick up heavy books because they are literally a pain to move and I move a lot. But this collection was too good to pass up. AX compiles the best gekiga/alternative manga that first ran in the bi-monthly anthology magazine of the same name. To be sure, there’s a goodly amount of sex between these covers. Admittedly, I found the translation stiff and awkward at times, but I still enjoyed stories by Katsuo Kawai (no relation lol; Kawai is Chinese), Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Takato Yamamoto (featured above).
Anyways, like I said, I enjoy TCAF more and more each year. MASSIVE THANKS to the organizers and volunteers for running this amazing event!
TCAF may be over but my TCAF related posts aren’t! Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks…