This is the first year in awhile that I’ve been unable to commit to an immersive TCAF weekend, because life. Hands down, the highlights of this trip were seeing friends, meeting new people and getting to hear more about projects that my favourite publishers are working on – especially those from out of town.
This year, I tried to focus on international small press/self-publishers because this type of material is harder to find while comics published by Koyama Press, etc. are relatively easy for me to source outside TCAF.
Aside from some Francophone goodness, there seems to be a lot of great stuff coming out of Chicago.
I met up with Chicagoan Marnie Galloway (you can listen to this interview to learn more about her) and finally got to reading the rest of her comic series In the Sounds and Seas. When I read the first volume, I didn’t pick up on its depth; I thought it was a beautiful abstract tale and left it at that. But by the time I’d finished the third volume, the story actually made me tear up. Galloway communicates so well, with visuals alone, how it so often falls on women to hold a community together and how that work pulls women in so many different directions. That there is strength and real power in work that is so personally demanding – but also suffering and transformation. Emotionally complex, highly recommended.
I also met Chicagoan Gina Wynbrandt and picked up a copy of Someone Please Have Sex With Me, a collection of a number of bitingly funny short comics. I wrote about another comic by Wynbrandt awhile back; her brand of humour is pretty consistent with the previous comics of hers that I’ve read. I’m curious to see what she does next.
Sexxxy comics highlights from this year included a well moderated panel, Depiction of Sex in Comics which featured Zan Christensen, Chip Zdarsky, Erika Moen, Shintaro Kago, Spike Trotman and someone I have admired for many years, Cory Silverberg, who is a sex educator and activist. Rebecca Sullivan asked thoughtful questions specific to each panelist and that seemed to work better than having everyone brainstorm over a more general question. Following that, I picked up a copy of Animal Sex by Isabella Rotman (also from Chi town) which features the freaky predilections of the animal kingdom and bought a copy of Les Melons de la Colère by Bastien Vivès (I have a review of a different comic by Vivès called La Famille) which Peter Birkemoe described to me as “really filthy.” I thumbed through it and indeed, it is one of the filthiest comics I’ve picked up at TCAF, if not the filthiest. Which is, if you are at all familiar with my tastes, saying a lot. So you should check it out.
This year I was also tasked by a couple of friends with handfuls of $$$ to buy comics for them. It was fun shopping for others because it familiarized me with some comics that fall outside of my personal preferences but that are excellent. I move too much to amass a book collection (props to publishers offering digital versions <3), and give away the majority of physical books I buy – so this was like getting paid for it.
What’s changed the most about going to TCAF for me is probably its size growing in tandem with my familiarity with comics. When TCAF was in its infancy as a biannual event, I would attend mainly to discover new artists and see the one or two tablers whose work I enjoy; now I know most of the people, or at least, publishers, so I make those a priority – but that means I probably discover only a handful of new, self-publishing artists. These days, I prefer to meet newer artists at small zine fairs because it’s a more relaxed environment and there is greater variety of artists. But I think TCAF is still great for introducing people to zines/self published work if you are not the type to visit smaller shows.
I’m sorry I missed a lot of people this year. It’s been a rough one for me and while I’m so grateful for another chance to learn more about comics, get inspired and see so many people, my die hard introversion was at full force this weekend!… Still, it was very much worth it. As always, huge and sincere thanks to all the TCAF staff, volunteers, funders and public library ppl who keep this fest free, accessible and more amazing every year. ❤