TCAF17 post mortem

Before I write this year’s recap, I thought I’d reflect on TCAF’s success in light of heightening tensions regarding diversity in creative fields.

TCAF was one of my first introductions to comics and because of it, I operated under the blithe assumption that indie comics was largely free of the systemic forms of discrimination that mark society at large.

As far as I know, TCAF does not rely on a rigid, formalized, top-down approach to enforcing diversity because the values of supporting cultural exchange, promoting varied perspectives and serving Toronto’s diverse public in all its facets, seem so deeply ingrained in its organizational culture.

The TCAF staff I know have always emphasized diverse comic makers and acknowledge the continued effort that this requires. They welcome collaborations with other organizations and institutions throughout the city, even when working styles are very different. Their personal and professional networks are also diverse; I can’t imagine any TCAF people I know having trouble naming diverse industry people that they can reach out to personally. And I think that this radical commitment to diversity, something that so many organizations completely fail at, is one of the primary factors driving TCAF’s incredible success as a tentpole industry event.

This is why I find it all the more galling that professionals in creative industries continue to pushback against diversity initiates by falling back on the same tired narratives about diversity:

  • Diversity should not be a priority, everyone needs to relax and stop making it about (race/gender/sexuality/etc.);
  • Diverse stories don’t sell and don’t appeal to everyone (only stories with white, middle class, hetero, able-bodied cismale protagonists do because they are apparently a neutral, universal subject);
  • Diverse talent is of lower quality and shouldn’t be promoted above the more meritorious work of those with privilege (there is so much sad, mediocre crap out there that gets published and green lit, I honestly don’t know how anyone can buy into this argument).

Sometimes I think the Harvard Biz Review should do a business case study on TCAF. If people want to know how equity gets done without sensitivity training, draconian policies and rules, special committees to chastise management, etc., just look at TCAF, with its radically collaborative and inclusive approach.

I think we too often fall for the trap of believing that hyper competitiveness and a “colourblind” winner-take-all attitude is the only formula for success. We do not question if a collaborative, non-combative approach would have produced even better, more sustainable results. This kind of framing leads us to subscribe to a false dichotomy of a competitive, results-oriented organization that only sees merit versus a collaborative, inclusive organization that will underperform. TCAF shows us that casting diversity as a problem or issue to be dealt with is not the right approach. It is an opportunity that should be embraced.

OK, onto less weighty matters! I was pretty skint coming back from 2 weeks in London and Reykjavik (where a bowl of soup will set you back $20) so I didn’t have a lot of cash to spend.


Very modest haul this year. Also, apparently everything I bought was green, red and yellow

My top purchases were:

  • Gaylord Phoenix 7: I wanted to get this online when it was released in March but the shipping to Canada was so murderously expensive, I couldn’t justify it. Perfectly Acceptable Press prints incredible work and I’ve seen some amazingly rich riso printing from them.
  • babybel wax bodysuit: I generally try not to buy stuff at TCAF that I know I can pick up at The Beguiling later, but this cover really caught my eye. It was a very tough call between this and a Kylie Minogue riso comic that features Hobbes Leviathan and this Russian philosopher I’ve never even heard of??? Also, Eric Kostiuk Williams is super nice!

Part of the Anna Haifisch exhibit in the German Pavilion

My favourite new change to TCAF this year was the German Pavilion that had an exhibit in the back. The Goethe Institut is not really within walking distance from the TRL so it was smart to bring them into the main building. One of the tablers there, Martina (last name unknown), mentioned that most people wandering into the German Pavilion were not from Toronto. All I can say is c’mon Toronto peeps, try to support the artists coming in from out of town! On that note, do pop by the Italian Cultural Institute and the Japan Foundation as they still have comics exhibits going on.


No subtitles for me

I worked over the weekend so didn’t attend any panels. I did make it out to a manga artist reception at the Japan Foundation where there is a small Lolita fashion exhibit on with work by Jane Mai. It was a lovely event with lots of great mingling, but unlike previous years, the artists spoke very briefly and did not discuss their work.

I also made it out to the Queer Mixer but was a bit late (always a TCAF mistake!). I caught some of the Queer Japan screener but had to stand behind a large crowd and was not tall enough to read the subtitles, even in 4” heels… This year, Anne Ishii also did brief little interviews with various tablers which was a great idea.


Yoke front men’s shirt by Public School; faux leather leggings by American Apparel; leather opera gloves by Club Monaco; “choker” is an old waist belt;  Doc Martins; tote by MASSIVE. Sketch by Blue

For those I missed, I am so sorry as I tried to look for everyone! Also, thank you to all the TCAF people who compliment my clothes every year ❤ I don’t own a lot of clothing (everything I own fits with room to spare in a small IKEA wardrobe except my huge winter coats and I carefully buy all my pieces second hand or on mega discount) but I do put a lot of thought/time into fashion so I appreciate it when people notice the efforts I’ve made!

Finally, on that note of gratitude, thank you again to everyone who helped make TCAF another amazing year. You are a part of something very special and your time and efforts are always appreciated 💖💖💖