May 15, 2017
A Few Quick Observations About TCAF 2017, Made This Morning After It Ended From A Courtyard Marriott
* I work with Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) now. That makes my festival experience a lot different, and should encourage to spend extra time considering whether my opinion about another show is worth noting at all.
* I had a really good time at TCAF 2017. It's the model show of its kind.
* it's humongous. Since the last time I went they added a gigantic second exhibition space at the Masonic Temple, increased the exhibitor coverage on the Toronto Reference Library's second floor and added the third. They have nighttime events in like six different spaces. I would have to imagine as well as it all ran that just by virtue of that size you're going to have people push back against it -- I imagine it would be easy for some to feel less important than many comics-makers have come to expect they'll feel at shows -- but I don't think it will be significant relative to the show's size and effectiveness. But man, that show is big. There were events about Alt-Comics where I had no idea who was in there or what they were doing. I recognize without thinking about it maybe 1 of 10 people featured in my photos. A bunch of people I didn't see at all, and another bunch I only saw briefly in hallways and in the row of a festival.
* no real flying notes although I thought about leaving my laptop at home out of fear that Trump-era border agents will take it away or something? That's not a reasonable position, but it did cross my mind. I did not fly Porter Air, having canceled a planned stopover in New York City.
* one thing about the weekend in general is that I seem to see fewer people at these events all of the time. Never saw Box, for instance. It makes you have instant, deep conversations with the few you happen to bump into at any time.
* I went to a couple of the Friday Word Balloon professional events. There was a practical-advice on managing travel as an element of one's comics effort that was slow-building but got to everything on my mental checklist of things you talk about on such a panel. I was by far the oldest person in the room, and was in the top 3 for the bulk of events I attended that weekend.
* Kevin Huizenga and Sammy Harkham presented on the distributions system as it has an effect on their recent attempts to self-publish. Kevin Huizenga provided a history of distributors -- including his own USS Catastrophe effort -- that may not have been aces in terms of getting books out there but were deeply personally meaningful for him at the time. Harkham went on an interesting mini-rant about how crowd-funders interfere with his conception of how the artist/audience relationship best works. I like both of those guys a lot and appreciate their seriousness about the comics they made, and thus enjoyed every second of that panel. In an after-panel conversation, Huizenga noted to me how one problem with doing things to help the small-press end things is that there are SO MANY cartoonists that they often bury any such attempts without meaning to. That helped me clarify some thinking I had on industry reform. Huizenga is a smart man and scrambles to points of perspective as well as anyone I've ever known, so it's always great to talk to him.
* that panel set the tone for a lot of that weekend's industry talk and late-night bull sessions, which was very focused on practical matters: how to face middled age still trying to do comics, and what are the realistic chances of getting where you want to go. It's good that these quests are being asked, although it's depressing to hear we great cartoonists say matter of factly, as one did, "simply doing comics and getting them published and waiting for the royalties. That just doesn't work."
* the great podcaster Gil Roth and that podcast's sometimes-photographer his wife Amy Beadle Roth were in attendance. If I remember correctly he did podcasts with Keiler Roberts and Seth, so that's something to look forward to. He gets my highest recommendation, that guy.
* more people in Air BnBs than in the hotels, would be my guess. Staying half the distance away I used to seven years ago seems twice as far, and that doesn't seem one hundred percent just an age thing.
* it was nice to see and talk to Team Metaphrog.
* Deb Aoki, Erica Friedman, Heidi MacDonald and Brigid Alverson did a podcast at 1 AM I bet is or will be pretty easy to find. I'll do so myself when I get home. Brigid in particularly seemed to be working a bunch of different clients.
* my understanding is that Simon Hanselmann sold out of his latest. I'm not sure there was a book of the show; a lot of people my age were excited to see the new Pope Hats
* Gary Panter was a popular figure for other cartoonists. He seemed well.
* they spaced the first floor differently a bit -- more islands than rows, and Drawn And Quarterly in the middle rather than towards the front. I liked it, and most of the people I spoke to seemed to like it as well.
* the back room area was used as a kids' reading room, with four or five tables and a reading space. I thought that was smart use of that space.
* I didn't buy a whole lot, but I could have spent $20,000. I'm not even lying. Lots of art supplementing books but not as much "stuff" as I thought there might be. I got the usual range of responses in terms of how people did. Two exhibitors that seemed to have performed ahead of expectations were Silver Sprocket and Nobrow. In no way should any of this represent a summary statement about the show because my queries were very random and only covered about 20 tables.
* I liked the little art exhibits on the floor, although I didn't notice them myself and had to have my map tell me. I think there were at least three, although I could be wrong. Those Tagame pages were about as crisp and attractive-looking as you'd guess.
* I saw RJ Casey pop his moderator cherry at the Pilot, a panel about sports in comics. Ngozi Ukazu feels like a superstar in the making.
* I did two panels myself that day. I did a webcomics-right-now panel with Matt Lubchanski, Michael DeForge, Blue Delliquanti and Priya Huq (her work above), which is about as well-selected a small panel as I've ever been given in terms of range and perspective. The one observation I'll remember longest from that panel was DeForge's. He said he had taken notice recently that what was once a pretty straight forward and direct communication between himself and a few of his readers has now become a much more complicated enterprise that involves middle-men all of which seem to be giant corporations. I can't even suss the implications of that without more thought, but that seems super-important to note.
* the basic mood of that panel was hopeful and practical: you do what you feel you need to do to get your work out there and hopefully receive maximum reward for the effort put in. What that looks like always changes.
* it was great to see Dave Cooper for the first time in years at my other panel and ask a few questions about his short movie The Absence Of Eddy Table
, which was beautiful and enormously well-crafted. He still plans on a graphic novel accompaniment to that piece: the absence spoken of in the short film's title is felt in the comic's narrative.
* the above sequence is an amazing TCAF volunteer getting Cooper's film ready as the usual waves of frustration, near-panic and triumph roll across her face. This person whose name I can't remember because I'm old and dumb was awesome, as were the vast majority of volunteers.
* the pictures in this article are courtesy of my older brother, Whit, who wanted to see Toronto. Thanks to everyone out there that was nice to him.
* had Saturday dinner with my brother and TCAF super-veteran Chris Pitzer at a Pakistani restaurant nestled right behind the library that I didn't even know existed. It tasted great. We walked our way through the venue changes for the show over the year before they moved into the library, and the changing nature of what people buy. He had Pope Hats
out for the show, an oversized issue. I read it this morning and like it a lot.
* saw and spoke to David Brothers briefly, and then spied him throughout the weekend. He's made himself a real asset at Image, it seems.
* I think I broke a heater at the Marriott with my ass.
* the Doug Wrights were nice. All the winners were new to the awards program. It was great to see Henriette Valium stomping around in that hat. Katherine Collins' speech was funny and self-deprecating, and included a promise to return to cartooning to make good on what she felt was part of her Hall Of Fame honor: her work's promise as much as its accomplishment. I got a chance to talk to Collins for 35 minutes after the show, and it was a thrill. She was great. That collected Neil The Horse looks at least 30 percent bigger than you'd expect, but those comics were always packed. That will come out in September in the US, and looks affordably priced. Those comics read extremely well in what may be a more forgiving modern context for genre and tone.
* there were two memorable tributes: a humorous one to Annie Koyama on her press' 10th year, and a heartbreaking one by Julia Pohl-Miranda to the late Genevieve Castree. Emcee Dustin Harbin told me that when he got back to the podium it was covered in Pohl-Miranda's tears.
* David Collier had a new book out at the show, which I never saw, but he stopped by to say hi at the Awards. If I live to be 85 I will remember about three things concerning a life spent near the comics world, and one of them will be Collier at the Doug Wright Awards. Graham Chaffee had a new book out, too!
* best conversation that evening was about Chester Brown never having won a Doug Wright Award and how much the sex worker focus of recent vintage had to do with that or not at all.
* I enjoyed Sunday. I went and saw the German contingent present at The Pilot, and enjoyed that survey-style panel a lot. All of the projects covered look at least marginally interesting, and it's good to hear that Ulli Lust will have another major work that one hopes will be translated a year or two from now. About a dozen in attendance, which is pretty great. Nina Bunjevac was there.
* I was glad to say hi to Jesse Jacobs and thank him for his recent work.
* Tucker Stone seemed on top of the world, but he was an actor once so I'm always a little suspicious. I got to meet Nick Maandag.
* that was my first time in the Masonic Temple space about a quarter mile further north from the Reference Library. Compelling smaller space, interestingly lit. The fifth floor room for panels was hilarious, with thrones in the front of the room, a giant wooden table in the middle of the room fit for the Justice League and a snooker table apparently owned by Mick Jagger (the building's previous occupant was MTV). That panel was a post-mortem for Island
, and I think went pretty well (we all sat around the table). A lot of discussion about how hard the break was for a lot of the creators from the expectations people presently have for production quality, direction, aim and pay, and what that says about comics' current place in the overall arts-market firmament.
* the other big star of TCAF weekend is the city itself. I spent my Sunday night in the city far removed from the semi-private after-party, about which I lost track.
* congratulations to Chris Butcher and the rest of Team TCAF for another exemplary show.
posted 8:55 am PST
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