The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, held May 11-13 at the Toronto Reference Library, marked its 15th anniversary by honoring Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books on its 10th year and hosted a lineup of guests highlighted by acclaimed manga artist Inio Asano, along with Ho Che Anderson (Godhead), Brigitte Findakly (Poppies of Iraq), Mariko Tamaki (Lumberjanes), and Yvan Alagbé (Yellow Negroes) among others.
Although TCAF has not released official attendance figures, Chris Butcher, cofounder and artistic director of TCAF, estimated crowds were similar to last year’s show which drew about 25,000 fans.
TCAF kicked off on Friday May 11 with a professional day devoted to librarians and teachers, despite the absence of the scheduled keynote speaker Mouly. who was delayed in New York City due to weather conditions.
Amie Wright of the Edmonton Public Library and Dr. Lucia Cedeira Serantes of CUNY’s Queens College, pinch hit for Mouly. The two gave a broad overview of Canadian comics that included a lively discussion of what makes a comic Canadian, focusing on creators, settings, and even language and spelling. Among their title recommendations were Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward, Michel Rabagliati’s Paul Joins the Scouts, the Moonshot anthology of comics by Canadian indigenous artists, and Chester Brown’s acclaimed graphic biography of Louis Riehl, the 19th century Canadian rebel/politician.
This year’s show featured the addition of a sizeable new TCAF venue, the Cumberland Terrace, a mall space directly across the street from the library, used to house the Zineland Terrace, which hosted the tables of nearly 100 exhibitors who specialize in DIY and self-published zines and comics related small publications. TCAF also used the site to hold two days of TCAF programming and panels.
Publishers contacted by PW were generally quite happy with sales. Attendance on Saturday, Butcher said, was so large that the library was forced to briefly restrict the entry of fans to an overly crowded TCAF exhibition hall. The result was a monstrously long line to get into the hall that lasted several hours.
Among the books being debuted at TCAF 2018 were David B’s Hasib, a riff on the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights (NBM), Eisner award-winner Vera Brosgol’s graphic memoir Be Prepared (First Second), and Max de Radigues and Wauter Mannaert’s Weegee, a graphic biography of the famous crime photographer (Conundrum Press).
In addition, Ron Wimberly (Prince of Cats) debuted the first issue of LAAB magazine, which is actually a newsprint broadsheet with a selection of critical essays by comics artists/writers such as John Jennings, James Romberger, and Wimberly himself, focused on the issues around race and gender in comics and their intersection with the issues around contemporary gallery art and other cultural media. The Kickstarter funded publication was published by Josh O’Neill and Maëlle Doliveux, copublishers at Beehive Books.
A featured guest, acclaimed manga artist Inio Asano attracted an enthusiastic capacity crowd to a live public interview about his career, and about his new sci-fi manga Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, just released from Viz Media. Manga fans also stopped by the table of Sparkler Monthly (a manga-influenced digital magazine aimed teen female-identified fans) to check out advance copies of three much anticipated upcoming titles from Seven Seas Manga: The Bride Was A Boy by Chii, a diary comic by a transgender woman, My Solo Exchange Diary by Kabi Nagata (a sequel to Nagata’s best-selling My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, a 2017 PW Best Book), and Claudine by Ryoko Ikeda, a one-volume LGBTQ manga by the pioneering shojo artist and author of the 1974 manga classic Rose of Versailles.
Drawn Quarterly, the highly regarded Canadian graphic novel publisher, did not exhibit at TCAF this year and did not offer a public explanation for its absence.
The 2018 Doug Wright Awards honoring the best work and promising new talent in Canadian comics are presented each year at TCAF. This year’s winners are Sami Alwani (The Dead Father), Jesse Jacobs (Crawl Space, from Koyama Press), and Jenn Woodall (Magical Beatdown Vol. 2 and Marie and Worrywart, from Silver Sprocket Press).