Five reasons to attend TCAF 2011

The 2011 Toronto Toronto Comics Arts Festival is nearly upon us. This is the fifth and arguably most promising event thus far. I say that having attended nearly each of the previous festivals, missing only the first one in 2003.

Toronto offers the gamut when it comes to publishing events from zine gatherings to big comic book conventions – celebrity autographs and cosplay included.

TCAF falls somewhere in between. It’s the hottest small press comics event going and, for those who enjoy discovering gems not easily found at local retailers, a highlight for the comic book obsessed crowd. Read more on their About Page.

If you’ve never been, here are five reasons you should carve out a bit of time this weekend to drop by.

1. A superstar lineup
This is probably the biggest lineup of star talent yet for TCAF. It’s growing reputation is a testament to the dedication and hard work that co-founders Peter Birkmore and Chris Butcher put into building this event. The comics industry has taken notice allowing TCAF to attract many big names — Chester Brown, Darwyn Cooke, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware, Paul Pope, Farel Dalrymple, Ray Fawkes… the list is huge — and serve as a launch pad for new releases. There are nearly two dozen new books debuting this weekend including Chester Brown’s Paying For It, Home and Away by Mawli, Stuart Immonen’s Centifolia II, and Michael DeForge’s latest installment of LOSE to name a few.

2. Fantastic venue
Too many Torontonians have, unfortunately, never stepped foot inside the Toronto Reference Library. Let’s change that. It’s a beautiful resource that would make any book lover weak at the knees. We’re talking multiple floors, row after row of books.

The facilities are undergoing a $34million renovation, and the results promise to be impressive. They have a great collection of comics to boot – recent and classics, mainstream and indie. It’s incredible.

3. International flavour
Toronto is well-known for being a multicultural mosaic. Experience it in comics. Not only can you meet international talent like Italy’s Lorenzo Mattotti, you can explore German comics at the Comics, Manga & Co. – The New German Comics Culture exhibit, curated by the Goethe-Institute and Matthias Schneider.

The exhibition presents two generations of graphic artists – the comic avant garde, whose members are responsible for the founding of the German ‘Comic Culture’ as well as a new generation of young comic artists.

Comics, Manga & Co runs until May 31.

4. Sightings!
It’s no secret Toronto (and Canada for that matter) is home to some top comics talent – many of whom won’t be attending this year but might take in the scene and strike up a conversation. Keep on the lookout for Seth, Jeff Lemire and Lezley Davidson to name just a few.

5. It’s free
That’s right, there is no admission price. This festival is open to all. It encourages both literacy and a love of comics – two movements I can get behind. This is in stark contrast to the big conventions that blow through town, charge at the door and attract autograph hounds looking to shell out for a signed publicity shots from an actor on Stargate. At TCAF, you can save all your pennies to spend on hard-to-find small press gems.

Can you tell I’m excited? TCAF runs May 7 and 8.

Video: Toronto Comic Arts Festival: Pencil it In from Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

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