Five tips to make the most of TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival)

As my wife is bored of hearing me say repeatedly, the only comic event I like attending is Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Yes, the event is different for everybody – some like the panel talks, some are there for the big names of the alternative and indie comic scene. But I learned a few tips at last year’s cartoon-schmooze that I’m going to try this year. You might find them useful as well.

Sammy the Mouse #3 by Zak Sally - front cover1.Do your research

Before you head out the door, make sure to check the website to review the list of attendees. It happens every year that I underestimate the volume of talent at TCAF, and I’m always surprised and overwhelmed when I first arrive. And they’re just sitting at their booths ready to chat to keep the day interesting. The focus on creators is part of what makes TCAF such a great experience. I nearly missed Zak Sally, creator of Sammy the Mouse, at the Fantagraphics booth where I was able to pick up a few of the early books in his series I was missing.

2. Set a budget and stick to it (…sort of)

TCAF is not for comic bargain hunters. You can go to one of the big cons for cheap bins of superhero books. You might find some of the big releases on a little bit of a sale, but there aren’t really deals at the indie booths and some of the overseas material is not cheap. I like to set a budget and withhold 20% as an “in case” fund that I save for when I’m walking out the door. Because inevitably I see something as I’m walking toward the exit and I regret having already spent all my money. (And I also throw a few extra bucks in a different pocket as an “in case, in case” fund.)

3. The main attraction is a distraction

It’s true this is one of the few times I’ll ever have the opportunity to ask a question to Daniel Clowes, Seth, Jeff Smith, or Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. Nevertheless, one of the best parts of TCAF is the indie and self-published artists so make sure to leave enough time to check out what some of the new talent are up to. The space is deceivingly large so you might want to split your time up 30/60 with the bulk of it roaming the floor rather than waiting in autograph lineups.

4. Start at the top

If this year is like previous ones, the indie booths are on the second floor. And that’s where a lot of the good stuff is. Last year, because I didn’t read the guest list thoroughly (see Tip #1), I stumbled upon Brandon Graham selling his King City. I glanced him out of the corner of my eye as I was doing a quick pass through on my way out the door. I would very well have missed him completely and the opportunity to complete my run of the series – signed and doodled, no less.

So before you get caught up and spend too much time on the main floor, head upstairs and walk around for 4o minutes before wading back into the throng of autograph junkies (see Tip #3).

5. Bring plenty of storage

The weight and bulk of these books can add up. Before you know it, you’re trying to bike home with an overstuffed backpack strapped to your body and gripping a plastic bag in each hand while trying to steer along Bloor Street traffic.

(Top photo via Chris Butcher)

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Filed under comic culture, Events, Toronto comic info

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