Tag Archives: Gabriel Ba

“Comics are trash” and other lessons from TCAF 2012

This year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival offered some interesting moments.

Chief among them was a comment from Michael Comeau, the winner of this year’s Pigskin Peters Award for experimental or avant-garde comic. Following some very flattering words about his winning book Hellberta from presenter Jeet Heer, Comeau ended his acceptance speech more or less with: “Comics are trash. And when you’re into trash, you have a lot of friends.”

The words landed with a dull thud and a bit of the air left the auditorium packed with graphic novel types, a small handful of comic journalists, presumably some fans, and professional editorial cartoonists who had shown up to hear the respected and well-known Terry Mosher speak on the night of his hall of fame induction. I cringed a little thinking about the evening’s organizers Brad Mckay and Seth imagining how much effort they put into the affair and its attempts to elevate the work of comic artists beyond the 50 cent bins Comeau referenced in his speech.

There are any number of reasons why Comeau may have said that. (Perhaps he was being a bit of a punk in front of his friends? He has a difficult time taking praise and this is how he defuses it? It’s some sort of inside joke? Who knows?) Whatever the reason, his words handily illustrate the tension within the comic book community — a continuing struggle for recognition of artists who are producing honest, personal and transformational work, while super-soldiers and demi-gods dominate the box office and Wal-Mart aisles. There aren’t many cosplay fans dressing up as Wimbledon Green, that’s for certain.

Lesson #1: Art comic award shows are funky

The Doug Wright Awards were worth attending for the awards show program alone. This year, it was a cute little chapbook styled booklet running two dozen pages or so, reprinting a funny online strip by cartoonist Dustin Harbin about his first trip to the DW awards in 2011. First published on The Comics Journal website.

Also this year, 2011 winner Michael DeForge designed a beautiful limited edition poster. The physical awards handed out include a bowler’s hat sized to the winner’s head. And the organizers produce a rather slick video showcase of the best book category nominees. How often does a comic book get that level of treatment?

Lesson #2: Research!

I need to start taking my own advice. I didn’t realize Matt Kindt and Luke Pearson were attending. I would have loved take a few minutes to chat with those guys. Pearson’s work I discovered at last year’s TCAF where I picked up his debut book Hildafolk and a Solipsistic Pop anthology in which he contributed. I’ve since added Everything We Miss and the all-ages Hilda and the Midnight Giant to my collection. Kindt is a more recent find from his run on Sweet Tooth (Vertigo), and I’m looking forward to his upcoming MIND MGMT (Dark Horse) based on the preview pages floating around on the Internet.

Lesson #3: Budget more time

This one is difficult for me due to family commitments. But only having 2 hours at the show, one of which I spent listening to Aislin’s funny editorial cartoonist talk, meant missing some favourite artists. And who can blame them? They can’t sit at table all day. But I missed Jason (one of my all-time faves), the previously mentioned Luke Pearson and Gabriella Giandelli, to name a few. I did, however, get to talk to Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba who were super nice, seemed genuinely excited in Toronto and signed the gorgeous poster they designed for the show.

Lesson #4: Pay more attention to small press

Each year, the show helps me broaden my horizon and my taste becomes a little more indie. I’ve bookmarked Koyama Press and AdHouse Books on my web browser. And I’m now reading Lose by Michael DeForge (Koyama) and Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse).


The list of books I bought at TCAF this year

Terry Mosher and the Doug Wright Awards

Five tips for making the most of TCAF

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Books I bought at TCAF 2012, aka “the haul”

I’m fortunate to live in Toronto where, between the Beguiling, Silver Snail and my local comic shop, I can find (or at the very least order) pretty near anything I come across in the Previews catalogue.

So as a general rule when I attend the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, I try to avoid the bigger releases to spend more time exploring the booths for indie or very small press books that don’t receive wide distribution and meet their creators.

Because I arrived late in the afternoon this year, I had only two hours to spend at TCAF before the patrons were kicked out because the venue, the Toronto Public Reference Library, was closing for the day. And I spent half of that time listening to this year’s Giants of the North hall of fame inductee Terry “Aislin” Mosher talk about editorial cartooning. Time well-spent, but it meant cruising at full speed through the rest of the space in 60 minutes.

Here is a list of the books I picked up on my whirlwind tour:

Pixu: The Mark of Evil (Dark Horse Comics)
Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos

Okay, I know what I just wrote about avoiding “bigger” books. But let me set the scene: I’d been completely unaware of this 2009 horror collaboration until Friday evening’s Jeff Smith/Gabriel Ba/Fabio Moon panel conversation (which was fantastic I must say). Plus, Pixu (pronounced pee-shu) was originally self-published before its Dark Horse re-issue. I was going to pick this one up at some point. But the clincher is that I bought it directly from the Brazilian brothers, who are at the top of my list of favourite artists at the moment.

They were just standing at their booth with nobody else around. We chatted for a few minutes but I couldn’t stick around – I was on a mission. I don’t typically act like a fanboy, but I just had to ask them to sign a copy of the poster they designed for the 2012 show. It’s simply gorgeous.

Easily one of my top comic moments of all-time. Thank you TCAF.

Any Empire (Top Shelf)
Nate Powell

“His new book, Any Empire, is a vivid examination of war and violence, and their trickle-down effects on middle America. First, a group of small-town kids find themselves bound together by geography, boredom, and a string of mysterious turtle mutilations. Years later, with Army tanks rolling through the streets of their hometown, these young adults are forced to confront painful questions of privilege, duty, betrayal, and courage.

Any Empire recalls aimless summers of Nancy Drew and GI Joe, treehouses and army surplus stores… but when fantasy starts to bleed into reality, whose mission will be accomplished?”

I can’t tell you much about Nate Powell except I was intrigued by the cover to Any Empire from browsing the Top Shelf website before even learning he’d won a 2009 Eisner award for his graphic novel Swallow Me Whole.

So there is Nate working a table beside Cecil Castellucci, and they are having a great time. We chat and I leave with a copy of this book.

My Friend Dahmer (Abrams ComicArts)
Derf BackDerf

It was featured on the TCAF website as one of the books debuting at the show, I guess this falls into the camp of one of the bigger releases. So I’ve already broken my rule again, it would seem.

“We all have that one school friend– the strange kid, the class freak, the guy whose antics amused and entertained, maybe even alarmed us. The one who sticks in our heads even with the passing of the years. That classmate is invariably left behind when we graduate into the adult world, vanishing into memory, filed away with our old yearbooks and other teenage mementos. But every now and then, we wonder, whatever happened to that friend? For one man who grew up in a small town in Ohio, that question was answered by every media outlet in the world on July 22, 1991. For the friend in question was… Jeffrey Dahmer!”

Interesting, yes? I thought so. Can you blame me for picking up a copy.

You can read more blurb material here.

Trashed: True Tales from the Back of a Garbage Truck (Slave Labour Graphics)
Derf Backderf

Derf again.

What can I say? We had an interesting chat even though he doesn’t say very much.

This one actually sounded more interesting to me than Dahmer. So picked up both to avoid regretting buying one and not the other because I’m pretty sure I’m going to fall in love with both books.

Lose #3 (Koyama Press)
Michael DeForge

My introduction to DeForge. He picked up a Doug Wright Award last year and was nominated in the Best Book category this year.

“A new self-contained issue in Michael DeForge’s one-man anthology series. In the issue’s main story, “Dogs 2070,” screenwriter Stephen tries to reconnect with his ex-wife and son in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.”

Lost #3 is difficult to describe despite that blurb. There is one long story – a dystopic tale of a depressed divorced flying dog – and a few short ones. I didn’t realize I had been craving a book like this for so long until I picked it up and read it.

Interiorae #1 (Fantagraphics)
Gabriella Giandelli

I don’t know anything about Gabriella. However, I had seen Interiorae while browsing the Fantagraphics website catalogue.

“A high-rise apartment building in an unnamed European city. Its inhabitants come and go, meet each other, talk, dream, regret, hope… in short, live. A ghostly, shape-shifting anthropomorphic white rabbit roams from apartment to apartment, surveying and keeping track of all this humanity… and at the end of every night, he floats down to the basement where he delivers his report to the “great dark one.”

Nobrow 6 (Nobrow Press)

I happened upon this publisher at last year’s festival where I picked up a few books from their series that debuts new artists, which is where I discovered Luke Pearson. The first five installments of this anthology are art books comprised of two-page pin-up spreads. Beautiful but not my thing. This issue, however, features strips – very cool strips. And the talent lineup is indie nerd-tastic: the aforementioned DeForge, Matt Forsythe, Richard Short, John Martz, and many more.

Nobrow #7 is scheduled for release in June.

Pope Hats #1, 2 (Adhouse Books)
Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats follows the trials of a young woman named Frances Scarland, whose social circle mainly consists of an alcoholic actress and an inept ghost named Saarsgard. The comic is an engaging slice-of-life story about young people navigating their own daily shortcomings.

Pope Hats #2 follows the rise of young law clerk Frances Scarland. Frances must survive an unwanted promotion at one of Toronto’s major Bay Street firms, while tending to the regular wake of destruction left behind by her best friend. This eagerly anticipated issue follows what Seth described as “the most impressive debut comic I’ve seen in years” with a surreal exploration of growth and failure in downtown Toronto. Also included is a short story about a long distance relationship.”

A 2012 Doug Wright Award winner! I had no idea it was even nominated when I picked it up earlier in the day.

Everything We Miss (Nobrow Press)

Luke Pearson

I love this guy’s stuff. He does everything from all-ages (Hilda and the Midnight Giant) to this book. At the core, Everything We Miss chronicles the end of a relationship. But it’s so much more. Best if you check out the preview pages to get a feel for it and read the review posted there.

Papercutter (Tugboat Press)


From Portland! What is it with comics and Portland? There must be something in the water there.

Tugboat puts out this neat little anthology series.

There were two people working the booth. (I’m totally blanking on their names.) When I asked if they liked the TV comedy Portlandia, she said “yes” but he said, “No, it’s too smarmy and makes fun of all my friends.” I couldn’t tell whether  or not he was being serious.

Jason Conquers America (Fantagraphics)
Jason + others

I really wanted to meet Danish cartoonist Jason. I can’t get enough of his work.

When I saw he was on the guest list, it was him, Ba and Moon that I was hoping for a chance to meet. But it didn’t work out. Instead, I picked up a copy of this little $5 comic/zine that compiles funny unpublished strips and a few interviews.

For a reader like myself who’s enjoyed as much of his work as I have, it’s a fun little find.

Thanks for reading this unfortunately long post.

Other TCAF coverage you might be interested in:

Five tips when attending TCAF

Countdown to TCAF 2012: guest and event highlights

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Countdown to TCAF 2012: guest and event highlights

My favourite annual comic gathering, Toronto Comics Art Festival, is around the corner.

TCAF seems to get a little bigger and better with each edition, and 2012 seems to follow the rule.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to attend the fest Friday evening kickoff event, and I’m particularly jazzed by this year’s panel lineup: Jeff Smith, Gabriel Ba and Fabio MoonSmith is the creator of the wildly successful series Bone. I stumbled upon Brazilian twins Ba and Moon on Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse) and followed them to the award-winning mini-series Daytripper (Vertigo), easily one of my favourite books of 2010.

You can visit this page to review the full list of featured guests. But here are four noteworthy Canadian guests:

Aislin: There are few political cartoonists whose work is as widely distributed as Terry Mosher. He’s the cartoonist for Montreal newspaper The Gazette, but his work has appeared almost everywhere. And he’s won numerous awards. I met Mosher during my  Maclean’s magazine years. He’s a fantastic guy always willing to go the extra mile. Check out his talk if you have the chance. He has lots of share.

Nova Scotia native Kate Beaton will be around. (Congrats on her nomination for this year’s Doug Wright Best Book award category. Good luck to all the nominees.) She’s been getting a lot of press recently. Her webcomic Hark! A Vagrant won the Harvey Award in 2011 in the online comic category.

Quebec City-born Guy Delisle will visit from his home in France to launch his new graphic novel, The Jerusalem Chronicles (reviews here and here), answer some questions in a Q&A and screen a short film documenting a year of Delisle’s life creating this book. If the event isn’t sold out yet, I might try to make it out.

Finally another Montrealer, Michel Rabagliati, will be on hand. When I read my first Rabagliati book, Paul Moves Out, my immediate impression was of comic art rooted in European comics history of bandes-dessinees. A real strong piece of work. I’m looking forward to picking up one or two more of books.

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Fantagraphics on YouTube

I just came across the Fantagraphics channel on YouTube where they post video previews (no audio) of newly released books as well as the latest issue of The Comics Journal.

I haven’t read the Journal in a long time. In fact, the last issue I have is the Best of 2006 from Feb ’07. It’s always seemed like the kind of thing I should be picking up and reading regularly. But I just can’t shake the feeling that the people at TCJ don’t really like comics. Maybe dislike is too strong, but they sure do seem to go out of their way to either ignore or piss on anything that’s slightly mainstream. Now, I don’t think I could read past the first few pages of Wizard. I must have been 18 or 19 years old the last time I picked that up, and nothing I’ve seen since has enticed me to buy. But TCJ is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum: comics snobbery with a big hate on for the big publishers, mainstream and superheroes. (Hence why I spend so much time reading about comics online – to find that sane middle ground).

However I was very interested by this video preview feature and watched a few of them (which are in the new video feed you’ll see on this page).  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The clips  for TCJ #298 piqued my curiosity: an interview with Gabriel Ba (I loved his work on The Umbrella Academy, so am excited to learn more), lots more strips and excerpts than I recall, and a few other interesting tidbits that looked promising. I embedded the clip so you can see for yourself:

The discovery of this channel also prompted me to explore the Vodpod widget for WordPress. So I’m now excited to offer a video feed feature on the blog.

Another recent enhancement as of this weekend: Comic Book Summaries was kind enough to let me publish a feed for his summaries blog here. Now you can keep up with what’s happening in the latest issues of the top Marvel and DC titles, as well as their weekly shipping lists. (Thank you CBS.)

Finally, I added a Books about Comics page to the blog. It’s exactly what the title says: reviews on books that discuss and explore the comics medium. Check it out when you have a minute and please leave a comment.

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Pull list comic reviews: New Mutants, Young Liars, Power Girl, Astro City, Umbrella Academy, and more

Here’s what I picked up in the past two weeks at my local retailer, Comics N More.

New Mutants #1 (Zeb Wells, Diogenes Neves): One part nostalgia, one part creative curiosity has me picking up this issue. I’m hoping they do something decent with the title. The Claremont/Sienkiewicz run on the original series had a profound impact on me and remains one of my favourite of the comics I purchased back in the 80s.

Young Liars #15 (David Lapham): Lapham’s mind trip that is, sadly, canceled as of issue #18. This is the title I most look forward too each month.

House of Mystery #13:  Despite some of the negative reviews I read about this series, it continues to deliver.

Terror Inc. Apocalypse Soon (David Lapham, Koi Turnball, Scott Hanna): The original limited series was gloriously grotesque. Here’s hoping for good things with the follow-up.

Astro City The Dark Age Book Three #1 (Kurt Busiek, Brent E. Anderson): I recently finished reading the entire series (which I picked up on eBay for a great price). The Dark Age has been up and down for me so far, but I’m sticking it through to see how it wraps up.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas (Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba) #6: I believe this is the last issue of the second mini-series. The first volume was quirky and a lot of fun. I’ve been saving up the run of volume 2 with the intent to read them all at once.

The Unwritten #1 (Mike Carey, Peter Gross): I enjoyed Carey’s Crossing Midnight, but haven’t had the chance to read any of their stint on Lucifer.

Run! (Matthew Sturges, Freddi Williams II): I’ll be honest – I picked this up because I was curious to read how Sturges would write a superhero book, the cover looked cool and I really like the series title. I’ve not read a single comic connected to the DC Crisis event, so I’m hoping I can follow along.

Power Girl (Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner): I saw a few pages of this posted on some message board or blog and was immediately taken. I’m hoping for something fun like Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave. There are also too few women artists in comics, so I’m often tempted to check out their work.

So this is a lot of books for two weeks, far more than I normally pick up.

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