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)
“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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
“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)
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