This coming weekend the 2nd Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) will take place in downtown Toronto. On Saturday, May 28th and Sunday, May 29th, a block of Markham St. (by Bloor and Bathurst right beside Honest Ed's), will be closed off to traffic and over 150 cartoonists will be out on the street under tents showing off their wares. In addition there will be:

  • A Kick-off party with DJ Kid Koala spinning and Jim Mahfood drawing to the music. 
  • A Children's tent sponsored by Scholastic that will feature Jeff Smith, a number of cartoonists from Owl magazine (a Canadian children's magazine), and workshops for kids on how to make their own comics.
  • Readings by Gary Panter, Tony Millionaire and Genevieve Castree in the Harbourfront Reading Series (this is a very influential literary series in Toronto that normally features writers such as Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco).
  • Workshops and panels such as the "Smarten Up!" panel where academics from various Canadian and US. universities will talk about comics.
  • Plus lots more!   

As you can see, there's really something for everybody and that's part of what's so special about the event. The organizers have tried very hard to appeal to non-comics readers and get them out on the street and exposed to the best of what the medium has to offer.

I participated in the first ever TCAF in 2003 (which was much smaller in scope), and I have to say it was probably the most enjoyable comic festival or convention, that I've ever been to. Put on by the Beguiling comic store (one of North America's premier comic shops), the first TCAF was a real celebration of the art form. There was a wide range of artists from David Mack to Jason Little, but the focus was squarely on independent works. What I loved about it was that there was a large number of people who attended the festival who I'd never seen before at any comic event, and everyone was so enthusiastic about what they saw. For the participants - there was just a great celebratory mood to the event.

Comics to Look For at TCAF
With all the cartoonists at this year's fest, it'll be easy to overlook some gems, so I thought I would share some of my picks below: (note that though there are cartoonists from far and wide at the show,  I've decided to just focus on fellow Canucks).

There You WereThere You Were - Diana Tamblyn
Yes, I'll just quickly plug my own work here as I'll be debuting a new mini-comic at the festival called "There You Were". It's black and white mini, and is a slice-of-life story about the relationship between two office co-workers.

Scott Pilgrim 2 - Bryan Lee O'Malley
This probably doesn't need a lot of introduction for people as Scott Pilgrim was a wild success last year. Part 2 makes its debut this weekend though and it's one comic that I'll definitely be picking up. I'll also try to get my 18-year old sister who'll be helping me out at my table and who's not really into comics to give it a read.

Violet Miranda, Girl Pirate - Emily Pohl-Weary and Willow Dawson
This is a good old-fashioned pirate adventure written by the local team of writer Emily Pohl-Weary and illustrator by Willow Dawson. This is a very fun story, and Willow is a a really talented artist to watch out for. I'm betting we'll be seeing a lot more of her soon... 

Hope Larson
I discovered Hope's work online, and she has a nice one-page story in the free "Comics Festival" book. She has a sharp, simple style with a great eye for blacks, and I'm hoping she'll have some nice minis for sale.

Corpse - Zach Worton
I had the good fortune of sitting beside Zach Worton at the Beguiling on Free Comic Book Day, and got to look at his graphic novel: Corpse in some detail. He's really a terrific cartoonist and he'll have a new Corpse mini out for the show by new imprint - Candy Coated Press. He also does great sketches of Tintin characters, so be sure to ask for one from him!

Fiona Smyth - Studio Visit
Fiona Smyth has got to be one of the most noted Toronto artists. Her work is hard to miss as you'll see it just by walking around downtown Toronto. She has some gorgeous murals that are real favourites in the city - especially the one at Sneaky Dee's. Every now and then she does a comic book, and she also does a monthly strip for Exclaim magazine. What I'm really excited about however, is that her art studio is right by all the action and she's agreed to open it up to the public during the festival. This is a great opportunity to get a "behind the scenes" look at how she works, and I'm going to be sure to check it out... 

There's really lots going on, so I really encourage everyone to check out the TCAF website fully, make up your own want-lists and come on down!

-- Diana Tamblyn

Read ADD's review of Diana Tamblyn's mini-comics

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