When I want a full-on, comic convention experience, the Toronto Fan Expo absolutely does it for me. It's a great event, and I'll never forget how my kids bounced off the walls in 2012 after getting to have their picture taken with this guy you may have heard of named Stan Lee.
When I'm looking for something more intimate, however, it's hard to beat the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Taking place over the course of a week, it brings some of the finest creators working in visual narrative to Canada's largest city. For those of you unfamiliar with TCAF, it's put on by The Beguiling and the Toronto Public Library and is described by organizers in the following way:
It is a week long celebration of comics and graphic novels and their creators, which culminates in a two-day exhibition and vendor fair featuring hundreds of comics creators from around the world. Other Festival events include readings, interviews, panels, workshops, gallery shows, art installations, and much more. Since 2009, TCAF has been held at Toronto Reference Library in Toronto, Canada, and presented by Toronto Public Library.
Whether you're watching a great panel taking place at the Marriott Hotel, listening to a talk being given at one or more locations in and around Bloor and Yonge, or strolling the floors of the Toronto Reference Library where publishing houses are showcasing their wares, you'll notice that the TCAF has something a typical convention lacks...
At TCAF, visual narrative devotees can walk up and talk to some of their favourite comics creators--not just walk up and say a quick hello, but have an actual conversation. Chester Brown won't just sign your prized copy of Louis Riel or Ed the Happy Clown for you -- he'll actually be interested in having a bit of a chat.
And for the more conservative-minded among you who don't want the craziness of a full-on convention, you can be rest assured that things never get too out of hand at TCAF. After all, it takes place largely in a library where some patrons are--get this--just there to use the library!
The TCAF is a festival that just seems to do things the right way. Even the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the Doug Wright Awards was excellent this year. Hats off to Brad Mackay, by the way. If you were around this past Saturday you could have attended the awards ceremony because it, like everything else at the TCAF, comes with the same price tag.
Yes...that's right folks. It's absolutely free.
Therein, perhaps, lies at least some of the magic that is the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
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Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.
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