Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Comics, and Canada

I thought I'd document all the comics I bought recently from Canada. What initially started out as a trip to attend the Toronto Comics Arts Festival turned into a slightly longer holiday. I didn't really have any plans to write a post-convention report going in, and I don't have one now; the aim was to simply have a break and enjoy the experience unfettered. But some quick notes:

  • The atmosphere at TCAF was different to anything that I've previously encountered at comics festivals; not sure if this is down to a cultural thing, the heat, or the make up of attendees being anybody who walks through the door or wants to use the library (the library services stay open for patron's use), but the best I can describe it was that it was flatter. Part of this was also because it was more business-like- it felt very sales orientated, as opposed to people-orientated. This was my first non-British comics event, and I'm used to people in the UK being very British in approach and talking to people and being more casual. Which sounds daft, because everybody is there to sell comics and people are there to buy them, but it felt more hard-nosed. I'm sure others felt differently.
  • I really, really liked that the venue has plenty of space for people to sit down. One of the nicest things was being able to take a break within the convention space to rest for a bit, and seeing other people pulling out books to read, to share what they'd bought, or chatting to those they'd met up with specifically for the festival. I think this is an aspect quite a few events need to improve on- generally you're at a convention for a few hours at least and spending it all on your feet is exhausting. Once you leave to find reprieve, you're more reluctant to return, so seating helps with keeping people at the con, as well as adding another dimension to the event overall.
  • Related: the location is also fantastic because it has a tonne of good places to eat at surrounding it. Food provision is also often overlooked at cons- there may be a few food vans or stalls, or nothing at all, meaning you have to travel to grab something. Again, as a comics fan, I attend a con with the plan to be there for a while, which means I'll need food. I'm guessing the same applies to exhibitors. Unsure where packed lunches factor into this, but it's certainly not something I want to be thinking of on top of all else. Both this and the seating issue may seem minor, but they're absolutely not. And in a time where there are new events and festivals cropping up with rapidity, it's important for cons to differentiate and offer better. The option and facility to take a break and regroup -whether for food or else- should be standard.
  • In terms of attendees, it was easily the most diverse show I've attended, which was great to see. 
  • The range of guests was really good, and impressively accessible. I didn't notice huge queues at any particular point. There was a long one of maybe 13 people for Charles Burns at one point- but that's doable. One of the things I noticed whilst in Toronto is that people seem to get up pretty late? A lot of the shops, business, places we visited had opening times that started at 11am. With the festival starting at 10 -we got there at about 10:30, it was still filling up and it was easy to get to see whoever you wanted.
  • I'm unsure how exhibitor space is allocated, but some areas were really tight to navigate and hard to get into. The Wowee Zonk room was filled with great artists, but the first time I attempted it, it was heaving and there was absolutely no chance (or space) of stopping to look at tables- we were propelled by the crowd to the exit. The second time wasn't much better either. The same applies to exhibitors arranged at the funnel of the stairs on the second floor- perhaps the thinking is that as people will have to pass them, it provides more visibility, but being able to stop there to look and browse while masses of people are streaming to pass you is difficult.
  • The newspaper program was good, and helpful in listing exhibitors, table numbers, panels, and so forth.
  • The TCAF 'pop-up' shop at the reference library is excellent: wonderful selection of comics, art books, prints, and related material- it's excellent news that that will now be a permanent fixture. It's as good as, and better, than some dedicated comic book shops that I've seen.  
  • Annie Koyama is as rad as everyone says she is. It's highly suspicious.
  • A lot of people asked me what I thought and how I was liking TCAF and I replied 'overwhelming' a lot because I didn't know what to say. I lied: I wasn't overwhelmed, it was simply tough to immediately articulate my feelings. I liked the festival overall- I bought a tonne of comics (see below), and it was so good to be able to meet a lot of people I respect and/or whose work I admire, -apart from Michael DeForge who blatantly IGNORED me- but there was something I can't quite put my finger on- a lack of cohesiveness, maybe? I don't know. It's very likely it's just me. All else was fine. 

I've split this post into two categories: purchases made at the Beguiling, and purchases made at TCAF. The majority of what I got from The Beguiling is all older comics, hard to find, out of print, things that have been on my mental list, or whatever looked interesting. It's a superbly curated shop, and there's a truly vast range of material fitted into what's essentially a pretty compact space, even over two floors. I'm not sure if it was TCAF related in that they're the people who run it, and must get a lot of visitors around that time, but it was quite messy and dark. The lighting on the lower floor (which I think is windowless, or the window is covered) in particular is sort of dingy. Labelling of sections could be much better- there's cardboard markers in bookshelves with felt-tipped headings. My view on comics shops is that anyone should be able to walk in and books be accessible to them at least in terms of clearly marked areas of interest/genre/etc. But you can't fault the stock.

Oliver and I spent a lot of time going over in our heads how much luggage allowance and money we had, which books would probably be easy to get hold of in the UK, but we both ended up buying a load anyway. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting The Beguiling twice, hunting for books and then eating at Butler's Pantry just a few feet away- they do some delicious fish cakes and samosas. Also the first time I've had coke in a jar...

The Beguiling:

The Unexpected Adventures of Bernard Mergendeiler, and Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl by Jules Feiffer- I like Jules Feiffer a lot- probably more early Jules Feiffer than anything
A Cabbage in a Nutshell by Tin Can Forest
Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm official movie adaption by Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck, Rick Burchett and Rick Taylor
Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure by Mike Mignola, Walter Simonson, and Bob Wiacek- slowly trying to get hold of all Mignola's obscured 90's past. I think this is still easy to get on sites like Ebay, but it was there, so.
Billie by Sarah E. Byam and Tim Sale
The Ice Wanderer and Other StoriesA Distant Neighbourhood volume 1 by Jiro Taniguchi- My appreciation for Taniguchi has been something that's crept up on me. He's never previously stood out as someone I'd think of naming as one of my favourite authors, but recently I've read more of his work and now am finding I've enjoyed everything he's done- his work is probably the definition of beautifully understated which helps it fly  under the radar. It can suck to be late to the party, though, as a lot of his early books are now out of print, such as A Distant Nieghbourhood, above.

Batman: Strangest Cases by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, Len Wein, Berni Wrightson, Dick Giordano and more
Elektra Lives Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley- hardback oversized edition, which made it tough to turn down. The Miller Elektra books are ones I've been meaning to get around to reading eventually, and seeing attractive editions of them pushed me into actually buying them.
Elektra Assassin by Frank Miller and Bill Seinkiwicz- signed by Seinkiwicz. There were a few paperback editions of this but I liked the cover on this one best.
The Bus by Paul Kirchner- this hardback collection is really hard to get hold of for a reasonable price, and despite it being available online in full, it's one of those that I like enough to want a print copy of.
Picture book, and Sunny print, by Taiyo Matsumoto (free with purchase)- I was really after The Art of Ping Pong the animation book, but apparently they'd sold out of them all. Trying desperately not to fall down the rabbit hole of beginning to buy comics and picture books in languages I can't understand, but fighting a losing battle.

The Cowboy Wally Show by Kyle Baker- Baker's another of those brilliant authors whose oeuvre I'm collecting. Was previously confused by the many editions of The Cowboy Wally Show, but it appears they're all the same, just printed at different times with different covers. I wish DC would collect and release his Plastic Man run properly.
Heartbroken Angels 1 and 2 by Masahiko Kikuni- never heard of this before but the covers and design were intriguing. You can't tell from my poor photography, but they're little hardbacks with metallic, fuzzy blurred cover art.
Sparrow by Jim Mahfood- I didn't know the Sparrow books were so tiny? The Beguiling had a few, but Jim Mahfood was the only artist I liked.


Missy 3, and Middle School Missy by Daryl Seitchik- it was so cool to be able to meet Daryl in person- she's the best- and hear about secret upcoming stuff which you should all keep an eye out for.
The Dark Nothing, and The Clouds Above special edition by Jordan Crane- The Dark Nothing was a TCAF debut, limited to 200 copies, and I don't have The Clouds Above, and this gorgeous limited, special edition was impossible to resist. I believe it has interlocking dust jackets that when put together make a larger design? Crane is easily one of the best print book designers in the business- everything feels attended to and special.
Mother, and Seed by Celine Loup
In A Succulent Universe, Nature Nurture, Forest Tales 1 and 2, Witches Brew by Jen Tong- I'd never come across Jen Tong's work but she works with screenprint and riso a lot, and it largely seems to be heavily image or nature focused, both of which I'm really into at the moment.

A Distant Neighbourhood volume 2, Summit of the Gods volume 1, A Zoo in Winter by Jiro Taniguchi-  As mentioned, a lot of English language Taniguchi is either out of print really hard to get hold of in the UK for some reason- A Zoo In Winter, for example is currently selling for £40+ on various sites. We chatted to someone at the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth about the early volumes of Summit of the Gods being out of print and he said they were looking to re-issue them, but didn't know when it would happen. I looked into starting the series a while back -it's now on book 5- but couldn't get the early volumes; Oliver was super kind and bought me the first volume, which is the most expensive to get hold of. I'd picked up the first volume of A Distant Neighbourhood at The Beguling the previous day, so it made sense to get the second book, too.
Emily Carroll Benign Kingdom artbook- Again, this is an older publication, but one I don't have. I actually met Emily, and Kate Craig  -whose comics I also really like-, on the way to The Beguiling and assumed they would be at the festival, but I don't think they were.
Sea Urchin by Laura Knetzger- looking forward to reading this. Laura Knetzger's producing some ace comics work.
Sorry by Leslie Hung
Fuck Wizards by Eleanor Davis- fun porn, and a little piece of original art!

Golemchik by William Exley
Cyber Realm by Wren McDonald
Advice Comics 1 anthology by various- there's a Tumblr for this here
Indoor Voice by Jillian Tamaki
Diary Comics by Dustin Harbin
A Body Made of Seeing by Sloane Leong- talked a bit with Tucker Stone about how amazing Sloane Leong's work is- she, along with Laura Knetzger and Sophia Foster- Dimino feel like 3 cartoonists who are operating at a level above everyone else right now, in very different ways to each other. So good to see and be part of as a reader.
Lovers Only #1 by Sophia Foster Dimino, Cathy G Johnson, and Mickey Zacchilli

Object 10 by Killian Eng- I'm a big fan of Swedish illustrator Eng's work; Floating World were kind enough to send me his earlier artbook, Object 5, which is very reflective of his progress, and this one really shows how much he's developed since then. I'm going to try and do a double review at some point.
It Will All Hurt #3 by Farel Dalrymple- final installment, the print edition debuted at the show
Miss Don't Touch Me by Kerascoet and Hubert- I had the paperbacks NBM originally put out when they translated this, and have been meaning to upgrade to the hardback, album-sized edition as it' a book I love, and seeing it in the flesh made it tough to resist.
Spera Ascension of the Starless by Josh Tierney, Afu Chan, Giannis Milonogiannis and more- Archaia books are tough to get hold of in the UK generally
Apocalyptic Girl by Andrew MacLean- read this in the hotel- the art and colours are so impressive but it's really let down by the story.
RAT  by Lala Albert- I met Lala! She was so cool, and I was hot and tired.
Metaphor by Katie Parrish- been following Katie's work online for a few months- I didn't know she'd be at the festival. People seemed to be taking to her work.
Pope Hats #4 by Ethan Rilly

I also picked up Joe Decie's new comic -at least I thought I did; we got caught up in chatting and I don't really remember- which he was giving away for free(!), but for the life of me I can't find where I've put it.

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