Tyler Landry here: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) is the only comics show I’ve ever attended, except for our local small-town con (held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada) which I did for the very first time this year. There are a couple of reasons for this, and they all fall into the realm of “excuses”, but, that’s how my cookie crumbles. I have, however, been to TCAF every year since 2013, and have been told by con-hoppers of all stripes that it’s one of the best, if not THE best show of its type. To me, it’s always felt huge, diverse, and rewarding in a thousand ways – so I take those observations with considerable weight. I’ve met (and bought comics from) a huge majority of my favorite cartoonists, made loads of new comics friends, and tabled – both independently and with publishers.
I always like to arrive in Toronto early on Friday, settle in, walk around the city, have an eat and/or a drink with friends – and get comfortable before the chaos on Saturday morning.
Spent a veritable stack of cash on comics right away. Exciting new work from Anya Davidson, Ben Passmore, Connor Willumsen, and Sophie Yanow – to name only a few.
This year I spent time tabling with two publishers – signing some of last year’s comics with Study Group (The Coward’s Hole, and Lonesome), and with Retrofit, signing copies of the collected Shit and Piss, which debuted this year at TCAF. It was cool to meet some people who follow my work, and to see others discover it for the first time. This is why I attend TCAF. To participate in a significant way in the comics community, as a cartoonist, an enthusiast, and more recently as a (new) community leader and educator.
With that in mind, in addition to signing, I did something sorta new – I ran a Comics Workbook workshop on composing a comic spread. The workshop made use of a standardized 6-panel grid, a quick idea gathering on story cards, and heavy panel-by-panel editing with a printed spread in mind. It was geared towards beginners, but the process we explored is the basis for how I make comics, and can be useful to anyone telling stories in a visual medium.
Some of the essential materials I’d requested were missing from the room when we started (index cards, guys!), but we did have a fat stack of copy paper, and before long I had everyone in the (very full) room folding and tearing it into manageable chunks. I brought along some comics I’ve done, a few in-progress spreads, and the associated story cards as examples of the process from beginning to end. After a bit of discussion everyone began to get a sense of modular structure, the importance of editing oneself early, and some basic notions of pacing, dynamics thru motion, tone, and directionality across panels/the spread.
Because of our slightly later start, we didn’t delve as deep into the spread as I’d have liked – but everyone got a taste of quick drawing and editing, and at least the beginnings of controlling the flow of information across the spread. By the time we were being kicked out of the room, we were having huge open discussions about the different participants’ comics, talking in terms of pacing, making switcheroos for clarity, capitalizing on directional flow, etc. We could’ve easily spent another 2 hours together as a group and accomplished even more.
Being so busy during both days, I didn’t get to take in any additional programming, but Idid have a chance to share a few pints and meals with friends old and new. TCAF definitely does a great job of bringing us all together once a year to gush like fools about the things we love in comics.