Local Spotlight / TCAF

Local Spotlight is Third Person's new feature on Toronto and all it has to offer. From events that make our city a creative hub, to places where great work is made and seen, to the people that make it all happen. We'll be telling the stories of what happens in our own backyard.

All photography by Author

All photography by Author

The Toronto Comics and Arts Festival (TCAF) is now in its 12th year, having started biannually in 2003, becoming an annual event in 2010. The festival has found its home in a variety of spots, from the grounds of the now closed Honest Ed's, to the flagship Toronto Reference Library. It now welcomes over 25,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, with exhibitors, artists and writers coming from all over the world to show their work, and talk about their passions. The festival strives to showcase the stories they tell. With panels and additional events surrounding the festival, TCAF lets you explore the comics medium, and everything that surrounds it, for free.

The importance of TCAF cannot be understated. Escaping from industry and fan focuses, the festival allows breathing room for all of those involved – letting so many stories and creators shine. The classic superhero tales and cosplay don't have a home here. Instead, you'll find stories about anthropomorphic animals surviving an apocalypse, or a true story about a Chechen prisoner that has gone untold, until now. These are just two examples of the scope of amazing art and stories on display.

Chip was kind enough to pose.

Chip was kind enough to pose.

TCAF is also relentlessly positive in a fantastic way. It strives to make everyone feel at home, and it hits that mark. Sometimes we feel out of place in our day to day lives, even in our own homes. TCAF creates a small escape just off of Bloor-Yonge that lets us make new friends, whether we find them in a comic or by drawing one.

Walking around the festival, you spot the smiles and the culture exchange happening all around you. Comics, unlike other mediums, give us art along with the poetry and the stories, helping immerse us into the tales being spun. They, comics, are staggeringly important for many reasons, whether to help young readers get interested in books, or portray the stories of individuals and groups who we don't often see portrayed in popular media. You look around TCAF, and you see all of this at work.

At this year's TCAF I had the pleasure of meeting a wide variety of creators from differing industries. They told me stories of travel and of their creative process. Many of these creators will be featured in future Third Person articles. Unfortunately, artists in general, tend to struggle for their art and those found at TCAF are no exception. They often work other jobs to help support their creative endeavors. TCAF presents a great opportunity to go out, meet them, and support their work. It can be hard sometimes at TCAF to not get overwhelmed in the hustle and bustle, but be sure when you go, to try out something new and listen to someone’s story.

Some bigger stories were being told at this year's TCAF as well. At the Masonic Temple, Image Comics was celebrating their 25th anniversary. Image is a big publisher with so many talented creators behind them, and getting to meet some of them at TCAF was incredible. One of the main reasons this festival is so amazing is the wide variety of things you can see and read. More so, it’s how mostly all of it’s presented to you on an equal plane.

Below, I talked to a few specific creators about what TCAF means to them, as well as their own work. From comics, to games, to new movements like "graphic medicine", this is just a small highlight of what TCAF can offer.

Danielle Corsetto

Girls with Slingshots / "32"

Danielle Corsetto is the creator of the popular web comic "Girls With Slingshots" and her own autobiographical work "32". She's one of the funniest people you'll meet and through her own reflection, helps give an insight and view into a lot of relatable topics. You can find her on Twitter @dcorsetto and on Patreon.

You've been a longtime TCAF attendee, what brings you back each year and what is one of your favorite memories from it?

Aside from TCAF being held in a library... wait, that deserves its own sentence. TCAF is held in a beautiful library near some good restaurants and a great little bar, in which they hold many of their panels (try the KW Craft Cider). But more impressive are the artists who exhibit at TCAF. It's an art- and concept-centered exhibitor list, and their guest list is always jaw-dropping. The show is free to attend and the organizers make everything easy for the exhibitors, from helping us non-Canadians make change to keeping it a two-day show with reasonable hours. They make it seem easy to run a smooth and conscientious show. The only drawback to exhibiting at TCAF is that it's much more tempting to be an attendee and go broke buying a million inspiring books from the artists.

You've said that Girls With Slingshots came from much of your own life, and you're now working on some autobiographical work called "32". What inspires you to look inward and make comics reflecting on your life and has it helped you out in any way taking that time to reflect? 

I've always been too introspective for my own good, so rather than helping me reflect, it helps me to see them through more accepting eyes. Either that, or it humbles me. I'm naturally judgmental, which means I tend to judge myself either harshly or highly; being transparent about what my world is like helps knock me down a little when I'm feeling superior, and helps me calm down about how awful I think I am when I'm doing something that practically everyone else does. I hope it does the same for the readers. 

Of course, it's easier to write vaguely about my own experiences and feelings through the filter of a fictional character (as I often did with GWS), because I can see how people respond without confirming whether or not I relate with the character. Putting my face on those actions and feelings is sometimes hard, but I want 32 to be real and imperfect, just like all of us.

Ian Williams

Graphic Medicine

Graphic Medicine is a movement within the comics community to create powerful stories about medicine and those involved in it. The medium helps convey the myriad of thoughts and feelings that go into this field. They tell stories about those practice it and those who find themselves plunged into it by circumstance. Stories can range from Gareth Brookes' story "A Thousand Castles" about a rare disease that causes hallucinations that he portrayed with crayon, to MK Czerwic's comic "Taking Turns" about her time as a nurse, and working at a AIDS care center in Chicago. I met one of movement's co-creators Ian Williams at TCAF and asked him about his time at TCAF:

This was my second TCAF, I attended in 2012 as an individual artist. I have always been keen to come back as I harbour fond memories of that trip. I hosted a panel, that year, on comics and mental health, with Darryl Cunningham, Liz Lunney, Simon Moreton, and John Porcellino. It was well attended and well received and I felt there was an appetite among the TCAF audience for more graphic medicine. This year my colleague MK Czerwiec and I had a graphic medicine table, selling our own work and also books from the Penn State Press series of that name. 
TCAF has a special vibe. It is insanely busy but fun, welcoming and inclusive. Its indy/arty focus is just right for Graphic Medicine and we were pleased to be able to hold a panel and explain our mission. 

TCAF is truly an amazing experience and helps make Toronto stand out in this community. In addition to this article, I will writing more in-depth on Comics x Games, a Hand Eye Society event in TCAF showcasing a variety of games and their creators. I've also already written about two such creators, Sophia Park and Penelope Evans, and their amazing narrative game Arc Symphony, a story about old internet communities and finding your identity. 

Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.

Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.

When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.

Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4