Yesterday I went to Artsy Fartsy Comic Con in Toronto. It was a small, 1 day show featuring around 16 creators. It was put on by Anthony Ruttgaizer a comic creator who also puts on wrestling events. The show took place at the Tranzac Club on 292 Brunswick Ave, Toronto, ON. Anthony said he had a credit with the venue as he had a wrestling event that got cancelled at the start of Covid and decided to use it to do this event.
Toronto is mainly known for having 2 conventions, TCAF and the Fan Expo shows. TCAF is focused on independent non-genre comics, children books and web comics. Fan Expo shows are more the typical comic convention focused on the more traditionally commercial side of comics. Artsy Fartsy thematically sits in between the two featuring creators that do a mix of self published/crowd funded work, doing stories in anthologies and more commercial work.
I took pictures of the creators involved and had conversations with some of them. I let some of them know that just around the corner was St. Trinity’s Church, which was the location of the very first TCAF 20 years ago and that I apparently was the only person there with a camera taking pictures. That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to be at that show, just to document it via pictures. I only did a tiny bit of shopping due to have a very large stack of unread books that I still need to get through.
The Tranzac Club is an interesting space with several small rooms with bars in them and different creative events going on in all of them. It had a nice mural on the side of the building. There was a small bit of public parking right there, plus a parking lot a block away. The location being just off Bloor street meant there was plenty of food nearby plus other useful stores. In the room the convention was there was a stage area that Anthony felt he could expand the show to if he needed to. Obviously he could also expand to those other rooms too.
The show was pretty quiet during the 1st half of the day, but people began coming in the 2nd half. Anthony said he was happy with the results of the show. I overhead him (and others) say setting up for a comic book convention is a walk in the park compared to setting up a ring for a pro-wrestling event. I hope they continue to do the show as it has the potential to grow into a thing. Toronto does have a lot of creators who could benefit from it.
So, I went to Baltimore Comic Con, which is a first for me. A few weeks prior to the convention was a Funeral Home convention also being held at the Baltimore Convention Center. My day job is doing tech support for an IT company that makes specialty software for Funeral Homes. Several of my co-workers went to the convention and when they got back I asked them about Baltimore, good restaurants, etc.. and well, didn’t get encouraging answers.
I got told that the area is fine during the day but at night gangs come out on dirt bikes, wearing ski-masks and guns. I was told it’s best to not go out at night, but if you do, go in a vehicle or walk in groups. I was told a nearby Sandwich shop was held up at gunpoint at 8pm while they were there. I was told the Funeral Home convention (which moves to different cities) only got 1/3rd of the attendance it normally gets. I never got too much in the way of specific restaurant recommendations.
I decided to follow through and go despite these less than enthusiastic experiences. I originally was thinking of flying down, but the only nearby airport that went to Baltimore was in Toronto (everything else went to Washington) and between the drive to airport, getting there 3 hours ahead of time (like they recommend), flying and then getting from the airport to the Hotel was going to take me 7.5 hours – if the flight left on time. When I went to San Diego in July the flight was delayed 1 hour going down and 3 hours coming back. According to google maps driving down would take me 7.5 hours (+ stops for gas/food/bathroom breaks) so I decided to drive it instead. The cost of gas & hotel parking would be less than the flight and airport parking. The drive was fairly simple going south on I-81, then on I-83 and the hotel was only a handful blocks from where I-83 ended.
I made it to Baltimore in about 8.5 hours. I stayed in the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. I usually have good experiences in Marriott hotels, but my hotel room had a very stiff door which was difficult to get open. It also had the smallest, oldest TV I’ve ever seen in a hotel. The hallway light and a 2nd light in the bathroom would randomly come on hours after turning on the light. The mattress for the bed was softer than most I’ve slept on which was a good thing. The pillows were smaller than usual but that didn’t matter. I found the toilet to be lower to the ground then normal, which made my not very flexible body groan when using it. The A/C was a little noisy, but that didn’t bother me when I took out my hearing aids. There was also a light from one of the alarms that would flash every few seconds after the lights were turned out. In short, if you are saying at this hotel, don’t get room 816. I did let the hotel know about these issues.
Late Thursday afternoon, I went to Pickles Pub for dinner. While the food was good I was a bit surprised by the plastic cup for the drink. The next morning I went to Kerbie’s Grill for breakfast. The French Toast supposedly on Texas Toast bread, was more like thin sliced bread. It was served on a paper plate and with plastic cutlery. I went to the Jimmy Johns chain beside the convention for a sub for lunch. They told me they couldn’t do a little john sub, so I had to get the more expensive regular size and they also didn’t ask me anything about the sub and just handed it to me quickly. I found it had a ton of mayo on it and there wasn’t any napkins available anywhere. Everywhere I went for food outside of my hotel near the convention that has a 4.something rating on google maps had more of a 3.something dining experience. I don’t know if all of Baltimore is like this, but if so they must generate a LOT of garbage with all the single use items. The hotel restaurant (called The Yard) was good for food off the menu. The only issue I had was the breakfast buffet pancakes, which were horrid. They also had a place that served individual thin crust pizza’s that was decent.
The convention itself was pretty great. I got in and got my press pass with ease. When I arrived at 1pm (start time) I noticed a long lineup, but a volunteer told me with my press pass I didn’t need to wait or get a wrist band like the paid attendees. I went to one panel that got to a late start and ran a little long (From Skartaris to Danger Street). There was no panel in that room afterwards so it wasn’t affecting anything, except for my ability to get to the next panel on time. But that wasn’t a problem in this case as it was a Jim Starlin spotlight panel, which I had witnessed and recorded at San Diego back in July. The Danger Street panel was a great panel and I wish there were more like it as it was a deep dive into a particular short-lived series. There was a lot of inside stories about the various issues, what went on in them, the creative people doing them and more.
The rest of my experiences doing panels was pretty good except for the Frank Miller spotlight panel. I went to it but Frank was very late, showing up just as the panel was about to end. They had an art auction going on in the room afterwards and they moved it to later to give Frank his panel. If you’ve seen Frank lately, you’ll notice he has health and mobility issues. We are lucky that he shows up at conventions at all, so I’m not complaining. I unfortunately had to leave as there was another panel I wanted to attend that I would have missed if I stayed for Frank’s.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Baltimore Comic-Con was to do some shopping for myself. I’ve been mainly going to TCAF and San Diego Comic Con for several years now. TCAF isn’t the type of show for back issue shopping as it’s focused on alt/indy/kids books. There has been a reduction of Gold/Silver/back issue dealers at San Diego and they generally charge higher prices because of the expense of doing the show. I’ve also gone to a number of relatively local shows that do have back issues (Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa) but it’s mostly the same dealers with the same stock. I was hoping for something better at Baltimore and it delivered. There were lots of dealers there, selling some of what I’m looking for at decent prices. If you want to buy back issues that don’t need to be in the high grade/price range then this is a good convention to attend.
I did have a bad experience with one dealer. He was selling some pretty beat up, low grade books and I saw some something I was interested in maybe buying, but the issue number wasn’t on the cover or written/stickered anywhere on the bag. So, I open it up to check the indica and the dealer jumps up at me telling me I’m not allowed to open books because it causes too much stress on the comics (there was no sign stating this). He then looked at the book, saw a small rip by one of the staples that was already there, said he didn’t know if it was there before I opened it up or not. I realized then there was no way I was going to buy anything from him as I don’t buy books I can’t inspect first (older books sometimes have missing pages and when they are in rough shape and other issues as well). I also had a sneaking suspicion he was about to try and guilt trip me of buying the book by suggesting I damaged it. As I left he goes from not knowing if the rip was there, too loudly “thanking”/accusing me of popping the staple out of the comic. I made a mental note to never go near his booth again.
I caught up with my friend Carla Speed McNeil who I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. She was a judge for the Ringo’s which was being held during the convention. I got from her when and where the Ringo’s were being held with the intention of going there to see and maybe cover it. I tried getting a zTrip cab to go to the hotel it was at, but my phone listed me as having been picked up and delivered even though no cab had come. I tried booking it again, but no driver would accept the call as it was a short trip.
While waiting I overheard somebody wish somebody luck at winning the award tonight to two people who were walking away from my hotel. I asked if they were going to the Ringo’s and they were so I walked with them. Along the way the information about the safety level around Baltimore Convention Center was confirmed to me. I was told it was the kind of city where there are good and bad areas and the area around Baltimore Convention Center was a bad one. I was told it would be safer if a baseball game just ended and there were lots of people leaving the stadium (which is right beside the convention center), but that was not tonight.
When I got to the Ringo’s I noticed they were handing out badges to people and you needed one to get drinks (and later food). I went to the table and let them know they wouldn’t have a badge for me as I just showed up. I was told the next table over would make a badge for me. The guy at the next table asked me who I was and then refused, saying there wasn’t any open seating available, despite there being all the materials on the table to make a badge. I did explain I was press and was a judge for the Doug Wright Awards and previously the Eisner’s, but that didn’t matter. I wasn’t allowed to attend. I now know why there is very little coverage on the Ringo’s except for their press releases on who the judges, nominees and winners. It’s a very closed off, private shindig. Anyways, I was able to get a cab back to my hotel after talking to a human at the cab company.
Outside of that, I did really enjoy the show. With San Diego and TCAF they normally have a whole bunch of good panels going on, often at the same time and I need to pick and choose which ones I want to cover and I’m usually immediately going from 1 panel to the next. Baltimore had a more relaxed schedule with quality panels, which was much easier on me. There were only a couple of overlapping panels I would have liked to have been at, but had to miss. 6 panels over 3 days is an easy event for me. At San Diego I’ve done 6 panels in a day.
One thing I feel the need to highlight was how much the show provided for deaf/hard of hearing attendees. There were multiple ASL people working many of their panels doing sign language for those who might need it. That’s something I rarely see any other conventions do and it’s a nice way to include people that usually don’t get included. Those ASL volunteers need to be thanked as I know some of them didn’t know they would be called upon for their services until just prior to show. They went to show, not knowing if they would just be a regular attendee or volunteering for the show, but when they got the request, they stepped up and did it.
I also got to have nice conversations with Steven Grant and Paul Storrie, whom I haven’t seen in several years. I got to chat with Johanna Draper Carlson and meet her hubby KC for the first time, they gave me some background info on the convention. I wish I had taken more pictures and had more conversations with people as Baltimore Comic Con has the had best Artist Alley I’ve seen outside of NYCC. I’ve since heard the guests had a good time and the convention treats them well.
The Convention Center itself it pretty nice in that it has lots of room and seating on the 3rd floor (where the panels are) for when you want to get off your feet and way from the thick of it if you want. The isles for shopping weren’t super cramped either. They’ve got some space to handle larger crowds if they were to come. I was able to get some work done at the con itself instead of needing to do most of it at the hotel room at night. I didn’t go there but I understand there was a coin collecting convention at another part of the building too.
Baltimore Comic-Con itself was great, as was the convention center it was in. The volunteers/staff I dealt with were all fantastic too. The only shame is it’s a great show surrounded by not great experiences outside of the show, which they can’t really do anything about. It’s a convention that’s long been on my bucket list to attend one day. I’m glad to have gone but I’ve got other shows I’ve also been long wanting to attend that I’ll be doing before I consider going back.
My drive back to Canada was pretty straight forward as well, this time it went 9 hours as I stopped a 2nd time for gas (which is cheaper in the US than Canada) and to have a decent sit-down restaurant experience meal. The old Waze app worked well for getting me there and back. The ArriveCan app that we used to need to use to enter the country is no longer required so getting back into Canada is like it used to be pre-pandemic. I wore an N95 mask at the convention (not many people wore masks there) and thankfully didn’t catch Covid.
I felt some anxiety regarding this convention. It wasn’t the Covid, although there was that too, it was just the travel to and from the convention. The airport I fly out of (Toronto Pearson) has been the news a lot lately regarding flights being cancelled, luggage going missing and all sorts of bad stuff.
It’s also been 3 years since I’ve done this convention. I normally pack and prepare a lot for the con. I decided to bring noise cancelling headset with me so I could better hear what’s playing on my laptop during the flight. That worked well. Because I was afraid of my luggage disappearing on me I figured out a way to pack 5 days worth of clothes and stuff into a carry on bag that I normally use for 3 day trips. Apparently my bag was still considered too big for carry on they still took it, but I know it made it on the same plane I was on and I didn’t have to pay extra for it.
I made it to the airport 3 hours early as suggested by Air Canada. They told all to go into this lounge area where I saw people sleeping on the floor (eek!). They called out flights and if you were on them you then go to go through security. People trying to go through security early and get to their gates were yanked and sent back by staff. I saw this happening at multiple points through the whole process. Still, there was a backlog due to there not being enough customs agents available to process everybody quickly enough to make their flights.
The most nerve-wracking part was for myself and others going to San Diego was standing in a long lineup, looking at our phones and knowing we are not going to meet our boarding time. At all. We were wondering out loud will the plane take off half empty or will they delay the flight and let us get on? Thankfully the answer was to delay the flight an hour. After getting through all the various security checkpoints I ran to my gate and got on the plane in time.
I’ll say the Airport employees were doing the absolute best they could under trying circumstances. They were even calling out boarding times and pulling out people out of lines and rushing them to the front to try and get them on their flight on time. It was the customs that real bottleneck that was holding things up.
I had opted for the Early Bird special and got a hotel room at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, which I’ve stayed at once before. This time they put me in their Bay Tower which is around the corner from the main hotel. It has a nicer view and I liked my room quite a bit.
What I didn’t like about the hotel was the cost of a bottle of Pop was absolutely insane at $5.60. The Convention, which is also insanely overpriced is $4.50 for the same bottle. I did the customary trip to Ralph’s and bought some drinks and snacks for the rest of the week.
I had met up some friends at the hotel and we went to the convention to get our Covid clearance. I did download and use the Clear App prior to going to San Diego. We had made our way through the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and got our Covid wristbands. It was weird wearing those wristbands for 5 days straight and I wasn’t sure if it would hold up, particularly when showering, but it did.
As I’m coming from Canada I don’t get my badge mailed to me, so I got in line up to get my badge. That went through okay but I think the process was a little better in previous years with signs and more staffing. On Preview night the con was a late in opening up (advertised 6:00pm, but it was 6:30pm when they actually opened), which annoyed the crowd quite a bit, which then annoyed the convention security and staff. In this case I do fall on the side of those that paid for tickets and were expecting the advertised opening time for 6:00pm to be correct. San Diego is an expensive convention to go to and lots of people save up all year to go to the show. I don’t think you can blame them when they expect the show to open at the time the con said it would open at.
When I got in the first thing I noticed about the exhibition floor was the red carpet was no longer there. This was hugely disappointing as I have flat feet and spending a long time on them is hard enough, having to do it on concrete is much harder. I could only be on them for an hour or so before the pain got to the point where I needed to sit down. I normally make a point to walk the entire floor and see all the booths but decided I wasn’t going to do that this year. I was glad to read (from Gary Sassaman) that the decision to not do the carpet was one the convention center made and not Comic con. They were going to spray down the convention center for Covid and that would be easier without the Carpet. Here’s hoping next year the carpet is back.
The vast majority of the con goers were wearing masks indoors as required. Of course with that many people, you’re going to have people who take off their masks or pull it down under their nose once inside. On occasion I did see convention staff tell people that masks were required to be inside. Outside the con was a different story, as a whole lot of people took off their masks once outdoors, in restaurants/bars and at their hotel. It’s not surprising to hear a lot of people got Covid after the con, despite Comic Con doing their best to prevent that.
I’ve been to a few conventions this year prior to the Comic Con and I felt safe at Comic Con. The Toronto Fan Expo in March required masks as per the government mandates that were still in effect. TCAF had no mask mandate (and couldn’t due to it being a public library) but they had signs asking people to wear masks, which most people did. I just went to Montreal Comic Con for 1 day 3 weeks ago and there was no masks mandate and few people wore them. I just heard a dealer there that was wearing a mask got yelled at by people for it. He took off his mask and did the show without it and caught Covid. I wore a fresh N95 masks from the airport, at San Diego and back again and did not catch Covid.
Stuff I learned at comic con.
– Scott Bakula has a horrible New Orleans accent (according to a New Orleans con goer on the shuttle bus).
– Jim Starlin admitted to ripping off Darkseid to create Thanos (according to people from the Kirby Museum).
– DC wouldn’t do a follow up to Batman: The Cult despite it being a top seller. They wanted Bernie Wrightson to do a new Swamp Thing with Len Wein and that didn’t happen. Starlin re-did the follow up story as Punisher: POV.
– Digital lettering has certain quirks which are difficult to work around.
– If the 2000 X-men movie flopped, the Bankruptcy judge that was running Marvel was going to take rights to the Marvel characters and individually auction them off to the highest bidder.
– Little kids would write to DC Comics love advice letter columns and detail their sexual abuse by family members or members of clergy. DC felt they could do nothing about it.
– Barbara Randall Kesel is pretty awesome.
– Willy Mendez was a much bigger part of the underground comics than previously known and that hasn’t been acknowledged until Kim Munson did research her career and wrote and article giving Willy her due.
– Jimmy Palmiotti always has interesting stories to tell about dealing with Hollywood people.
– Joe Shuster may not have drawn the underground erotic art that has been credited to him.
– When Marvel was stonewalling on returning Jack Kirby’s art in the 1980s, using the argument it was custom practice that publishers kept the art, Frank Miller was behind getting DC to publish an letter saying it was their view that art belong to the artist, undercutting Marvel’s argument. This was surprising as Bill Gaines, still alive and running MAD Magazine under DC, was still adamant about publishers owning the art.
I did a little bit of shopping at the con, but not as much as years past. One of the sad things about San Diego is the Gold and Silver section is shrinking. Less and less dealers are coming to the con and those that do often don’t have what I’m looking for and also aren’t interested in discounting very much. I can’t say I blame them, San Diego is an expensive show and it’s just not a show where lots of back issue buyers show up.
Another issue I’m finding more and more is something a dealer friend told me about many years ago. Some dealers don’t acknowledge the grade ‘Good’. Books that are in Good grade get labelled Very Good and stickered with Very Good prices. Then Very Good books get labelled Fine and so forth. I bought a couple of books that were higher in grade and price than I wanted to pay, just to reward the dealer for accurately grading and pricing their books.
I took some pictures of cosplayers and recorded some videos, particularly of a cosplay knight sword fighting which looked fun for those doing it.
I also took a video of this moving Baby Yoda, which was neat. I wondered if it might have been Grant Imahara’s (from Mythbusters) as he created one to send around to hospitals for sick children before he died, but didn’t bother to ask.
Unique for me this year was attending the Eisner’s and getting to sit at a table. In the past when I attended the Eisner’s, publishers and nominated creators get to sit at tables and get a free dinner. Pro’s that didn’t fit in either category sad it chairs behind the tables. As I was an Eisner judge in 2020, but there was no in person ceremony so I never got to experience that. The same thing happened with the judges in 2021. The Eisner’s (specifically Jackie Estrada) was able to get us 20/21 judges a table to sit at and enjoy a dinner, which a nice thing to experience.
As normal with the con, it was also nice to see and catch up with old friends and make some new ones. As usual with the convention, there are people who expect to run into and don’t and those you unexpectedly end up spending a lot of time chatting with. This year I was on a panel, the 3rd time I was on a panel at San Diego. I’m having to get used to public speaking again. Way back when I was in college (1992-1995) I had to do presentations all the time and got pretty good at them by year 2, but I’ve done extremely little public speaking in the years since. My old, had to learn as this doesn’t come naturally to me, public speaking skills have atrophied quite a bit. Ah well, I’ll get better if I keep at it.
I did walk around artists alley towards the last half of Sunday. That’s always one area that Comic Con can improve. I never understood why they place it at the other end of the convention away from where all the comics books are sold. I know a lot of bigger name creators don’t bother with artist alley at San Diego because they don’t make very much money there. Most of the bigger names usually end up getting their own tables either in the self publisher area, the original art area or just sit with their publisher tables. I have no desire to return to NYCC but I have to admit their artist alley section is really good and you’ll see plenty of well known creators there making money.
Then there was the flight home. This was also a little nerve wracking at I’ve been hearing horror stories about US airports. I got to the airport 2 hours early as per Air Canada’s instructions (8am Pacific time). I have to say, San Diego was extremely quick and efficient in getting people through security. I got through everything within a half hour, the quickest in any airport ever. The flight coming in was delayed by 3 hours though. That gave me time to work on my convention pictures and panel recordings. Went I got back to Toronto it then took an hour and a half to get my luggage through, which really sucked. I was planning on going to a restaurant I normally hit that’s just outside of Toronto. It was sadly closed by the time I got there and had to settle for McDonalds 24hour drive through. I got home just before 2am (Eastern) in the morning.
In the end, I really enjoyed going to San Diego and don’t regret going at all. The event takes a lot out of you, that I’m writing this almost a week later tells you how long it takes me to recover from it. I am thinking about doing another convention later on this year but I haven’t decided which one yet.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival happened last weekend (July 17th – 19th) and it was somewhat different than previous TCAF shows. For starters it was being run by different people, who had to deal with a lot of uncertainty when organizing this convention. They likely weren’t even sure if it was going to happen and had moved it from Mother’s Day weekend in May to Father’s Day weekend in June to increase the chances of the event happening. In Canada Covid cases kept flaring up every time the province lessened restrictions necessitating the need to re-enact those restrictions.
The event thankfully did happen, but in a toned-down fashion. A lot of the off-site locations the show had used in the past were not used for what is likely a variety of reasons. Usually on Thursday night something is happening at the Pilot (nearby popular restaurant/bar) that normally had events/panels there in the past. Not only was there nothing happening on Thursday, panels weren’t held there during the event either.
I think the biggest impact on the show was the loss of the Marriott Hotel around the corner. This was the most convenient place to stay and many panels and the Doug Wright Awards were held there. I wasn’t able to get a room there so I had to settle for one 3 blocks away, which wasn’t so bad. I soon found out I was pretty lucky. On Friday there was an Academic Symposium happening at what I assumed was that hotel. I had walked around the corner to visit it only to discover the hotel was gone. It had been changed to an apartment building. After checking my phone, I discovered the hotel they were holding the Symposium was about 8 blocks away.
Library and Educator Day normally occurred at the Library on Friday, but they did that virtually this year. The Word Balloon Academy programming happened at the library in its place. It was previously held at the now removed Marriott Hotel. I only went to a couple of Word Balloon panels in the past but was looking forward to doing more. The panels were really good and I’m sure some were useful for creators. I recorded a few of them as part of my coverage of the event. Sadly there was a fire alarm pulled, which caused an annoying alarm to run for several minutes while fire fighters walked through the place checking to confirm it was a false alarm.
One thing that was normal was the TCAF Kick Off Event on Friday Night. It seemed to oddly indicate this was the 20th anniversary of TCAF which is not correct. First TCAF was in 2003, which I know as I was there and took photos. This was the 19th year of TCAF, next year will be the 20th anniversary of TCAF. It will be curious to see if they move the event back to Mother’s Day weekend or not.
Throughout the panels I recorded there were a couple of re-occurring themes. One was creators that went through a Fine Art education and then choosing to do comics. This was an international theme with creators from Portugal, the Nordic countries and the United States all spoke about their experience with this. The other was publishers being more open than usual about using government grants to finance books and being open about discussing print runs for books.
One thing about Toronto that continues to surprise me is how much businesses change in the area around the library. There used to be a Tim Horton’s and a Starbucks that was very popular with creators wanting coffee, but both were gone this year. Lots of other nearby restaurants and other businesses did not survive the past couple of years.
This year TCAF had a whole bunch of free water in a beer like tall can. The water was called Liquid Death and appeared to be quite popular. At the start of the show, they were giving it just to the panellists and exhibitors but half way through Saturday they started giving it out to anybody that wanted it. At the end of the show I saw a lot of attendee’s walking out of the library with 12 packs boxes under their arms.
TCAF itself was little different with the main floor not having the same number of exhibitors. Some of those that were there had reduced the number of tables they used. This did make the main floor feel less crowded and improved getting around, which was a good thing. Which exhibitors and creators that showed up was different, a lot of the usual faces were not there this year. I’m not sure if they pulled out due to the Pink Cat controversy, they weren’t comfortable doing the show for Covid reasons or if the new management decided to bring in new creators.
As usual the show took up 3 floors and the basement level as there was room there for some longer lineups. I’ve heard from a couple of exhibitors that were put in areas with less foot traffic were still happy with higher than expected sales. The “sun room” area on the first floor was a lot more spaced out and not as jammed with people as normal. It was also considerably cooler than previous years with that place being very hot with the bright sun shinning in.
The Doug Wright Awards were unfortunately not able to hold their awards ceremony at the Hotel like usual. Having it in a nearby park was not the best. While the weather thankfully co-operated and we had sunny skies, the constant wind did make it a bit chilly and the constant subways running under the park were disruptive. The organizers promised they’ll have the awards inside next year. Perhaps they’ll have it at the Pilot. I should mention I was a judge for the Doug Wright Awards this year and that was a pleasurable experience. It was nice to see the creators at the ceremony getting their awards.
I heard from a few exhibitors that the show had about 70% the attendance that it normally does and sales reflected this as well. One thing that might have also affected this was the TCAF: Page and Panel Comic Store was having a going out of business closing sale and were discounting much of their books by 30%. It was surprising and sad to see the store was closing. With inflation being what it is these days, lots of people were buying from the store.
As usual I did have a good time at the show. I did not buy as many books as I normally do because of the judging of both the Eisner’s in 2020 and the Doug Wright Awards this year left me with a fairly large stack of unread books I need to get through. It was nice to see some familiar faces I hadn’t seen in several years and people seemed as friendly or friendlier because of that. I’m looking forward to going 20th anniversary show next year.
Toronto Comicon took place on March 18th to 20th at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre. I went with a friend who like me, was a little anxious about going to a comic convention when Covid is still active. We decided to just go up and down for 1 day and do it on Sunday, which is the normally the least crowded day of the convention. I bought some N95 masks for us and hoped for the best.
Late last year when the Covid numbers were down the convention did put on a show and the reviews coming out was the organizers did a good job of spacing everything out, which was nice to hear. This convention in particular is a bit notorious for packing people in like sardines, leading to regular log jams when trying to make your way through the isles. Sadly this was more of the same, but they did require masks to be warn inside and from what I saw 99.9% of people complied. It was a large crowd (much bigger than I was expecting) but I only saw a few people walking around without a mask or wearing it under their nose.
I was told by multiple people that Friday was crazy busy. It seems there was pent up demand for a convention and people came out in huge numbers to participate in this one. Saturday was either almost as busy as Friday and Sunday was less busy as expected. Most of the comic guests were Canadian, with only a small number of Americans coming over the border to attend. This is likely due to the requirement that people pay for, take and provide proof of a negative Covid test just prior to coming into the country. I do not believe there are any tests required to travel to the US. I know I wasn’t asked to provide/take one the two times I drove over the border and back late last year.
Regarding the show I did a little bit of shopping and some catching up with creators I haven’t seen or spoken to in a couple years or more. I took some photos of creators and cosplayers and I attended and recorded a panel put on by Amy Chu and Dan Parent called Let’s Talk Story: Writing for TV and Comics. They spoke to a room with a fairly large number of aspiring writers and spent most of the time answering questions from them. It was mostly about comics but with a bit of TV writing thrown in.
As usual with conventions of this type there is always an odd moment that only happens at a comic book convention. Mine was in the bathroom after the show ended. I saw a guy trying to get out of his Spider-Man suit but couldn’t reach the zipper in the back, so I helped him out. In all it was a good, light show for me to get back into the swing of doing comic conventions again. Thankfully driving to the show and parking nearby was probably the best experience I’ve had attending this show ever. If they have another later this year and it feels safe I will probably attend it for multiple days.
Last weekend I went to Guelph to go to the Guelph Comic Jam. It was sponsored by The Dragon, a 3 chain store owned and run by Jennifer Haines. The Dragon is an Eisner Award winning comic shop that is different from other shops as it is very family friendly store. There are two stores in Guelph and one in a nearby Milton, Ontario. I witnessed one comic creator beg Jennifer to open a 4th store near where he lived saying he would happily work there. I could write a lot more about the all the wonderful work that Jennifer does for the comics community but I think she’d rather I focus on the event she just put on.
The Comics Jam was held in the Old Quebec Street Shoppes @ 55 Wyndham St N, Guelph, ON where the Dragon’s flagship store is. It was free to attend and the Jam was in the isles of the mall. I had a good time chatting with a lot of creators, among them Sam Noir, Jay Stephens, Brenden Fletcher & Andy Stanleigh. I also enjoyed a few conversations with Robert Haines too. I took photos which you can see here.
On the night of the 14th, I also attended the 15th Annual Joe Shuster Awards. Kevin Boyd did the presenting of the ceremony, except for Jennifer Haines who presented the The Dragon Award (Comics for Kids). Robert Haines also presented a surprise T.M. Maple Award to his wife Jennifer. My audio recording and pictures of the ceremony are here. It was particularly nice to see Gerhard, who was the background artist on Cerebus get inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Gerhard gets inducted to the 2019 Joe Shuster Awards Hall of Fame
I left fairly early on Sunday as I had a long drive ahead of me and I wanted to visit The Dragon in Milton on my way home. The Guelph Art Museum did have a Exhibition on Seth’s work and I did stop by the museum late Sunday morning, but it was closed. For those that don’t know Seth is a popular cartoonist who created a number of critically acclaimed graphic novels.
Regarding The Dragon stores, they are all brightly coloured stores with a dedicated kids area with a small table and chairs and nearby small bookshelves with age appropriate books. They focus on graphic novels but do have some comics and pop culture products there. A nice touch was a healthy diversity of stuffed animals for kids, which gave the stores a fun atmosphere. The graphic novels were broken down by genre with books going alphabetically by title. They also had a comic book section and place for gaming too. The staff were all very friendly as well.
I spent more money than I was expecting. Below is my haul from the show and the Dragon store shopping.
Over the weekend I went to Toronto Comicon. I used to attend this con regularly but stopped going back in 2013. I won’t go into the details as to why, but I will say it was nice to go back and see some people whom I haven’t seen in many years. Compared to San Diego Comic Con and TCAF, this con was ‘light’ work for me in terms of recording panels and didn’t require me to take days off work to get my stuff online quickly. I audio recorded 5 panels and took some pictures.
Two of the panels were spotlight panels of creators I’ve recorded before at San Diego (Steve Englehart & Ron Wilson) but I learned some new stuff about the creators at both of them. I’ve recorded Denny O’Neil at other panels, but not a spotlight panel. I also learned that some colourists really don’t like working on Green Lantern books and that Marvel’s current Editor in Chief C. B. Cebulski really appreciates it when a creator makes a very difficult deadline.
All of the panels were in the same room and it was easy to find the comic guests. Having a laptop with me instead of a tablet made a huge speed difference in terms of preparing audio and pictures. As usual with this convention, there was a lot of cosplay and one could spend all their time just taking photos of cosplayers and still not get them all. I used to take a lot more photos but between going to panels, taking photos of pros’s, chatting with friends and doing some shopping for myself I no longer have the time to devote to it.
I did take a couple of short videos showing some of the fun of happening at the convention with cosplayers.
The only thing that disappointed me about the trip was the handy and close to the convention public parking lot I used to use was no longer there. It’s been replaced by large half-built condo sky scrapper, which meant finding a new place to park and going for a longer walk.
So I went to King Con, a local convention in Kingston, Ontario, Canada that was able to bring in a surprising number of comic book creators, a prose writer, a magician and even a celebrity. The event was held at Sydenham Street United Church and Chalmers United Church as the Kingston Public Library was not yet finished it’s renovations.
David Lloyd Sketch, King Con 2019.
As usual I mainly stuck to the comic books portion of the show but I did spent some time watching the magician James Harrison do magic and even teach some simple magic. I took a number of pictures, audio recorded some panels and got to speak with a number of creators which was nice.
I almost never get sketches, but David Lloyd got me to pay for a sketch and I got a nice V for Vendetta from him. David’s sketch also came with a free issue of Aces Weekly, an online comics anthology he puts together. Georgia Webber, Chip Zdarsky, Allison O’Toole & Jason Loo signed their books for me. I got to take pictures of some cosplayers, including several from the 501 Legion, but unfortunately was unable to wait for the cosplay contest as they were running late and I was exhausted.
I did attend but did not record a Group Cosplay Panel which was really well done. I have attended a number of cosplay related panels this was the first one on this particular topic I’ve seen and those on the panel did a great job highlighting the benefits of doing group cosplay. Among the reasons were combining resources, using each others unique skill set and inspiring each other to work on their costumes.
I had a good time at the convention, but I’m looking forward to it being back at the newly renovated library next year.
A bunch of my friends on facebook are calling this Will Eisner week to celebrate the man.
In going over some old notebooks I came across some notes I took the one time I met and saw Will Eisner talk on a panel. This was at the 2004 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con. I was not yet recording panels so I only have the notes I scribbled down. The notes are faded and will be illegible soon so I’m putting them here to preserve them.
The title of the panel was Graphic Novel Pioneers. On it was Will Eisner, Dave Sim and Chester Brown.
2004 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con – Graphic Novel Pioneers panel. Will Eisner, Dave Sim, Chester Brown
Will Eisner starts off telling Dave Sim “We have to be very careful about what we say, there is an audience.”
Eisner thinks a Graphic Novel is about the content, not page numbers.
He thought readers were older and wanted to read something other than 2 mutants smashing each other.
Eisner said the President of Ballantine Books was very impatient.
Chester now accepts the Graphic Novel name. He didn’t before.
Eisner calls some books graphic narrative.
Al Capp told Eisner in 1945 he’d never make it, said he was to normal.
Rube Goldberg told Eisner that comics wasn’t nothing but vaudeville and jokes.
Spirit got 5 million in circulation, that was considered nothing then.
Eisner talked about how comic strips had huge cultural impact among immigrants.
Eisner said Superman had the same costume as strong man in circus.
Eisner said the Spirit was supposed to be short stories. Eisner did Splash pages to get attention.
Dave did Cerebus because of the direct market, the retailers took all the risk. He did things in Cerebus that he knew couldn’t do in Marvel/DC. He had almost complete freedom and he pushed boundaries.
Dave said he and the people in Beguiling (Popular Indy focused Comic Book store) thought Louis Riel was career suicide.
Eisner thought undergrounds was literature because Denis Kitchen introduced him to them.
Eisner sold his company and went into doing Graphic Novels.
Dave said Cerebus + Star Reach was called Ground Level Comics.
Eisner credits the undergrounds for the Graphic Novel.
Eisner thinks the Editor should be the reader surrogate, tell him what doesn’t work and Eisner will fix it himself. He doesn’t want advice.
Chester uses Seth as his “editor” to give him advice. Sim did it all himself.
Eisner used Dave Shiner, a friend, as an editor, he died recently. He now uses his wife Ann who never read comics prior to this.
Eisner said doing comics is like sex. He doesn’t like talking about it while he’s doing it. After he’s finished, then he goes through it.
Eisner starts writing with the ending. He writes a timeline, not the story.
With Louis Riel, Chester did his work on panels with dialog at first, did stick figures if he didn’t think he would remember.
TCAF had a different feel this year. One of the major Canadian publishers, Drawn & Quarterly was not there. They put less tables on the main floor which made the convention more bearable to walk around and browse. In the past few years TCAF had several popular Image Comics creators, but not so much this year. I haven’t compared numbers but friends of mine believe there were more international creators than usual.
Also different was the spaces outside of the Library being used. The Masonic Temple that normally hosted the Image creators was not utilized and the empty upstairs area of a mall across the street was. Within that space was a Zine Fest which I did not visit, but I understand it was popular. I also couldn’t help but notice the Friday Night kick off event was also less popularly attended than usual. Even the Doug Wright awards were put into a smaller room and was done in an hour. I’m not suggesting that any of these changes were bad, some of them were quite welcome, but it gave the show an ‘off’ feeling. It will be curious to see what happens with next years show to see if this is a trend or not.