With the past 2 years of attending the Toronto Comic Arts Festival with Christa (More Than Just Magic), this year my TCAF partner in crime was on vacation during the May weekend of the free event. That being said, Ardo and I had a fantastic time surrounded by so many graphic novels and so much love for the art form. Like last year, we met up at the nearby Starbucks to fuel up for a hectic afternoon of crowds.
Right off the bat, we had to seek out the table that sold the TCAF tote bag so Ardo could start filling it up with graphic novel purchases! After being redirected twice, we finally got to the Beguiling store table up on the 2nd floor. Eyeing the winding line to get into the 2nd floor salon area, we opted to head back downstairs for now and picking up several graphic novels in quick succession. Ardo definitely did her research beforehand and, for the most part, knew which ones she wanted to get. Every year, I generally wander and see what catches my eye.
After a bit of shopping, we headed over to the Marriott hotel around the corner to get Christa’s comic signed by Ed Brubaker. While Ardo has read his comic Velvet, I hadn’t had a chance to read any of his work yet. However, while we were waiting in line, we befriended Kevin, a nice man in front of us who chatted with us about comics and movies the whole time. He recommended a few of Brubaker’s to check out as a new reader and he and Ardo swapped titles to check out. I ended up picking up the first issue of Fatale and The Last of the Innocent. It also turns out that our new pal Kevin does a podcast with his friend on CBC! Check out Talking Movies with Kevin Pasquino!
Ardo & I were starving after that long line-up so we ventured out for some food where we bumped into Jaclyn & her sister Jessica and ended up sharing a table with them. After much-needed nourishment, we ventured back into the thick of it for about 15 minutes before Ardo and I headed back over to the Marriott again for the Genre Comics & Women panel. The panelists included Faith Erin Hicks, Sanya Anwar, Jordyn Bochon, Becky Cloonan, Sloan Leong and Isabelle Melancon, moderated by Rachel Kahn. The topic of discussion was to be about why these talented women choose to write & draw genre fiction and it while it had some interesting discussion, it felt a bit meandering to me. There didn’t seem to be much direction and, personally, it felt too unfocused. Genre fiction is a pretty broad topic so I felt maybe it needed to have a bit more direction. Nonetheless, we stayed for that and ran to catch the tail end of the Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki signing in the basement of the reference library. Mariko had to leave, but Jillian graciously stayed till the end (we were the 2nd and 3rd last in line before the cut the line off). With all that said and done, we actually didn’t get through the line for another hour, leaving us only 15 minutes left to check out the 2nd floor before the library closed. We zipped upstairs and did a quick walk-around where Ardo lined up to pick up a book from Faith Erin Hicks and I ran back downstairs to the Drawn & Quarterly table to grab Over Easy.
I do love that TCAF is a free event, when so many things now charge so much for admission. I understand the want for having it at the reference library, being so central and large in open space but with the popularity growing, it makes it incredibly chaotic to maneuver. I’m sure it’s disruptive for the people who are actually at the library to study or work, and it’s so hard to navigate all the tables, rooms and locations. One other thing that I was a bit frustrated with this year more than previous years is the seemingly lack of training of the volunteers. I am by no means grouping every one of them together because we did see some really helpful ones, but a lot of not-so-helpful ones unfortunately stood out more. Perhaps this means having to give proper training or be a bit more selective in how much these volunteers are serious about their role. I get it, many are young, it’s a nice Saturday and they’re not getting paid for it. But if you signed up for a volunteer, then take pride in your job.
When Ardo and I went over to the Marriott, we encountered so many volunteers who had absolutely NO idea what was going on in their little station. We asked two at the outside doors where to go and were faced with, I kid you not, blank faces and a lot of hesitation and ums, uhs and er… before pointing us forward to the elevators. Upon reaching the floor we needed, we were met with a volunteer sitting at the table that greets everyone, and we asked which side was the Ed Brubaker signing only to be met with more blank dumbfounded faces, not even knowing if we were to go left or right. You are at the GREETING table. In line for the signing, we were told by a headphone-wearing, sunglasses-donning (indoors..) volunteer to line up a certain way only to have another one come through and tell us something opposite. What a mess. On the other spectrum, while in line for the signing in the basement, one volunteer was condescendingly chastising a younger volunteer quite rudely in front of everyone in line, for something stupid and not important. Almost every encounter with a TCAF volunteer just made me question more and more how they are selected and trained, if at all.
All that being said, I did have a great time with Ardo on this past Saturday afternoon. It was finally a gorgeous day out in the city and we picked up some awesome reads and discovered a lot more talented people to check out.