All posts by Christopher Butcher

SEE YOU AT SPX THIS WEEKEND – SEP 19-20

Hey there! I’m happy to say that I’ll be headed to SPX this weekend in Bethesda, MD, for the second year in a row, repping TCAF and a selection of Canadian small presses. I’m at table L10, the same block as Koyama Press, Massive, Youth In Decline, and a whole bunch of awesome people.

The main thrust of the visit will be TCAF stuff, including comics, prints, posters, postcards, and books that we’ve produced over the years. We have some neat stuff! But I’m filling that out with a great selection of works from Canadian pubs like Coach House Books, Conundrum, and La Pastque, and small-run and self published works by a whole whack of Canadian TCAF exhibitors including Tin Can Forest, Michel Rabagliati, Steven GIlbert, John Martz, and more. I’ve also dug up a few real rarities from The Beguiling’s archives, the kind of one-of-a-kind stuff you would never actually be able to find in the store itself. 😉 I’ll instagram some of the rarest stuff on the torontocomics account, so keep an eye out there for it.

Please feel free to say hi if you see me–even if I’m “busy”. It’d be great to catch up.

Thanks to the SPX crew for having me at the show!

– Christopher

Japan Travel, Hiroshima, Barefoot Gen, and Kickstarter.

I’ve been recounting my travels to Japan in November and December 2014 over on my Facebook. These are travels outside of Tokyo, and were largely personal trips, not related to comics, and I felt like they weren’t particularly well-suited to Comics212. But we’re at the point in the trip where I reached Hiroshima, and I thought I’d share that here.

The Eternal Flame Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
The Eternal Flame Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

71lPIsdV9hLI had been to Japan about a half-dozen times before my trip in November and December 2014. With each trip I’d never made it much further west than Osaka, and with each trip I’d feel a growing feeling of… I dunno, guilt, but also the abdication of responsibility, that I’d never been to Hiroshima, to see the remains and to see the Peace Museum. I’d read a bunch about Hiroshima and seen a documentary, and the graphic novels ‘Barefoot Gen’ by Keiji Nakazawa, and ‘Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms’ by Fumiyo K?no, are both excellent, emotional, and often visceral works on the subject of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath that have stayed with me for years.

Monument on the Hiroshima Peace Museum grounds.
Monument on the Hiroshima Peace Museum grounds.

Currently, Last Gasp Publishing has a Kickstarter running to support its mission to place Barefoot Gen, for free, into schools and libraries across America. As someone who finally visited Hiroshima late last year, and who saw the devastation and its aftereffects, and spoke with survivors firsthand, I can say that this incident is still as relevant as ever. The discussion that Barefoot Gen could and should spark in schools and libraries is one worth having, and I hope you’ll support this Kickstarter:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1784498350/barefoot-gen-for-schools-and-libraries

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The only photo I snapped inside the museum is this one showing the town of Hiroshima in 1945. The red ball hanging over top is the height, location, and size of the explosion of the atomic bomb.

I didn’t take many photos in Hiroshima, because quite honestly I was having a tough time. It didn’t seem appropriate to be snapping away, at least not with tears in my eyes. My friends have told me that it doesn’t get any easier, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary to go, and I’ll probably head back there at least once more, to take it all in again.

Across the river from the museum is the actual memorial, with the "Atomic Bomb Dome" building.
Across the river from the museum is the actual memorial, with the “Atomic Bomb Dome” building.

If you’re able to visit the Peace Museum, and like myself able to sign the Peace declaration, please do.

Thanks,

– Christopher

The Atomic Bomb Dome is a ruin left largely intact as a reminder of the devestation of the war. After visiting the museum, I sat for a long time directly across the river from this monument.
The Atomic Bomb Dome is a ruin left largely intact as a reminder of the devestation of the war. After visiting the museum, I sat for a long time directly across the river from this monument.

Podcasts is a weird word. Is it specifically tied to the iPod? Anyway.

ITEM! I just saw this tumblr post by Kelly Sue Deconnick, someone I’ve known a real long time now, imploring a fan to pre-order one of her upcoming books:

If you’re interested in picking [Pretty Deadly] up, PLEASE PRE-ORDER. After this long of a delay, I guarantee it’ll be under-ordered. That’s on me, but if you want it, I want you to be able to get your hands on it. Pre-order, pleeeeeaaase.  – Kelly Sue

Kelly Sue was right there at the ‘dawn’ of the pre-order movement on the Warren Ellis forum (referenced here), and she knows the importance of that sort of direct customer engagement. I think this is a great example of the importance of pre-ordering, because by all accounts Kelly Sue is a creator who’s “Made It”, who has a dedicated fan base, but is still encouraging fans to take an agressive, forward-looking position when it comes to getting her comics. If Kelly Sue thinks it’s important, then it’s important, and my advice to all creators is to start trying to really mobilize your fanbases.

Also of note? This very elaborate Greg Pak pre-order campaign for his upcoming series from Dark Horse, entitled Kingsway West.

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ITEM! I was a guest on Robin McConnell’s INKSTUDS podcast alongside the talented David Brothers and Brandon Graham, and it just went live. We talk for nearly 2 hours on this one, and I actually listened to it and I think, you know, I think it’s pretty good. David’s an incredibly smart guy, and I think he’s one of the people that brings out the best in my own commentary on the comics industry; I was super-happy to spend an hour chatting with him (Robin and Brandon were great too, don’t get me wrong). We recorded this about a month ago, and it actually got me thinking, and thinking, and I’ve actually been writing here at the blog since then. Maybe I’ll keep it up? Anyway.

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LtoR: Eva Volin, Brigid Alverson, Chris Butcher, Deb Aoki, David Brothers.

ITEM! I just got back from San Diego and had a really good time. I was on a record six (6!) panels this year as a participant or moderator, and it looks like all of the info for one of the panels is now online. I got to join Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson, David Brothers, and Eva Volin on The Best and Worst Manga 2015 for the fourth year running. I had a great time. 🙂

You can see all of our pics, slides, etc., at Deb Aoki’s Manga Comics Manga: http://mangacomicsmanga.com/sdcc-2015-best-and-worst-manga-of-2015/

…and Jamie Coville has the complete audio of the panel over at his website, TheComicBooks.com: http://www.thecomicbooks.com/audio.html#SanDiego2015

 

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print!

– Christopher

Breaking into Comics [Conventions]

I know it sounds fake, but I’m legitimately humbled when I’m reading one of the various comic book sites on the internet, and I come across someone being nice about TCAF, the comics festival that I founded. We just had our 10th festival in May, and it went well I think, and we’re going to keep getting better and better every year. We’ve already started planning for 2016 (May 14-15 in case you’re marking things off on your calendar).

Twice in the last week I’ve followed a link about conventions and running conventions, and found TCAF cited as a show to aspire to. I can’t tell you how proud this makes me, as not only do we all work really hard on TCAF, but we actually do want to have a positive, transformative effect on the industry. It’s validating to hear from smart folks that we’re worth emulating, and it encourages us to try even harder.

The first link is this blog post by Dave Merrill, an occasional customer of The Beguiling and U.S. transplant who has been involved with convention running for almost 20 years, mostly on the anime and manga fan-con side of things. Dave got an email question about best practices for starting a new show, and apparently he wrote a ton, and then fashioned the whole thing into a blog post for us to enjoy.

http://d-merrill.blogspot.ca/2015/06/advice-to-young-fan-event.html?m=1

I think this article is full of solid, measured, practical advice that I’d probably give myself. It’s also really kind to TCAF, which was unexpected but appreciated. But yeah, plan for your first event to be SMALL, run a successful event that everyone enjoys, rather than going too big and risking a negative attendee experience. Maybe the only other advice I’d offer is to try and get some experience in working at or for a convention, if at all possible. Volunteering, that sort of thing. Being on the other side of the attendee experience, even a little, is a huge help.

tumblr_npe3b4iDFM1u4tp9ro1_500The other article I came across that was unexpectedly kind to TCAF is this preview of the first Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) Festival that Tom Spurgeon, Vijaya Iyer, Jeff Smith, and company are putting together. I think they’ve got a fantastic model and some incredible institutional support in Columbus, and so I happily clicked through to see what they had to say:

http://www.newsarama.com/24862-jeff-smith-hopes-to-make-columbus-ohio-a-comic-book-destination-with-new-convention.html

I’m super excited about this show, even though Spurgeon and Smith are doing their best in that interview to try to manage expectations. Probably for the best. Like I said up top, starting small, running a solid and well-received event, and growing, is the best way to go forward, and I’m really glad to hear that CXC is progressing in that direction. Seriously, go read that interview and tell me that show doesn’t sound awesome.

Anyway, both of these articles are lovely and complimentary, but I’m happy to link them just because they’re full of great advice about con-running, and the ideologies behind putting on a good show. As I said on Twitter a little while ago, it’s not hard to look at the industry and see that things need fixing, and comic cons are a good place for me to exert some influence. I’m really honoured, and humbled when we get feedback like this, that we are making a difference.

– Chris

 

Distance

roseking

 

The distance between North America and Japan is so huge, sometimes. This cover was dropped into my inbox today because I’m on Viz’s press list, and this is a cool-looking book, sure, but the description–it’s an adaptation of Richard III, sorta, by a very talented shoujo manga-ka named Aya Kanno–and the image immediately create a wonderful dissonance.

It’s unabashedly a queer image, two men intertwined, slightly sexual, but I think really it’s more that it’s not afraid to read as a little queer, or a little sexual, than that it’s aggressively either of those things. Shakespeare was all kinds of queer, if you squinted especially, but as a contemporary portrayal this is so wonderfully unique.

Moreover, we just don’t see comic covers like this in North America. We don’t. In our supposedly accepting, permissive society, homosexuality, or queer masculinity, is still so forbidden. This isn’t a strictly queer, or strictly sexual work. This is mainstream comics (in Japan at least), a literary adaptation. Meanwhile an original work with original characters that pushes the boundaries? People freak out. The Walking Dead gay kiss is the most recent example of that.

In Japan, which is nominally considered a ‘repressive’ or ‘restrained’ society, to have an image like this adorn a very popular manga from a highly regarded manga-ka, the latest in her series of work exploring the politics of gender, sex, and sexuality? Totes fine.

Anyway, I love this artwork, I love the idea behind it too. I am frequently glad for manga (and works in translation in general) for reminding me that the world is big and has different ideas in it than I might see every day. I would’ve liked to have compressed this down to 140 characters for Twitter, since it’s not that big a thought, but, here we are.

– Christopher

 

 

5 Japanese Comics That Came Out In 2014 That Could’ve Been On A Best Of List Or Two

I’ve been taking a look at some of the “Best Comics of 2014” lists that are filtering out, and I’ve been a little disappointed at their general lack of ambition, but at the specific lack of comics originating in Japan (i.e.: manga’) on those lists. I haven’t read very many comics at all this year, sadly, but below are 5 Japanese comics that I have read, and have been surprised not to see featured anywhere. I’m sure as I catch up on my reading over the next few weeks, it will not be difficult to find more. For now though, if you’re one of the folks who’s wondering what’s good in manga in 2014, keep reading.

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Sunny, by Taiyo Matsumoto. Published by VIZ Media.
Volumes 3 & 4, released 2014.

My pick for ‘best comic of the year’ in 2013, Sunny continued to be excellent, heartbreaking, and beautifully illustrated in 2014.  Two further volumes of the series, set in a Japanese orphanage and featuring an outstanding group of young people in very difficult circumstances, arrived this year. Matsumoto is an outstanding cartoonist whose work has matured dramatically since Tekkon Kinkreet, and Sunny is largely regarded as one of the most beautiful manga in Japan. It is definitely one of the most beautiful comics being published in English today (in addition to being a truly moving read).

clothescalledfat

In Clothes Called Fat, by Moyoco Anno. Published by Vertical.
Single-volume manga, published 2014.

When it was originally released in Japan, this book caused something of a sensation. When released in French, it was an official selection at the Angouleme BD Festival, in consideration for best comic of the year, and caused no less of a sensation there. Now available in English, this book is raw, and grim, and still revelatory. It joins the very few manga titles explicitly for adult women (“Josei manga”) that have been published in English, and like the work of Kyoko Okazaki (Pink, Helter Skelter) it is absolutely worth your time.

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Monster (New Edition), by Naoki Urasawa. Published by VIZ Media.
Volumes 1-3 released in 2014.

Monster was a touch ahead of its time upon its initial English-language release in 2006. This twisting, turning, world-spanning mystery story found a dedicated following, but was largely unknown by the larger readership of comics. Luckily Urasawa’s subsequent series Pluto and 20th Century Boys found a larger audience, and those titles, plus the announcement that Guillermo Del Toro had optioned Monster as a television series for HBO, sent new fans clamouring for very-expensive, very-out-of-print volumes. Well, the series is finally coming back into print, in larger, double-volumes, including colour pages. Don’t sleep on this series a second time.

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What Did You Eat Yesterday, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Published by Vertical.
3 volumes released in 2014.

Surprisingly powerful and honest, this is an entirely unique series in the world of English-language publishing. A young gay couple, seemingly mismatched, spends their lives together, and occasionally cooks together. This series blends incidents from their life, with illustrated recipes, and it is entirely charming and, over time, endearing. I look forward to every volume.

front-cover

MASSIVE: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, by Various. Published by Fantagraphics. 1 volume.

Look, we’re all grown-ups here, so hopefully a book full of erotic comics on a best-of list won’t upset you too much. As good as the erotic content is (and: it’s pretty good), what really puts it over the top for me is the more than 70 pages of supplementary material–creator interviews, introductions, and a history of this material. This is a great archive of lost comics history, expertly researched and beautifully presented. Like the book on Gengoroh Tagame that preceeded it, this is nearly unique in North America, and worth a spot on your bookshelf.

Alright, there’s 5 that I’ve read and loved. More to come, I’m sure.

– Chris @ The Beguiling

2014

January

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Philadelphia.

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I took this photo because the snow was so deep and fluffy, and it reminded me of when I told Edgar Wright before Scott Pilgrim was filmed that the snow in the book wasn’t artistic license–it was actually deep and big and fluffy like that. He was appropriately shocked.

February

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It was blizzardy and I was a little grumpy, but I was super happy to help my friend Jocelyne move to be my neighbour!

March

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I can’t help it. I love Real Sports. It’s so awful it goes back around to being incredible.

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There was a blizzard just after this was taken.

April

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We went to the Domincan Republic for Andrew’s brother’s wedding. It was beautiful. I burnt my legs in the sun so badly I couldn’t walk.

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Then, Calgary.

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And Boston.

May

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TCAF was pretty great this year. May seemed long though, every week was busy.

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By the time it ended with the Anime North after-party, we were all pretty burnt out.

June

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Pride.

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Then to Las Vegas, which is Las Vegas. I went for work (really!), TCAF and UDON. It was a hoot.

July

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Las Vegas then right to Ottawa for Damon and Marianka’s wedding, which was lovely.

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A week later was Comic-Con. In n Out Burger was the most notable part of Comic-Con, maybe?

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August

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Seattle.

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Tory & Kean got married!

September

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Massive Realness.

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SPX with the awesome Koyama Bunch, in Maryland.

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Back to Toronto for Michael & Scott’s lovely wedding!

October

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England.

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November

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Tokyo.

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Osaka.

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Miyajima.

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Hiroshima.

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Kobe.

December

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Andrew. 🙂

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and ramen. 🙂

– 2014!

America X England X Japan X France

Shockingly, I’ll be travelling soon.

I know, I know, I’m always travelling, it seems, but I’m really excited about these next 4-5 months, as there’s gonna be a lot of cool stuff happening. Basically, all of my dreams for TCAF, of repping awesome Canadian comics to the world are coming true, and it’s great and I’m stoked.

Next weekend I’m off to SPX – The Small Press Expo in Maryland for the first time since 2005. I’m running Coach House’s table, and they are the publishers of a very important ‘lost’ classic called THE CAGE by Martin Vaughn James as well as a book of writing by critic Jeet Heer called IN LOVE WITH ART, about Art Spiegelman. We’ll also have some cool TCAF books there, so if you’ll be at the show please stop by and say hi! I’ll be at table J2.

Then in October, I’m headed back for the second year of The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, in Kendal, England, which runs from the 17th through the 19th. I got to attend last year and it was great fun (I still have to write up that trip…) and I’m excited to head back for another go. I’ll be hosting a few panels at the event, shaking hands, kissing babies, and hopefully inviting a few folks over to TCAF.

Moving along to November, and TCAF will once again be exhibiting at Kagai Manga Festa / International Comic Festival, Japan’s only event for international comics. TCAF will have 3-4 tables, repping Canadian cartoonists and books, and it should be great fun. The event is on Sunday, November 23rd, but we’ll be there for a few days before and about a week after. We’re still open to Cartoonists who want to exhibit with us at the show, head over to the TCAF site to read about it.

Then, I’m quite pleased to announce that TCAF will make its first showing at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France, January 27 to Feb 1. Angouleme is one of the bigger and more important comics events in the world, it’s quite exciting to finally get to attend! I’m honestly not sure of the shape of the trip just yet, we’re still working out the finer points. 😉

Anyway, now you’re up to date! If you want to say hello while I’m in your neck of the woods, drop me a line!

Best,

– Christopher

Image by Gary Sherman