Just a quick update as I’m going to be traveling a bunch this autumn and hitting up some comics events! Very exciting! 😀
I’ll be at New York Comic Con from Friday-Sunday this year, October 6th to 8th, with my lovely and talented husband Andrew also joining me. I don’t think I have any panels or things, I’m there to mostly network and talk to folks about my new gig. If you wanna grab a coffee hit me up.
Then the NEXT weekend, I’m leading a large contingent of Canadians (under the auspices of TCAF) to Merry Olde England to attend my 5th-straight Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, October 13th to 15th, in Kendal, England. I’ve written about the Festival before on this here website and if you want to know more about the Festival, check out the official website.
Every year I try to write a little bit about an artist whose work I particularly enjoy that is attending TCAF as one of our guests. As Festival Director, I realize that it’s a bit treacherous to play favourites with the attending artists, and I generally don’t. If anything, I try to write about an artist whose work I love, but who might not be that well known to the general public, and who could use the ‘boost’ in notoriety before they get to the festival itself.
This year I was going to write about Shintaro Kago, Japanese gag cartoonist, pornographer, and comics formalist–a really interesting guy with really interesting work. I’d been thinking about the blog post I would make, here, on the blog, and maybe I’d also remind whatever readership I have left about TCAF coming up and all that, and it woulda been a nice post. A funny thing happened though, as I was composing that article in my head (I compose a lot of articles in my head that never make it here), I was approached by Kago’s Italian Publisher, Hollow Press, to write the introduction to TRACT, an original graphic novella of Kago’s work that would be debuting at TCAF 2016. I thought to myself that writing the introduction to that book would be just like writing an introduction to the cartoonist on my blog, more or less, so I happily accepted their offer and wrote my (short) introduction to the work of Shintaro Kago. It appeared in the new graphic novel TRACT, which as far as I can tell will not be distributed to North America through normal channels (The Beguiling has it, though, and it sold out at TCAF!).
And now I got a blog post out of it too:
INTRODUCTION TO SHINTARO KAGO’S TRACT
I have liked the work of Shintaro Kago for a very long time.
Since seeing his beautiful, perverse, inventive story Punctures in the year 2000 anthology Secret Comics Japan, I’ve been fascinated by a creator seemingly obsessed with comics formalism, the kind of work that could only be made because of the strengths of the comics medium, while simultaneously being draped with eroticism and grotesquery. These things don’t really exist in the American comics market, and this story (and really that whole anthology) was a revelation. I scrounged to find other works by Kago, some illegally (to my great shame), and each time I’d be thrilled and awed by comics that would push at the boundaries of the storytelling medium, while simultaneously being very explicitly sexual, and often quite disturbingly so. Pages and panels would rotate, spin, and fold on themselves and back again, all while distended genitalia would skitter along the gutters, having grown tiny limbs and minds of their own. Incredible stuff, reinforcing my idea that Japan was a land of unfettered experimentation within their comics industry, that manga was willing to truly expand the language of the form.
When I began to travel to Japan and to interview manga-ka, meeting Shintaro Kago and asking him about his groundbreaking work was at the top of my list. I finally got my chance on one trip, interviewing him about his long career in manga. After expressing my admiration (with examples!) I asked him why his incredible, experimental comics were so pornographic?
“Because adult magazines are the only places I can get published,” he answered. “As long as a story has some kind of sex, or even sex and grotesqueness, I can do whatever experiments I like.”
It was not the answer I was expecting, both disheartening and inspiring. It seems that even in Japan, the innovators of the industry must take work where they can find it, creators struggling to find their audience however they can, to connect with people. Much of Kago’s recent career has become trying to make these connections outside of the manga industry, through original toys, commissioned personal and professional illustrations, whatever it takes. I admire his dedication, and thank those that have seen the value in his work and published him.
To that end, I’m very grateful to Hollow Press for commissioning and publishing this second original work by Shintaro Kago, free from the bonds of genre and manga magazines, so that he might communicate his ideas on formalism, on storytelling, on comics to the wider world.
Christopher Butcher, comics212.net & TCAF
TRACT is available for sale online from Hollow Press, and in-store at
The Beguiling and Page & Panel: The TCAF Shop. Shintaro Kago has a neat website you should check out.
At the end of August, Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid from Publisher’s Weekly asked me to participate in a survey about the decade of growth in comics and graphic novels, and mine and my colleagues’ responses are in an article that just went live on the PW site.
As the introduction says, in 2005 there were no ebooks or iPads, we were firmly in the middle of the graphic novel (and manga) boom, and even then it was clear that things were changing rapidly. For me, I’d been at The Beguiling a few years, we were just holding the second TCAF in Honest Ed’s Parking Lot, and Scott Pilgrim Volume 2 was debuting (I went to the printer and picked up the TCAF copies myself). I also blogged a lot more back then, just making the transition from writing about the way the industry to be, to doing all the work that I felt needed to be done. It was an interesting time.
For my part, in August when I was asked to participate in this survey, I’d spent the summer penning a few essays and participating in some panels that resonated with a lot of folks working in the industry, and really got under the skin of others. Essays about how, essentially, the graphic novel & manga boom really occurred largely outside of the purview of the medium’s then-gatekeepers, in both the superhero and art comics camps. I really feel the growth was almost entirely from new audiences, from work that was either ignored or denegrated, and I still do, so, it helps maybe explain where my head was at in general when answering. I also thought, and still think, that with more money coming into the industry, and more opportunities, it behooves those of us with a voice and a say in how the playing field is shaped to try and address some of the imbalances in the industry.
It’s a pretty good survey article, and the folks participating are generally the folks I’ve seen gain the most out of the growing graphic novel industry. I think I would like to have seen a few answers from the superhero folks and the artcomics folks, but perhaps representatives were invited and declined to participate. Despite 7 different people all answering from their perspectives, I don’t think there’s much in there I disagree with (at least from the perspectives of those answering), and my friend Librarian Eva Volin in particular ends the article with a great mic-drop. If you have the opportunity, go check it out, let me know what you think in the comments.
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.
Hello! I am happy to say that I will once again be attending Comic-Con International: San Diego this year. I’ll mostly be stationed at the Drawn & Quarterly Booth, #1629, as the good folks there have given my erstwhile employer The Beguiling a small corner from which to sell a gorgeous array of original comics artwork. I’ll be helping Peter out there on and off through all five days of the show. If you want to say hello that’s not a bad place to look for me. You can also tweet me @comics212 to see what’s up.
I’m also happy to say that I have a very full panel and programming schedule this year, as I’ll be participating in or moderating 5 different programs at the big show. Every panel is very different from the other too, which is great. It’ll be a busy show. Here’s a quick run-down:
Emerging from the undergrounds and into the alt-comix of the 1980s, queer characters and voices have always been loud and proud in alternative and indie comics. GilbertHernandez and Jaime Hernandez were at the forefront of queer characters’ visibility with their groundbreaking and award-winning comic book series LOVE AND ROCKETS, featuring brilliant characters like Hopey, Maggie, Israel, and Julio. Contemporary authors Mariko Tamaki and Ed Luce have contributed new queer icons in their books SKIM and WUVABLE OAF. Join all four creators and moderator Christopher Butcher (Comics212.net, Toronto Comic Arts Festival) for a discussion of the history of queer character visibility in alt and indie comics.
How to Survive Conventions as an Indie Creator Friday, 7/10/15, 8:30p.m. – 9:30p.m. Room: 8
Calling all artists, small presses, and makers: Are you interested in or currently touring comics and pop culture conventions? Christopher Butcher (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) moderates a panel of experienced exhibitors Daniel Davis (Steam Crow, Booth Bastards), Shing Yin Khor (Sawdust Press), Paul Roman Martinez (The 19XX), and Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows (The Devastator) to discuss making a full convention calendar work alongside a heavy production calendar. They’ll also answer questions raised by the Comics Beat + The Devastator 2014 Convention Survey –– what should creators expect from conventions and how can we make the most of them?
Saturday, July 11th
Kids Comics Summit
Saturday, 7/11/15, 11:00am – 12:00pm. San Diego Central Public Library – Shelley Special Events Suite
What’s the state of the children’s comics industry? Publishers talk about their publishing programs; discussing how kids comics have changed in the past decade and how they’ll change more in the decade to come. A conversation with Alex Segura (Archie Comics), Filip Sablik (Boom), Kuo-Yu Liang (Diamond), Gina Gagliano (First Second), Sven Larsen (Papercutz), and David Saylor (Scholastic). Moderated by Christopher Butcher (Toronto Comics Art Festival).
Best and WorstManga of 2015 Saturday, 7/11/15, 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m., Room: 23ABC
I don’t have the official description for this one, but myself, Brigid Alverson, David Brothers, Eva Volin, and moderator Deb Aoki are once again participating in an hour of chaotic fun, as we run down our choices for some of the best and worst manga of the year. It’s gonna be fun, and it’s always a packed house!
Eric Esquivel (writer, Sanjay & Craig), Sam Spina (artist, Sanjay & Craig) and Jim Salicrup (editor-in-chief of Papercutz) plus special guests give you an inside look at how Nickelodeon’s hit properties Sanjay & Craig, Breadwinners and Harvey Beaks are being turned into Papercutz Graphic Novels. Featuring the editors, writers and artists who make comics out of these awesome shows! Moderated by Christopher Butcher (The Beguiling, Toronto Comic Arts Festival).
And that’s it for now… I think. I’m always terrified that I’ve agreed to be on a panel and then forgotten about it completely. Heh. Anyway, I really am looking forward to Comic-Con again this year, as even the years where I have a miserable time are also years where amazing things happen. It’s a neat show that way.
I’m happy to say that the first round of TCAF announcements have gone up, including the preview of our first 2015 Poster by Charles Burns, and the announcement of Featured Guests including Burns, Gurihiru, Eleanor Davis, Lucy Knisley, Scott McCloud, Barbara Stok, Jillian Tamaki, and Chip Zdarsky. It’s going to be a spectacular year for the show, with some really amazing stuff planned. I’ll make sure to ping here with announcements as they’re made, but feel free to add the TCAF site and social media to your various feeds 😉
Some good writing in my feed this morning, as three different folks (in two different articles) took time out of their days to talk about some comics that I really enjoy. All three are different in tone and style and execution, but all three are very much worth your time and money.
Smith and Beasi follow-up their discussion of Sunny with the impending re-release of Lone Wolf & Cub, now in an omnibus edition with a larger size and page count (volume 1 is 5″x7″ and 712 pages). I have a funny relationship with Lone Wolf & Cub, in that I absolutely love it but I haven’t yet finished the series. I stopped about 3 or 4 volumes from the end, despite being utterly consumed with the story and the world, because I wasn’t prepared for the series to end, and for the inevitable conclusion. I will probably finish it one day, and this re-release from Dark Horse may give me the impetus to do so… but I’m not there yet.
Finally, over at The Comics Journal, Craig Fischer writes an extended appreciation of the “Paul” series of books by Michel Rabagliati. The piece is very good at explaining what’s great about Rabagliati’s comics, and even better at explaining why it’s important to give his work a second or third look if you felt slightly unimpressed by it the first time around. I’m still working on my grand unified theory of why it’s so hard to develop a North American audience for French cartoonists, but Rabagliati is definitely on the list of folks whose work is extraordinarily popular and well-regarded in its native land (in Rabagliati’s instance that’s Quebec, rather than France) but has had difficulty finding an audience in English. I’m so happy to see articles like Fischer’s pushing for a reappraisal of Rabagliati’s work while it is still being published, still incredibly vital, and better-still, still in print. Go and track down Rabagliati’s catalogue at your earliest opportunity.
I probably shouldn’t write this, propriety being what it is and all, but I certainly shouldn’t write it on any sort of TCAF website, so blog update.
I wanna talk about two quick things that I’ve seen come up about TCAF, in an unofficial capcity. That’s anxiety about the event, and ‘cosplay’.
Anxiety: It’s perfectly normal to be nervous and excited about meeting people at an event, any event. Meeting someone whose work means a lot to you can be scary, meeting possibly dozens of those people in a two day period can be overwhelming. And, make no mistake, TCAF will totally be busy. There will be a lot of people. But, and here’s the thing you should remember: Toronto Reference Library is 6 floors (5+ a basement), and has a huge and lovely outdoor area, and could probably acommodate crowds 3 times as big as TCAF comfortably. There are all kinds of spaces in the library which, all through the weekend, remain quiet, and cool, and basically empty except for a few people reading quietly. Seclusion and a place to relax and center yourself is never more than a 60 second walk away when you’re in the library.
And if things get to be just too much? Walk out the front door. There are spaces all around the library that are nice and open. Go and get lunch, go for a walk and get some fresh air, go sit and read some of the comics you’ve bought. Relax. There’s no reason to force yourself to stay in a crowded area if you’re not feeling good about that, and there’s plenty to do off-site. If you get anxious or panicky or need to take a moment, there’s plenty of ways to do just that.
Cosplay: We don’t encourage cosplay at TCAF. It’s a ‘no cosplay’ event. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to be a jerk to anyone else whether they’re in costume or otherwise.
We don’t encourage cosplay for the safety of the cosplayers and the public. To make it as simple as possible, comic book conventions, regular comics events, are a ‘safe space’ for people to express themselves without fear of criticism or rejection. There’s a sort of mutally-agreed-upon pact between attendees, about “letting your freak flag fly” to use an olds expression. TCAF takes place in a public library, with a lot of people who don’t consider TCAF to be a comic convention (including me, including the public, including the thousand people there just to use the computers and check out books). There is no mutually agreed upon pact between attendees of TCAF and the members of the general public at the library that day, other than the general social contract that governs us all in our day to day… and that general social contract doesn’t make a lot of room for dressing as characters from comic books, which means the verbal gloves can come off, to mix a few metaphors there.
I don’t want anyone at all to be hurt by mean words or bad encounters at TCAF, and because we can’t guarantee a ‘safe space’, a non-agression pact by everyone who’s going to be there, it would be flat-out irresponsible of us to get on board with cosplay. But as always, we respect an indvidual’s right to express their identity, and like I said, no one should be a jerk to anyone else whether they’re wearing a costume or otherwise.
So, yeah, that’s the deal. None of this is ‘official tcaf policy’, this is words of wisdom from someone who has been going to comic book events for more than 20 years, and has used his experience to plan and program his own. I want you to have a happy, safe, easy time at TCAF. We make recommendations and not-quite-rules to facilitate that. In the end, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and we’ll be there to deal with the consequences and fall-out from that. But, for the last 10 years or so, there hasn’t been any. 🙂
If you’re reading this and you will be in the Tokyo area, I hope you’ll come say hi!
Oh, I’d like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting my trip.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $154 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 154 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.
On Tuesday, November 13th, a group of Canadian and Japanese artists led by En Masse mainstay Rupert Bottenberg will collaboratively create three brand new works from blank canvas’, with the public invited to (unobtrusively) view the creation process. Then, from the 13th to the 15th, all three new narrative art works will be on display and for sale at the legendary Design Festa Gallery, founded by acclaimed contemporary artist Takeshi Murakami.
We are proud to present “Canada Comics Arts” curated by TCAF of Canada.
In trying to give us a chance to glimpse the presently expanding exciting comics and arts scene in Canada, TCAF has selected and brought over original artworks by amazing artists, Maurice Vellekoop and Love Love Hill, and also books by Canadian artists of their choice. The TCAF crew, artists, and publishers will be in store on November 18th from 19:00 to discuss what’s going on now in the Canadian comics/art/publishing scene. Authors will read short excerpts of selected works. Don’t miss out on this rare chance!
Kaigai Manga Festa is the first ever Tokyo exhibition of international comics and graphic novels. TCAF will be on hand to represent Canadian comics culture, with the support of Canadian publishers Drawn & Quarterly, Koyama Press, and UDON Entertainment. Authors include Rupert Bottenberg, Omar Dogan, Jeffrey Ellis, Agnes Garbowska, Dax Gordine, Love Love Hill (Collective featuring Wai Au, Kim Hoang, Julie Man), David Namisato, Benjamin Rivers, Miguel Sternberg, Maurice Vellekoop.
In addition, TCAF has created an original doujinshi in honour of the Festival’s 10th Anniversary, celebrating the wonderful original artwork that has been created to represent the festival.
And just cuz it’s kinda neat, here’s the TCAF appearances flyer in English/Japanese:
So if you follow my online happenings more deeply than just this blog, you might have heard that a thing that I’m helping to make happen is TCAF’s first international exhibition on November 18th. What this means is that TCAF as a festival is going to go and exhibit at a comics event in Japan, in furtherance of its mandate to promote Canadian cartoonists and graphic novels. We’re inviting a bunch of Canadian cartoonists to come with us as well. I go more in-depth about the event and what we’re planning here: http://torontocomics.com/japan/.
Anyway, I just wanted to drop a note here on my blog in case any Canadian TCAF Exhibitors didn’t get our e-mail or otherwise missed the news, and really just to let people know that we’re doing that I think is a cool thing. Maybe it will inspire all y’all to keep doing cool things too?