The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on May 11, 2011

This weekend was spent at the Toronto Comics Art Festival with my friend Ben. Much fun and merriment was had by all. Here’s a play by play for the interested:

-I had never been to Toronto before, so it was a double exciting time for me! Actually, I had never been on a plane before, either, so make that triple. I can say that my opinion of both are now favorable.
Toronto seems like a good place. I especially liked how the different forms of public transportation, which we utilized over the course of the three or four days constantly, are linked, so you don’t need to pay extra to go from subway to street car to bus. And most of the routes are pretty easy to figure out, a bonus for stupid tourists like me. Even so, I can say that the constant looking for stops and riding and pass buying wore me out sometimes. My own personal preference seems to be for places where I can walk pretty much anywhere I need to go. That kind of keeps me in nowheresville, doesn’t it?

-For food, we went to different restaurants every day for all three meals, and each one was pretty good! Saturday began with Patrician Grill, where I got a good full breakfast with the biggest pieces of bacon I’ve ever seen (they were slightly burnt, but I guess you win some you lose some). The Blarney Stone, a pub that was located quite close to the Reference Library and The Pilot (where two of the panels were attended were held), had some huge-ass burgers. Saturday night was spent at C’est What, another pub with a delightful collection of taps and great Dijon chicken.
On Sunday, we started with Morning Glory, which was tiny, but had a goat milk and blue cheese-based omelet that Ben said was so good, we came back the next day (and got something completely different). In the afternoon, we went across the street from the library to a place called Mama’s Pizza, which must be a Toronto-based chain, because we saw it everywhere. It was one of those pizza places where they have huge-ass slices…and they were good huge-ass slices, too. Ben had a calzone that could plug a hole in the ozone. Big is good, yes. Finally, we went to another pub called Betty’s, which is one of those places made for large drunken gatherings, complete with colourful crap all over the walls and pictures of nude women in the bathroom. The burger Ben got was super thick (whereas the Blarney Stone’s burgers were wide), and they put a fried egg on it, just to make sure the thing was 125% awesome.

-But what’s all this talk about food? There were comics to be had! Yes, TCAF was swollen with comics and comic creators, some of whom I actually knew! But of course, getting to see the people I knew is only about 57% of the fun; it’s cool to discover new things, as well. It’s great seeing the huge variety of works out there by independent folks, all of whom were out hawking their wares and being super-friendly to mouth-breathing scum like me (although the crowds here were pretty good, the kind I can identify with over the more, let’s say, fanatic folks I have been led to believe would attend the more general nerd conventions). And as congested as the thing got, it never felt really chaotic. Kudos to the staff for keeping everything smooth for those two days.

-I didn’t spend that much money there, which was surprising. For the most part, buying stuff never felt like a high priority for me when I actually got there. I was too busy just taking in the overall comics atmosphere. Plus, I’m kind of a wuss, and didn’t want to approach the artists out of fear of looking like an idiot to people I respect. Oh well. The only purchases/things I had signed were an exclusive CD of gibberish put together by Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward (he also drew me a picture) and a copy of Godland: Celestial Edition Two, which I had been meaning to pick up at some point anyway, but now have a copy signed by Tom Scioli, who was nice enough to make sure I got a high-quality copy of the book.
When it came to getting things signed, that breathless act of fanboyism, I think I had more fun following my friend while he attempted to fill his sketchbook with doodles & signatures from 30 or so of his favourite artists we knew were in attendance. He got a surprisingly large amount, by the end. As previously mentioned, they were all good folks, which after the first few, gave us a much-needed confidence boost to pursue the rest. Among the notables were James Stokoe of Orc Stain, who went completely to town on the sketch (and he draws with his left hand, which is insane), Chester Brown, who didn’t think his drawing of Louis Riel looked very much like Louis Riel, and Scott C. of Double Fine Action Comics, who even let us take a picture of him! Of course, everyone there we talked to were super, and completely open for some silly inconsequential chitchat and “I like your stuff! It’s so neat!”. I think that openness and the love of the craft that permeated the place is what makes it such a joy.

-We went to 4 panels, all of which were entertaining. The first had Kate Beaton, Joe Lambert, John Martz, Dylan Meconis, and Dustin Harbin talking about the ways they approach the creative legwork of their job, talking about the difference between working in different formats or on several fun ideas versus one big life project, and also constantly talking about pooping.
The second panel we visited was the Adventure Time panel, attended by a few of the show’s current staff, including Michael DeForge, Bob Flynn, Andy Ristaino, Steve Wolfhard, and, of course, Pen Ward, who showed up 15 minutes after the panel started (he was working on that CD I mentioned earlier). It was interesting to note that all the staffers present were comic artists, and were pushing their own stuff alongside their Adventure Time items at their tables. The panel itself was really cool – each panelist went over how they all joined the show, giving us a little insight into the how that weird animation industry works. We got to see a cut of a theater short they produced recently that will apparently see distribution sometime in the future (it didn’t have sound, so Pen provided all the voices and sounds himself). The questions from the audience were pretty good, too, and we got some interesting answers, like Ward’s assertion that someone pitching ideas is better off coming up with a lot and then developing them after being picked up rather than setting one’s self up for a fall by spending all your time polishing a single idea that can be swiftly crushed by executives. We also got to hear him swear profusely as Lumpy Space Princess, which is apparently what he needs to do to get the voice right. We also got to hear him drop some video game know-how by referencing A Boy and His Blob and the Barney game on the Sega Genesis (it was in answering a question about what they would do if they had complete creative control over an Adventure Time game. Pen revealed that his current goal is to get the chance to design a game, and that his ideal AT game would have “Katamari graphics with Monster Hunter gameplay”, which sounds about right). I think the other guys said some stuff, too.
The third panel we visited was more of a game the audience got to view. Essentially, Kate Beaton, KC Green, Chris Hastings, Aaron Diaz, and two members of the audience were split into two teams, where one would see a card projected onto a screen that the others couldn’t see, and then draw the manner of death described on the card in such a way as to allow his or her teammates to guess it. Ryan North was the official judge. Hilarity ensued. Beaton and Hasting’s team was given most of the really hard-to-convey scenarios in the first two rounds, but made a surprising comeback in the last round because the audience member on their team decided to skip the cleverness and just draw straightforward representations. Strategic!
The final panel, the last one at The Pilot on Sunday, also had Beaton, alongside Jess Fink, Jason Little, Jeffrey Lewis, and R. Sikoryak. Essentially, they read their comics aloud, with some performance mixed in. Each one was a great presenter, and they all had very distinct styles. I have no idea where Jess Fink’s little toy guitar came from – someone in the audience just handed it to her. A minion? I don’t know.

So, as you can see, there was a lot of stuff to see, and I barely saw most of it. Please refer to this, this, and this for the big picture. One of them even manages to capture a glimpse of us in the wild. Of course, only the few of you who know what Ben and I look like will be able to identify us in that photo. Consider it a perk.

Also, linking to lots of stuff makes me take quite a bit longer to finish a blog post than normal.

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One Response to “”

  1. […] was taken during my trip to Toronto, which I blathered on about rather boringly here. I have since grown very interested in the whole Toronto Island set-up. Something about a smaller […]

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