Monday, March 31, 2003

Comics and Community IX
This weekend, I flew to Toronto for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I arrived around 7:15 Friday night and caught a cab to Jim Munroe's house off Spadina. The cab cost $44 Canadian, and I was a little sheepish spending that much money because my return subway and bus fare Sunday cost all of $2.25. Regardless, I wanted to get there in time for Matthew Blackett's book launch party at El Mocambo, and I didn't want to risk holding up my hosts. After hanging out with Jim and Susan -- and a quick dinner of veggie dogs and kettle chips -- we made our way to the club.

Matt -- or M@B, as he's known in town -- did an excellent reading of his strip, which just started running in Eye, a local alt.weekly. Projecting transparencies of his strip on the wall, he didn't so much read the comics as he did tell the stories and experiences from his life that influenced the comic. He also shared an outline of his creative process, which was interesting to see. The bands didn't really interest or impress me, so I spent much of the evening hanging out with and talking to folks from the Highwater Books gang.

Greg Cook arrived before everyone else, with his sleeping bag slung over his shoulder in a clear plastic sack. When I stepped outside to call Jef back -- he'd called from Boston to see if I wanted to go to a show -- most everyone else showed up: Megan, Ron, Brian, Tom, and Jason Little. They'd all driven up from New York City, where they'd been delayed by some drunken yahoos who'd gotten the bright idea to climb on the Williamsburg Bridge. I also ran into Paul and Scott, who were there to represent Cyberosia Publishing. Tons of friends from New England!

I shared the room at Jim's house with Montreal-based cartoonist Joe Ollman and his girlfriend, and we got up relatively early in the morning, Joe to seek breakfast, and I to head over to Trinity St. Paul's Centre for the show, which opened at 10. The church is just a block away from Jim's house, and I arrived just as the Highwater crew was unloading the van. With more than 50 exhibitors, mostly American and Toronto-area creators, the festival filled three rooms. I was surprised how predominant folks from the United States were, and it would've been nice if more Quebecois comics folks turned out. Regardless, it was a good day. I grabbed breakfast with Tom and Jason Lutes at the Future Bakery & Cafe, sat in on a couple of panel discussions -- one on the history of the comics scene in Toronto and another on self-publishing -- and walked the floor several times to gather up minis, comics, and zines to review for Media Diet.

By the end of the day, I was pretty tired, and I hadn't even been working the table all day like Greg, Ron, Megan, Brian -- and Gabrielle Bell, whose new book, When I'm Old, just came out -- did. Folks were making dinner plans with Seth and Chester Brown, but I didn't really feel like hanging out with a crowd, so I headed back across the street to read, chat with Jim, and watch some fun digital videos. Eventually, we headed out for dinner at Seoul Restaurant, a wonderfully minimalistic Korean Restaurant. After a healthy bowl of bi bim bap -- for $5 Canadian! -- I walked back with the crew to the Tranzac, where the panel discussions earlier in the day had been held.

Saturday night's program involved a panel discussion about autobiographical comics featuring Seth, Chester, Phoebe Gloeckner, and M@B, as well as several art demonstrations and readings. Jason Little did a wonderful slide presentation of a portion of Shutterbug Follies, with a well-edited soundtrack featuring Pram and other bands. Jason Lutes and Phoebe Gloeckner also did presentations. The day had been long, and I didn't really feel like hanging out sitting in a darkened theater, so I spent much of my time in the bar, hanging out with the Highwater kids and several new friends.

Another late night, I got home after everyone else had crashed for the evening. Waking a little late Sunday, Jim and I grabbed a pleasant brunch at the Green Room. Then it was the subway to Kipling, the Airport Rocket bus to Pearson, through customs, and on the plane home. Greg and I were on the same flight back to Boston, so we hung out together in the gate area -- and waited for a ride from Carrie once we'd landed at Logan. I was cold and wanting to get home, so I left Greg for a cab.

And you know what? The new Liberty Tunnel is open!

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