With May and June now disappearing into the past, Kris and Rachel have had a few small quiet moments to properly digest all the wonderful adventures we’ve been on this spring as part of getting Weald out into the real world!
(photo courtesy of goshdarnheck)
We took Weald #1, as well as copies of Corpse Door (v3!), Nameless, The Collected By Crom! and Full Colour Cromulence, to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival, and the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International. It felt like a magical way to launch a new project - surrounded by brilliant creators, beloved long-time fans and a ton of friendly new faces!
What can we possibly add to the wealth of praise still lingering in the air for TCAF? It was our first time with a table at TCAF and we were warned it was going to blow our minds - and it did. Oh, how it did. From all the friendly faces crowding the library elevator during setup on Friday night, through the chipper anticipatory chatter as the doors finally opened Saturday morning, to myriad conversations all weekend long with friends, fans, and fellow creators who all took the time to talk comics, vikings, Conan and nerdery of all kinds with us, it was an incredibly invigorating event. As promised, we sold books like crazy, we sold mugs, we sold paper dolls, and we have no idea how many bookmarks we gave away in the end - we just kept cutting more out. Rachel’s first TCAF also included her first TCAF panel, and despite almost swooning upon walking into the crowded room, it went wonderfully.
So, our most epic thanks go to the torontocomics team, to their amazing volunteers, and to the Toronto Reference Library for making TCAF a mindblowing adventure. Enormous gratitude to beckycloonan faitherinhicks jordynb sloaneshutup sanya-anwar and secondlina for their enthusiastic participation in the panel on Saturday. Great thanks to Gillian and Mary who apart from being fantastic roommates to Rachel, were wonderful hosts to Kris for TCAF, and are also spectacular artists! High fives to jwoodall and verwho and the rest of the friendshipedition team for being brilliant artists of the highest order who are also delightful friends and comic party animals. Thanks to inkybat and megthebrennan for being inspiring and friendly table neighbours! Thanks *so much* to goshdarnheck for his company, enthusiasm, and food deliveries at TCAF (and VanCAF, and TAAFI). Finally, a shout out to jdschollen and Karen Chan who each separately took it upon themselves to deliver sustenance to predictably malnourished table-managing cartoonists. You excellent women saved our stomach linings!
This list doesn’t even BEGIN to touch upon on the myriad wonderful folks we got to meet in person for the first time (or simply see in person for the first time in a year or more) whose words of encouragement and enthusiasm were buoys in a sea of overwhelm. You all touched our dark, creepy hearts!
And then there was VanCAF!
VanCAF was only two weeks after TCAF, and on the other side of the country. Both Kris and Rachel brought as much book stock as they could on their separate plane trips across Canada, and wow, was it ever worth it! Rachel even trekked into Vancouver with goshdarnheck four days early, to see memorable sights like The Pacific Ocean, The Mountains and The Redwood Forests. Also the brilliant Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver Aquarium and Vancouver Art Gallery.
VanCAF is only in its third year but it felt just as professionally run as TCAF - just a bit smaller. They follow the same model - exhibiting in a public, community space, over two weekend days, free to attend, with a focus on creator owned and diverse comics. Because of their location, VanCAF features a lot of west coast artists that can’t yet afford the cross country travel to TCAF, but Rachel wasn’t the only person to fly in to exhibit this year and we expect they’ll see more distant artists getting involved as word spreads. This year it felt like VanCAF was at that sweet spot, where there were enough creators to showcase a wide range of comics and careers, but still few enough that there was constant mingling, meeting, high fiving, fanning over each others’ work, and going “OH wow you’re ______ on twitter/tumblr/DA?!?! I love your stuff!” every four steps of the way through the hall or the pub or the Japadog foodcart lineup.
The smaller roster of creators did not proportionately reduce the crowd, though! VanCAF felt very busy and we did surprisingly well considering the reduced size. The venue had fantastic crowd flow, and the volunteers quickly managed any lineups that appeared so as to keep the aisles clear. It was a fantastic weekend all around, is what I’m saying.
So thanks to the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival team, volunteers, and specifically wordweasel, for their hard work and dedication. Thanks to Jesse Nylund for being an awesome table neighbour, and to sfemonster korybing bluedelliquanti angelamelick kevinw and kelmcdonald for their inspirational and motivating behind-the-table chatter and sass talk, the weekend flew by in a blur of good company and good conversation. Thanks as well to the entire cloudscapecomics crew for the lovely bbq book launch gathering in their gorgeous studio in the middle of a beautiful park, you all made Vancouver feel like a comics-home-away-from-home for Rachel. To old internet friends we only see at VanCAF, it was wonderful to catch up, even if only briefly across a table in a crowded exhibitor hall. And to all the new faces, the brilliant creators, the patient folk who listened to our rants on vikings and DnD and sword fighting and geology, it was so great to meet you! And of course, the biggest of thanks, hugs and high fives to all the fans and family and friends and new faces that came by our table to see what it is we do here at spooky comics headquarters. You make it worth it, we swear.
And finally, TAAFI!
Rachel did TAAFI solo this year, taking a risk on a new festival at home in Toronto that was launching an art market component for the first time. And that’s very much what it turned out to be.
TAAFI itself is a professional animation festival, by pros for pros, with networking and skill-building as its major guiding lights. The TAAFI Art Maarket was a new direction for them, and unfortunately the conflicting desires to sell art to fans and to help pros network and learn from other pros left the Maarket a little in the lurch.
The Maarket had a smaller number of exhibitors, and it did highlight a huge range of art, from comics to stopmotion animation to videogames. The other creators present were a delight and an inspiration, and their company was a pleasure to share the whole weekend. Unfortunately, however, there were a few logistical problems, between the layout of the maarket behind the job and book fair, the lack of clear signage and advertising to reach out to fans and shoppers, the length of the exhibition days, and the location of the festival as a whole being beyond the standard pedestrian circuit in Toronto. There were also some table layout choices that were not the most comfortable for exhibitors and their products, and some imbalanced economics between table costs and potential earnings.
That said, despite these challenges, TAAFI was a smoothly run festival and we were in a building that was incredibly pleasant, right on the lake with huge windows and lots of natural light. On Saturday a charming duo marched around playing carnival, country fair and other delightful music on fiddles and banjos and harmonicas; on Sunday the free lifedrawing upstairs provided an incredibly varied soundtrack and elaborately costumed models roamed the floor. The crowd was curious, ready to take a risk on a book they’d never heard of, and conversational. The TAAFI organizers took a lot of time to come around at check in with the exhibitors, and the volunteers were constantly offering us water, WIFI passwords and directions. It was clear that TAAFI had great intentions and was simply not entirely aware of the full scope of running a market in addition to a huge festival, and Rachel is confident that they can dramatically improve it for next year with only a few adjustments. Additionally, through some magic of the draw, our table neighbour was the delightful Dara Gold, an old friend of almost a decade. It was a dream, tabling next to her all weekend - her energy, friendly attitude and passion for art of all kinds kept everyone in a five table radius operating at peak function.
So thanks to Dara for her wonderful company, to the TAAFI staff and volunteers for their hard work, to all of the exhibitors who were also on the ramp for their sense of humour and fellow-feeling. And most importantly, thanks to everyone who came by our booth, including the By Crom! fans from out of town who also took a chance on a new event. It was so great to meet you all!
So, in summary:
Exhibiting is a thrill, a rollercoaster, a fantastic experience! Thank you to everyone who made this crazy book launch con tour possible but most of all thanks to the fans of these comics who took the time to connect with us and our work. We love you like a barrow-king loves the dark damp earth. Deeply.