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Toronto Comic Arts Festival - In Progress

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is happening this weekend, there is still one more day, and it is free! I was there today and I fully recommend checking it out tomorrow.

There is a lot more to see than just so much virtuoso art like this poster image by Toronto artist Darwyn Cooke. A festival with a flair for the independent and emerging, the TCAF hosts a diverse community of artists, writers, publishers and fans.

Stately Victoria College is transformed into Toronto's most awesome comic book store. You can watch artists sketch before your eyes, shake their hands and ask them questions. Best of all, there are also lots of panels and workshops available.

I checked out the web comics panel today - featuring among others Toronto's own Ryan North. Being an outsider to the comic arts world but also quite fascinated with this internet thing, it was interesting to get a sense of how web comics are at the vanguard of a changing industry.

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Web comics are about just doing it and putting it out there. If the work has merit, the artist will gain an audience, and eventually this generates demand for both products and services. One panelist described pre-selling books until he could afford to publish. These are artists that will never have a basement full of vanity comics that no one will buy, and who get to respond directly to their audience instead of to an editor.

This seems counterintuitive to some who extol the virtues of print. One indie editor and publisher that I spoke with (who admitted to housing multiple boxes of inventory) said that one major reason for choosing paper over pixels was the availability of government grants for such projects. Whether storing excess paper in the form of autobiographical hipster comics is a worthy beneficiary of taxation is not clear. What is apparent though, is that no one needs a government grant to start a web comic in this day and age.

Which brings me back to the main point - independent comics are about freedom for artists, and the best way to discover new comics is when they are freely available. The TCAF has it all, from kitchen table zines to iconic Marvel superheroes, and the festival is free. Go see it.


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