Because I had not been back to TCAF in some years (for the first Queers & Comics Conference in NYC and last year for Tokyo Rainbow Pride, the 20th anniversary Sailor Moon exhibition and Comitia, I wanted to show my love for the event in the way that best suits me – I volunteered. I strongly recommend doing this. In fact, my advice for getting the most out of any convention is “Don’t just attend the show, be part of it as a volunteer.” The show is SO much better that way. You won’t see the same show as the attendees, but your chances of meeting and spending quality time with amazing people quadruples.
So, as I said yesterday, I was staying with four extraordinary comics journalists. Heidi MacDonald has reshaped comics journalism pretty much single-handedly at The Comics Beat. Brigid Alverson is a well-respected comics writer, whose work regularly appears on Publisher’s Weekly,. and who ran the Comics AM column over at CBR. She is now working on Smashpages, where she has just launched the Comics Lowdown, where you can get your daily dose of comics industry news. Deb Aoki was the lead for About.com’s massively successful Manga page for years, has her own blog about manga and comics. Deb has written for many of the major comics press, including Publisher’s Weekly – and is a talented professional artist in her own right.
These women are consummate professionals and being in their presence made me up my game considerably. I’m not kidding when I tell you that they made me better at everything I did in four days. Thanks to them all for being so inspiring.
My first panel experience of the con was on Librarians and Educators Day, on the LGBTQ Comics for Kids and Teens panel moderated by Brigid, and featuring Scott Robbins from the Toronto Public Library, comic artists Justin Hall and Andrew Wheeler (Another Castle) and myself. Luckily for all of us, the entire panel was recorded for posterity by Jamie Coville. Luckily for me, I had *just* that very day posted a review for Princess Princess Ever After. Phew, I was relevant. Justin Hall and I floated the absurd and fabulous idea of creating a kid’s queer comic together. ^_^ (It’ll have centaurs. That’s about as far as I got.)
On Saturday I moderated two panels, both of which had me nervous as heck going in. The first was Teamwork: Comics and Collaboration. This featured Nate Powell (John Lewis’ March), John Jennings (Octavia Butler’s Kindred), Molly Ostertag (Strong Female Protagonist) and Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, the team known as Metaphrog (The Little Mermaid). What a fantastic panel. I mean…breathtaking. Listening to Nate Powell discuss the weight of illustrating civil right’s leader John Lewis’ tale or how John Jennings broke down drawing a page of Octavia Butler’s novel was amazing. Molly Ostertag talked about the passion needed to be in comics and Metaphrog spoke of all of one’s passion being in service to the work. It was just…amazing. It was such an honor to meet these talented and dedicated folks.
I went from there to my second “hold, me, I’m scared” panel, where I was moderating Cecil Castellucci (Soupy Leaves Home, The Year of the Beasts with Nate Powell!) and Svetlana Chmakova (Awkward, Brave). I’ve known Svet for years, but this was my first time meeting Cecil, and man, she’s a powerhouse! I had just read Soupy and Awkward, and to be honest, both books resonated with me on a similar level, but Svetlana and Cecil could not have been more different in the way they approached the story. Cecil spoke of heading off to find one’s self and Svetlana insisted, “No one does that. You poke here, then there until you sort of find the path.” I learned a lot about process and about their experiences. (To be honest, that’s why I moderate…so I can learn from these folks.) Loads of fun and an audience full of readers holding their books (and reading them before the panel! Squee!) I’ll be reviewing their books in days ahead, but don’t wait for me, do go get them and read some stellar writing and see great art.
On Sunday I was locked in the Pilot, which is a bar, doing two panels back to back. These were my “easy” panels, which was good, but I still had to work my butt off to be worthy of the panelists!
Sweaty Pages: Comics and Erotica, featured Colleen Coover (Small Favors), Dechanique (La Machina Bellica), Francois Vigneault (Titan, which has just been collected in a French language volume) and Kou Chen. It was a varied audience and a varied panel which made for some interesting and amusing conversation about porn. I kind of lost my mind when asking “How hard….how difficult…is it to draw…?” and “What’s a good length?” I finally said, “No, this lesbian will not make these jokes” and we agreed that about half of what we said as just going to sound dirty, so we stopped trying to avoid it. ^_^
And last I ended up moderating youth librarians Scott Robbins and Robin Brenner on Challenged Books. The audience was interested more in collections policies and how to select for representation, which I found kind of fascinating. Both Robin and Scott explained that strong collection policies (and intimidating forms to fill out) kill a lot of the initial screaming and we briefly discussed how much harder it is for school libraries, as well as the trend of administrators walking into libraries and removing a book without a formal challenge. If you’re interested in the topic, I strongly recommend the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website and hope you’ll consider helping them out. They are instrumental in defending against book and comic book challenges. They track challenges and publicize cases that might otherwise go under the radar. We are our own protection against censorship.
There are a few other people I want to shout out to the team from Massive: Tagame Gengoroh-sensei, Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbiens all of whom are doing amazing work with Tagame-senei’s My Brother’s Husband and the Queer Japan movie.
I also want to very much thank Sana Takeda (Monstress) and my dear friend Mari Morimoto for taking time to chat with me. Sana-san was absolutely delightful to meet her and Monstress co-creator Marjorie Liu.
Many thanks to Mark Siegel of First Second Books, author Scott Westerfeld, artist Zach Clemente, Calvin Reid and Jody Culkin of Publisher’s Weekly, and Bill Campbell from Rosarium Publishing, it was lovely to meet you all. It was fantastic to catch up, however briefly, with translator Jocelyne Allen. Thank you Lissa Patillo of Seven Seas and Sean Gaffney of A Case Suitable For Treatment for being marvelous meal companions and good friends. And hugs and much love to Alan,Giselle and Merc for making my time in Toronto a pleasure every time.
One more part to go…Books and Food, the best part of TCAF! Tune in tomorrow.