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TCAF 2017 Roundup, Part 3: Books and Food

May 18th, 2017

Today I’m just gonna list everything I bought at TCAF, because it was all so awesome. ^_^ In no particular order, just as I pull them off the pile. On Sunday, I finally had a chance to walk around the Toronto Public Library and see the exhibitors and their wares. The bottom floor includes the larger publishers, like Fantagraphics, Koyama Press and First Second. The second floor is where you’ll find smaller publishers like Northwest Press and Chromatic Press and scattered around both floors are sections given over to self-publishers and makers of mini-comics and doujinshi.

We’re starting with RAMCOM, a Ramen Yuri minicomic by Emily Forster.

As I was passing the table, they called my name and said, “Its Ramen Yuri!” and I handed them money and just kept right on going, because who doesn’t want ramen-themed Yuri? ^_^ And you know how I’m always looking for fun, original work, so this was all the wins. 

When I came home and read it, I handed it over to the wife and she loved it too. It’s a smile-maker.

 

Stéphanie Leduc‘s book Godless World caught my eye because of the art, but when she told me there was a Soundcloud soundtrack available that can be listened to as one reads, I threw money at her immediately.

Think about it – a multimedia, fantasy with a female lead. Yes, please.

 

 

I picked up Hannah Fisher’s Cosmo Knights because the postcards featured butchy women boxers that said “Fight Like A Girl” and I am a sucker for women who kick ass. 

And because the summary reads like this: The popular sport of cosmic jousting is alive and well, with tournaments in which Cosmoknights armed with spacesuits, medieval weaponry and jetpacks compete for the hands of princesses across the galaxy. Unfortunately for potential suitors, the princesses are over it.

Oh, okay. ^_^ I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to convince me to get cool-looking self-published comics, but this looks great!

 

 

I’ve reviewed two books by Barry Deutsch here, from his Hereville series. But even more in our wheelhouse he and Becky Dawkins are currently drawing a series called Superbutch that you should all be reading. “Someone is protecting the lesbian bar scene of 1940s Turtle City” reads the page metadata.

Lillian is a woman who has an amazing story about a woman of color passing as white during the day, lesbian superhero. It’s a great webcomic and I am now pleased to have a print volume of the first couple of issues. The book itself has a back cover that lists  More Comics With Queer Women of Color – several of which I have reviewed here on Okazu!

This list is not just an “oh good” it’s a “Yeah Baby!” so I’m sharing it with you all in hopes that you will run out and throw money at these. They deserve support and as much promotion as they can get!

Also from Barry and Becky, I picked up First Glance: A Young Girl’s Thrilling Quest for Lesbian Smut. This is not a smutty comic at all, but very much about the quest LGBTQ people have to go on to find themselves. This book is particularly wonderful for having front and back covers reminiscent of a mid-century lesbian pulp novel.

 

I mentioned yesterday that I had read Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward in preparation for the panel with her and Cecil Castelluccci so while I had a chance, I picked up her new book, Brave

This book, as I pointed out yesterday, is about the kind of microagressions one gets from people who position themselves as friends. And, to that point, Svetlana noted how mean I am to her. She’s not wrong, it’s a long-established habit of mine to be mean to people I love best. But I did apologize. It’s probably a really destructive habit, but it’s pervasive in my close circle where we’re all pretty brutal (but funny and supportive and loving, so I’m not about cutting a person down.) I’m not sure how this book is going to hit me – I may end up be the bad guy and not in a good way. Hrm. ^_^;

I was able to pick up a copy of Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband, which I am literally holding on to for a day where I can sit and savor it.

Although I mention this book last, it was actually my first purchase. So Pretty, Very Rotten is a book of “Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture” by Jane Mai and An Nguyen. They launched their book at the Japan Foundation as part of Koyama Press’s 10th anniversary. The book includes an essay by the creator of Kamikaze Girls/Shimotsuma Monogatari, Novala Takemoto.

The launch was accompanied by a party with very cute food – sushi rolls and Pocky and cute girl cookies and items of Lolita fashion displayed as if they were at a museum. Both An and Jane appeared in Lolita clothing – as did a number of reception attendees! I always assumed Lolita would die out, but to my (pleasant) surprise, it’s growing and changing and continuing as a living thing. Jane and An gave us a quick overview of  Lolita culture and the story behind their book. I’m really looking forward to reading this. Congrats to An and Jane! I stopped by their table in the library and they thanked me for the support with a copy of their mini-comic,  don’t talk to me or I’ll set myself on fire, which, as my wife points out, is a great title.

One last note about Toronto – the food is spectacular. I was able to enjoy Cafe Bouloud Toronto with my roommates, where we had fabulous French food and the best seat in the house. This is one of those meals that you just go all in or you don’t do it. Duck confit, pork belly, quenelles and steak frites, wine and profiteroles kind of all in.

On Saturday, I had the extraordinary experience of sharing an Indonesian Rijstaffel at Noorden, a Dutch Restaurant, with 10 lovely people. (We discuss this on the third Four Ladies in a Hotel Room podcast.)

I enjoyed the wares at the Museum Tavern with Alan and Giselle and with the 4 Ladies and friends we shared cocktails in the rooftop bar at the Park Hyatt and had exceptional duck (again) at Firkin on Bloor

And with that, as I rolled my stuffed body and bags away from Toronto, I am once again reminded of the old TCAF chestnut, “this year’s TCAF was the best year ever.” (At TCAF, everyone is nice and it’s always the best year ever.)

Thank you TCAF and Library staff and volunteers, publishers, comic creators, panelists, moderators, guests, attendees and my fabulous roommates and friends!

2017 was definitely the best TCAF ever. ^_^

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TCAF 2017 Roundup, Part 2: Panels and People

May 17th, 2017

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 so was her Monstress co-creator, Marjorie Liu

Many thanks to Mark Siegel of First Second Books, author Scott Westerfeld, artist Zach ClementeCalvin 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.

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TCAF 2017 Roundup, Part 1: Everyone is Queer at TCAF

May 16th, 2017

Well hello again, Okazu readers! It has been a whirlwind week for me. As you all have been relaxing, reading reviews of great comics, I’ve been running around Toronto, moderating amazing panels, meeting extraordinary people, eating and drinking unspeakably well and, of course, talking about comics until I was hoarse. TCAF is always great and this year was sublime. You must join me there.

I’m going to do my round-up in pieces, so you can savor some of the individual parts that made it an incredible whole.

The first thing that I must tell you is about three must-have manga. The first was not a TCAF-related item, but with the animation clip-slash-teaser having gone up and Shinsokan being really enthusiastic and Seven Seas having done such a good job to get it to us, you really must have Kase-san and Morning Glories. This manga has likable and relatable characters.

If you are looking for a nice Yuri manga, and are kind of flailing right now – Kase-san and Morning Glories by Hiromi Takashima is absolutely a must-get. (I reviewed it here on Okazu in April.)

 

Now, on to TCAF. There were two manga that were the highlight of the show. EVERYONE was talking about them. 

The first and probably most anticipated, is Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. This incredibly touching tale of a man who has traveled to Japan to discover his late husband’s life and meet his family, was the star of the show.

Tagame-sensei’s work is beautiful, the story is beautiful and, as I commented several times, is really about the passive homophobia of nice people, good people. Tagame-sensei was a Guest at TCAF and it was really lovely to see so many people lining up to get his book and his signature.

This will be a two-book series put out by Pantheon, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It’s a game changer type book. It’s teachable, it’s teen-friendly and just extraordinarily good.

 

The other manga that was on everyone’s mind – and is sure to be a breakout hit – is Kabi Nagata’s comic essay My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness. It goes on sale in June, and everyone in the manga world was scrambling for a pre-release copy. I read it on the plane home and I think it’s going to be another game changer. It’s hard and honest but touches issues at the core of a lot of people’s lives – their detachment from their own needs and desires. 

It actually was a much better read than I remembered, which I’ll talk about when I review it. It’s is *currently* #1 on Amazon in the “Yaoi, Gay and Lesbian Manga” category and it hasn’t even been released! 

 

Secondly, I had the almost surreal pleasure of sharing a room with comic journalists Heidi MacDonald, Brigid Alverson and Deb Aoki. Heidi had a brilliant idea to do a podcast in our room at the end of the day. Here are the four episodes, you should totally listen to them, if only to learn about more comics per second than you can imagine, but also to see how often we ended up talking about queer content in our only 1/4 queer room. As Brigid pointed out, “Everyone is queer” these days and we’re just getting queerer.

Four Women in a Hotel Room At TCAF Episode 1 – In which we eat some potato chips

Four Women in a Hotel Room at TCAF Episode 2: Libraries, Croissants, Manga, Sana Takeda and Dave McKean

Enjoy some books and conversation about books, I’ll be back tomorrow to talk panels and people. ^_^

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Queers & Comics 2017 Event Report

April 23rd, 2017

Queers & Comics 2017 in San Francisco was as fascinating and delightful as the inaugural event in New York City in 2015. This time around it was organized by Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women) and Justin Hall (QU33R). Once again, the level of engagement and energy was high and the conversations on and off panels were exceptionally interesting. 

The event was held at the California College of the Arts. The keynote speakers were Mariko Tamaki (SkimThis One Summer) and Gengoroh Tagame (Otouto no Otto /My Brother’s Husband). 

For this event, my travel companion was Bruce, and our first night in town we wandered over to the Center for Sex and Culture, a fun little reading/art/ event space to see Tyler Cohen’s Primahood art show. It was great to see Tyler and appreciate the art in person.  On the way out I was able to chat briefly with Mari Naomi about her amazing book, I Thought You Hated Me, which I rave-reviewed last summer.

Bruce and I wandered over to the Asian Art Museum, which was lovely, until I felt weak from hunger and we had to go find food.

My event began with a panel of Underground Comics pioneers, including Gay Comix editor Howard Cruse, Lee Marrs, Roberta Gregory, Diana Green, Trina Robbins, Burton Clarke, Robert Triptow, Mary Wings and Vaughn Frick. It’s always fascinating to look back at the days when LGBTQ comics were not yet a thing and hear from the people who made it a thing. 

One of the questions was about where the passion is these days and, of course the answer is, “Where are you looking?” Roberta Gregory suggested one look at Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites…and I’m going to double down on that. Not in the comic shops. It never was there, really. American comics are primarily a production line job as Howard Cruse pointed out. Underground stuff wasn’t even sold in comic stores…it was sold in head shops and then queer bookstores. The energy and passion now is online. On Pixiv, Deviantart, Kickstarter, Patreon (and KS is particularly pro-LGBTQ projects, I have to say.) Look online. 

After lunch, it was my pleasure to be part of the Queer Manga – History and Cultural Context panel where Graham Kolbien showed a short clip of the documentary he’s been working on, Queer Japan. I am a backer of that work and cannot *wait* to see it. During a short interview with a BL manga artist, I was openly grinning at the views of Otome Road and the stores along it. It was definitely a warm/fuzzy moment for me. Leyla Aker from Viz did a publisher-eye’s view presentation on BL and Yuri. (Although, when she commented that Citrus isn’t exploitative, I said, “Oh, yes it is!”) I followed this up with a discussion of the place women’s groups newsletters and doujinshi had in the history of Yuri manga, following early “Woman-Only Communications” newsletters through doujinshi into Lesbian magazines and Yuri manga. I hope to write an article about that this summer.

 

Bruce had never been to San Francisco before, so we wandered over to Japantown where the Kinokuniya had a little “Yaoi” section, that included some Yuri manga. 

It also had this bilingual guide based on Rose of Versailles, so as you can imagine the English phrases were super-relevant to modern life. ^_^

 

The second day began with a Panel on being the editor for anthologies called “Herding Cats.” It was fantastic, and I was able to fully fangirl at Taneka Stotts, who had edited Elements: Fire, which I had read on the plane ride over.  This was one of my highlights, as I am a huge fan of Taneka’s work and her energy. Review to come, but Tl;dr – it was great.

Another highlight of my event was being able to meet Joamette Gil, one  of the minds behind Power & Magic, which I enthusiastically reviewed recently. Joamette said something really profound to me, about white women supporting work by women of color. She pointed out that if women support work by WoC, they are still getting work by women, so it’s win-win. This was eye-opening to me, because I’m just honestly 100% behind diversity of all kinds, but I guess there are folks who would need it to be relevant to their experience. Frankly, I like reading about stuff I *haven’t* already lived, and am always thrilled to support works by women of color. And no I am not saying “I’m color blind,” I’m saying I consciously seek out work by women of color to support. Because this is what we must do to get the diversity we want in the world.

I caught up with an old friend, Julie Davis, former editor of Animerica magazine, and probably the first person to ever pay me for a piece of writing. She joined me, Anne Ishii and Tagame-sensei for Queer Craft: Art & Writing. Anne did a fabulous presentation on the evolution of Gay Manga and a discussion of translating sound effects, I quickly presented process discussions about two guests who hadn’t been able to join us, Nakamura Kiyo and Rica Takashima, then Tagame-sensei spoke about a trans manga he felt was very important in terms of what it was not, as much as what it was. We took questions and had a fabulous time. 

We then sat in a lovely panel about LGBTQ comics about superheroes that subvert paradigms and rewrite the old scripts with Joan Hilty, Brian Andersen, Tommy Roddy, Kat Leyh and Andy Mangels.

As Bruce was leaving early, we and Julie went out to a crazy dinner in a place where you could book a room with the pope’s head in a Lucite case on the table. It was super creepy. (Sorry, random strangers in my photo, I didn’t get the picture when the room was empty.)

After saying farewell to Bruce, I was able to catch up with Julie and her husband Mark, a brilliant artist and illustrator and a man who is to Gundam what I am to Yuri. Had a lovely time just chatting about art and writing and life. Thanks Julie and Mark! Let’s not go 13 years until we see each other again. ^_^

Of course I bought books while I was at Queers & Comics….reviews to come in days ahead. ^_^ I was able to get a Lee Marrs collection, The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudgy Pudge, Girl Blimp and  Burn Bitchy Burn by  Roberta Gregory, as well as Princess Princess Ever After and the Queer Creatures tote bag, which was just too great to not get and for which profits go to support the event itself.

One of the most amazing things about the event was this – just as the young artists were in the panels learning from the older folks, the older artists were present in panels by younger folks, learning from them. It was…GREAT. These folks are crowdfunding old collections and new works. They get it, and so should we. It might feel righteous to be old-school, but you’re hampering yourself if you don’t use the tools that exist. In fact, I’ve set myself a goal of self-publishing at least one book this summer because there is literally no reason not to. ^_^ At this point, if your work isn’t out there, it’s because you’re not trying to get it out there. There are no barriers left except the one’s you make for yourself.  And that, frankly, is my big takeaway from this event. Just…make your art. 

Panels were recorded, so when they are available, I’ll add in the links.

Overall, it was an amazing event, with friends new and old, and I cannot wait for the next one! Thanks to everyone on staff and all the presenters and guests for making it a reality. ^_^

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Event: Yuricon at Yurithon in Montreal!

March 26th, 2017

This is such exciting news…I have been invited to be a guest at the Yurithon, Yuri-focused programming track within Montreal’s Otakuthon convention!

Please join me (and bunch of Yuricon friends and staffers) for the weekend of August 4-6, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We’ll be doing some panels and who knows what else. I’ve never been to Montreal before, so I’m hoping to meet a whole new group of readers! This is a great chance to meet some of the core staff from early Yuricon days and folks who know a metric ton about cool Yuri stuff to watch and read.

As more details become available, I’ll share them. But just to remind you, this is my 2017 schedule to date: 

(Events in which it is confirmed that I’ll be participating in are in bold.)

MoCCA Arts Festival, April 1-2, 2017. New York City, USA. (TBD. I hope to pop by on Saturday. )

Queer & Comics – April 14-15, 2017. San Francisco, CA, USA. I’ll be participating and moderation panels.

Toronto Comics Art Festival – May 13-14, 2017, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’ll be helping out with moderation.

AnimeNext – June 9-11, 2017. Atlantic City,  NJ, USA. (TBD, but let’s be real, I’ll probably be there, at least for a day. I always like to visit.)

Yurithon – August 4-6, 2017. Montreal Quebec, Canada. I’ll be a guest. ^_^

Flamecon – August 19-20. New York City, NY, USA.  (TBD, hoping to do a panel or two.)

If you want me at your event, please get in touch asap, you can see that the year fills up pretty quick these days. ^_^

 

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